Everyone has their Disney World pet peeves. Some bemoan iPads in the parks. Others can’t stand selfie sticks. Usually, I have a live and let live for using weird gadgets inside the park. However, there is one theme park faux pas that drives me absolutely nuts. So, excuse me while I step onto this soap box and do my best Andy Rooney impression:

Stop taking flash pictures on dark rides!

Despite Disney’s announcements regarding flash photography before each dark ride, this is still something I witness on a regular basis. Whether it’s Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, or Under the Sea, I have pretty recent experiences with other guests ruining the ride for everyone. Using the flash on your camera during a dark ride is both one of the rudest things you can do as a theme park guest and one of the most ineffective things you can do as a photographer. It’s this special combination of being inconsiderate for such little reward that it’s worth shining a bright, annoying light toward.

So, let’s go through the reasons why no one should ever use a flash on a dark ride.

It takes away from the ride.

Dark rides are meant to be an immersive experience, and the way that the Imagineers have lit the ride help sell that suspension of disbelief. A flash from a camera instantly undercuts the experience that everyone waited in line to have. Not only does the flash remind you “Oh, yeah, I’m on a ride,” but it exposes parts of the set that are hidden for a reason. In some ways, using a flash kills Disney magic.

Everyone will notice it.

There is no way to take a flash picture without everyone around noticing. It changes the show for everyone around the person taking the picture. This is why non-flash pictures are allowed on most rides, while using the flash is a big no-no.

The pictures will look bad.

Most photographers who know what they’re doing realize the importance of the atmosphere Disney has created in each ride. The best thing a photographer can do is try to capture that atmosphere. Results are achieved by either using a lens with a fast aperture or a camera that can handle high-ISO with ease (or getting lucky and having the ride temporarily stop in a good spot).

The flash introduces an outside element that pretty much kills the look that Imagineering created. A flash picture on a dark ride typically will look washed out and bland. For comparison, look at this picture from Wikimedia vs this picture I took last year at Disneyland. In the first picture, the skeleton is being illuminated by a camera’s flash, while in my picture, the skeleton is being illuminated by the lightning effect from the ride.

Why you shouldn't take flash pictures on Disney World rides - Pirates of the Caribbean with Flash

(Pirates of the Caribbean with flash. Source: Devor avi via Wikimedia.)

Why you shouldn't take flash pictures on Disney World rides - Pirates of the Caribbean without Flash

(Pirates of the Caribbean without flash.)

To compound the issue, most people I’ve witnessed using their flash on dark rides are using their phone or a point and shoot camera. The flashes on these cameras are not the greatest, and will end up making the picture look even worse than compared to having the flash off.

Things you can do:

If you’re reading this, most likely you are not the culprit here. Most readers of Guide2WDW are extremely smart, savvy, and attractive people (scientific study forthcoming). However, if someone you’re traveling with makes this mistake, just let them know why they shouldn’t do it, and help them turn their camera to “No Flash” mode. Spread the word, because this one change can result in better ride experiences and better pictures for everyone.

(Header image used under the Creative Commons license. Source: Devor avi via Wikimedia)


James is a lifelong Disney Parks fan. While at the parks, he loves finding new details, learning more about Disney World history, and taking pictures. His favorite WDW attractions include Spaceship Earth, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours.
James is a filmmaker and writer based in Los Angeles.

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