Photographing the Mad T Party

By Ryan Pastorino on July 18th, 2012   |    Posted in:  Disney Photo Spotlight   |    5 Comments

Cars Land and Buena Vista Street opened last month along with another attraction that seems to get a lot less attention, the Mad T Party.  Mad T Party is Disney California Adventure’s latest dance party, replacing the popular ElecTRONica in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot.  Love them or hate them, these dance parties are quite popular with local teens and twenty-somethings.  The loud music and the craziness on the dance floor might be offputting for some, but I highly recommend photographers check it out as the high-energy scene with bright lights, colors and shapes make for some incredible photo opportunities.  It’s quite challenging, too, which is an added benefit for anyone looking to expand their skills to include low-light concert style photography.

Mad T Party runs nightly during the summer but will likely run on weekends only during the off-peak seasons.  The show starts at 7pm, early enough in the summer that there is still some daylight.  This might seem like a good time to photograph the event since there is still daylight to work with, but things don’t really get going until after dark so I recommend showing up around 9pm when the show peaks.  There is a main stage where a live band and a DJ dressed as the White Rabbit alternate sets, and a side stage featuring various acts from a dance crew to a human slinky.  Yes, I said human slinky.  It’s one of the most popular acts in the show and is worth a look.

Some general tips for shooting the Mad T Party

Wait til after dark when things really get going.  Make sure to see the live band!  They are the highlight of the show, they bring the most energy, and of course they are great to photograph!  Before and after the band, the other acts rotate on the side stage so be sure to check them out as well.

Mix it up with lens selection.  Try some ultra wide shots of the stage, using the element of the crowd to enhance the photos.  For these, I put the camera on live view and held it high above my head to get a more dramatic angle.  If the band is playing, try getting up front for some wide close-up shots. Then after a song or two, put on a telephoto lens, anything in the 100-200mm range and stand back behind the crowd and zoom in tight on the performers for a different perspective.

In this type of shooting environment, I recommend shooting in manual mode.  Open the aperture as wide as it will go.  There is no need to use shutter priority because in this dark environment the camera will likely stick with the widest aperture anyway.  So use manual mode and open that aperture up as wide as it will go.  Then select a shutter speed that will freeze the action.  These performers do move a lot so you need something fast, no slower than 1/200sec I would say.  I recommend for the live band to try for 1/400sec.  And finally, control your exposure or brightness by setting the appropriate ISO.  For this environment, you wont have to go higher than ISO 1600 and most cameras, including point-and-shoot cameras with manual settings capabilities handle ISO 1600 quite well.  Most of the photos in this article were at 1/400sec, f/4 and ISO 1250.  I do have a lens that opens up to f/2.8 so I was able to bring my ISO down to ISO 800 for some.  But generally, I think 1/400sec, f/4 and ISO 1600 will be a good starting place for shooting this event.

Like I said, photographing the Mad T Party is a challenge and that is why I enjoy it so much.  Next time you’re at Disney California Adventure, give it a try!  And maybe bring some ear plugs… ;)




  1. WDWPRINCE   |   Jul 18, 2012

    Wow Ryan, these photos are excellent! I especially like how you captured the band members. Great expressions and razor sharp.

  2. Mike Greening   |   Jul 18, 2012

    Superb photos and article Ryan.. I’m really looking forward to seeing and shooting this myself one day soon.

  3. William McIntosh   |   Jul 18, 2012

    GREAT looking shots here, Ryan. I hope to get a chance to shoot this soon.

  4. Scott Thomas Photography   |   Jul 18, 2012

    Superb photos, Ryan. Did you have to work with the EV button at all? I tend to spot meter a stage show performer and then use the EV button to dial it in.

    • Ryan Pastorino   |   Jul 18, 2012

      Because I shoot primarily in Manual mode when shooting something like this, EV settings don’t apply. I adjust ISO to control the brightness, usually keeping careful watch on the highlights to make sure I don’t blow out bright areas such as skin tones.

      I stay away from semi-auto modes such as aperture and shutter priority because the camera reevaluates the scene before each shot (unless you hold exposure lock). With Manual mode, since the lighting is generally the same throughout the show with slight variations, once you dial in a setting you can just leave it the entire show and focus on composing and timing.



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