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Universal Orlando's Photo Connect Star Card Pros & Cons

by Vern Woodruff on February 23, 2016 13

Leap's Note: Today's post comes from Undercover Tourist customer and super Disney World fan Vern Woodruff. Vern has written about the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, princess dressing in the parks and the Jedi Training Academy. Today he offers a review of Universal Orlando's Photo Connect Star Card.

Universal Orlando Photo Connect Star CardWhen planning for a visit to the Universal Orlando Resort, you will likely see information or ads for Universal’s in-park photo service called Photo Connect. Like Disney's PhotoPass, Photo Connect consists of a number of photographers spread around both Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure, as well as ride photos on select attractions. The most common locations for the photographers are at the park entrances and with characters. There are also a small number of photographers who are roaming or at other various locations. Once your photo is taken, there will either be a photo-viewing area close by where you can see your photo or you will receive a card that you can take to one of the Photo Connect service counters around the parks. You can purchase prints or other various photo products, but they are kind of pricey, especially if you want more than just a couple of pictures. If you think you would be interested in all of your photos from a day at Universal, an available upgrade is the Photo Connect Star Card.

The Universal Orlando Photo Connect Star Card has two options, either one day or three consecutive days of photos at the parks. The one-day option is only available online for $69.99 +tax, while the three day option is $89.99 +tax when purchased online in advance or $99.99 +tax at the park (tax rate is 6.5%). If you purchase in advance, you will receive an e-mail confirmation that you can print and take to a Photo Connect desk at the parks to redeem your purchase. I recommend the main desk, just inside of the park entrance. Both of the Photo Connect Star Card options have the Amazing Pictures Mobile App, so you can view and share your photos with your smart phone while at the parks. A Photo Connect-themed lanyard and Star Card are provided for you to wear so photographers will know that you have the upgrade. They will take a picture of the back of the card to tie the photos to your account instead of handing you a regular Photo Connect card. While both options allow you to receive discounts on Photo Connect products, the three-day option includes one free 4x6 print and one free 5x7 or 8x10 print in a folder (note that these need to be picked up while at the parks, but you can have your pictures printed at any time during your visit).

If you have visited Disney World, you are likely familiar with its in-park photo service PhotoPass and the Memory Maker upgrade. Prior to my family’s visit, I thought Photo Connect would be similar. However, there are a number of differences. If you are thinking about getting the Universal Orlando Photo Connect Star Card on your next trip, hopefully this list of my pros and cons can help you make the best decision.

Universal Orlando Photo Connect Star Card

Pros of Universal Orlando Photo Connect Star Card

  • With someone else taking the picture, it is much easier to have everyone included. At the character greeting areas, there was typically at least one additional person with the photographer who helped to supervise the line. This person was very willing to take a picture with my camera or my wife’s cell phone and often asked me if I wanted them to take a picture with my camera.

Universal Orlando Photo Connect Star Card

  • Universal Orlando Photo Connect Star CardAll of the ride photos are included for those that offer it. Depending on how much you like ride photos, this can be a nice perk. However, after riding you need to make sure that you stop by the ride’s photo desk to have the picture added to your account. Photos taken while you are waiting in line for some rides (such as the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman) or posed photos (such as with E.T. Adventure) are included.
  • After returning home, you can access the pictures on the Universal Photo Connect website. You can download copies of all your pictures as originally created by Photo Connect (with a border and at a certain aspect ratio). The website has some basic photo editing capabilities, such as allowing you to change the aspect ratio, adjusting the amount of zoom for the image, selecting a different border or no border, rotating the image by 90 degrees and the ability to add digital “stickers” of a small assortment of characters. After completing your edits, you will need to download the file to your computer because it is not saved in your online account.

Cons of Universal Orlando Photo Connect Star Card

  • The biggest con for me is that the digital image files are relatively low resolution and are meant primarily for sharing via e-mail or social media. However, if you are printing a 4x6, the resolution is high enough that the print looks fine. A second big con is that you are not provided with a copyright release document. This may be an issue if you want to print copies of your pictures somewhere else besides home. Both of these issues differ from Disney’s Memory Maker, which gives you high-resolution digital files and a copyright release to allow for easily printing the pictures at a store.
  • There are relatively few Photo Connect photographers roaming the parks or set up near various scenic or photographic locations. We always found photographers just inside of the park entrance, but only encountered a few in other areas of the park.
  • The process in which photos are tied to your account is not as slick as it is at Disney. Since it is done by a photographer taking an actual picture of the back of the Photo Connect Star Card, we ended up with our own photos as well as a number of other people's photos that must have been taken by the same photographer.
  • Character greeting opportunities are plentiful at the parks, but the odds seemed to be about 50-50 whether a Photo Connect photographer would be with the characters. We had a character breakfast with the Grinch, with one of the advertised perks being a digital photo with the green one himself. However, the photographer who was with the Grinch left shortly after we arrived for our meal. When the Grinch came around to our table, the photographer was not there, so we did not get a photo with him then. We ended up having to wait around, and eventually the photographer returned so we were able to squeeze in a quick photo with the Grinch before he had to leave.

Universal Orlando Photo Connect Star Card

  • Since few photographers are roaming the parks or at locations other than with the characters, there were only a handful of opportunities for Universal’s version of a “magic shot,” which my kids loved from Disney. An example of this type of picture would be all of us posing with one child holding a hand in front of them. Then, a cartoon character or Universal-themed image would be digitally added to the picture later. However, for this to be done, you had to make sure that you stopped by one of the Photo Connect service counters to have it added. If you forget to do this at the parks, you can add a digital “sticker” of a character using the online photo editing tools at home.

Universal Orlando Photo Connect Star Card

  • While most of the photos could be edited in my online account, including the ride photos, not all of them could be modified. Photos with Sponge Bob or one of his friends could not be changed, so if we wanted a different aspect ratio or a copy of the image without the border, it could not be done. Photos that were taken in front of a green-screen and edited by Photo Connect to add a digital background could have the original image (with the green-screen) edited, but you could not select a different aspect ratio or edit the image with the fancy digital background. The ride photos could be edited, but you could not create a version without a border.

Universal Orlando Photo Connect Star Card

  • Some of the photos were iffy or of poor quality. Several sets of images were basically unusable due to glare or streaking from sunlight. Other photos occasionally had poor cropping of the image field, cutting off some of the background or people.
  • If the system is not working for some reason and you receive a regular Photo Connect card instead, you need to stop at a Photo Connect desk to have the pictures added to your account. We had this occur with the Transformers photo opportunity. Also, you will want to check your pictures on your phone throughout the day if possible to make sure that all of your photos are added to your account. If you are missing one, you’ll need to stop at a Photo Connect desk before leaving the park.

Other Things to Consider

  • To give you an idea as to how many photos you could expect to have taken, my account had 141 photos from three full days in the parks with many character visits and at least one ride on all the attractions that offered ride photos. This worked out to an average of 47 a day. By comparison, my family averaged more than 150 a day at Disney during our last visit.
  • One thing to be aware of if you have a Photo Connect Star Card and Universal Express is that some rides, such as The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, have a photo opportunity in the regular line. With Universal Express, you completely miss this photo stop.

Overall, since this was our first time at Universal Orlando and we stopped to see a lot of characters during our three-day visit, I was content with the Photo Connect Star Card at a cost of about $32 a day. However, if you do not plan to see many of the characters and are not interested in the ride photos, then you would not receive as much value from the package.

Have you used Universal Orlando's Photo Connect Star Card? We'd love to see your tips! And for those of you wanting to learn more, please share your questions. 

Related: Disney's PhotoPass and Memory Maker Pros and Cons

Vern and his wife are the parents of two boys and a girl that all love Disney’s animated movies and shorts. He lives in Ohio and is employed as a mechanical engineer, which helps to explain his excessive attention to detail, organization and planning. His oldest son enjoys watching the animated shorts from the Disney Treasures series, his youngest son has the middle name “Donald” and he likes telling people that he was named after Donald Duck, and his daughter loves the Disney Princesses, especially Rapunzel and recently Elsa.

 

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Comments
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jenn Mar 4, 2016 at 9:49 p.m.

great article! question: if i purchased this for our trip in june and plan on using EMH how can i save time picking up this photo card? wish it was shipped to me instead!

Reply
Vern Woodruff Mar 7, 2016 at 10:57 p.m.

Hi Jenn,

Thanks for the compliment. I'm not sure how to best answer your question. When I visited, we arrived in the early afternoon so the extra morning hour was not an issue for us. The order confirmation for the Photo Connect Star Card states that to pick up the tickets, you are supposed to "follow the signs to the Will Call Kiosks, which are only located at the front gate of either Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure theme parks. At the machines you will need the credit card used for this purchase and your confirmation number." However, there was a desk at the Universal hotel we stayed at where I redeemed my printed e-mail voucher for another card, which I then redeemed at the main Photo Connect desk just inside the main Universal Studios entrance. If you are planning on using the EMH, I assume that you are a hotel guest and will be heading back to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Hogsmeade. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has a ride photo and a photo desk at the ride's exit, so you might be able to obtain your Star Card there. If you have a picture taken at the entrance prior to obtaining your Star Card, you should receive a small card that is tied to that photo. Once you have the Star Card, that photo can be tied to your Star Card account at one of the many photo desks in the park. Since I cannot answer your question for certain, I would recommend calling or e-mailing so you can know for sure. There is also a Facebook page under "Universal's Photo Connect" that you could check, which has a link to the Photo Connect website (photoconnect.amazingpictures.com). Sorry I could not provide the answer, but hopefully you'll be able to obtain the information you need without too much trouble.

Reply
Melissa Apr 23, 2016 at 5:58 p.m.

Did you download the app and register at the website before you left? I have a conformation letter I printed at home, do I just take it to the Photo Connect store when we first get there? Then connect it to the app on my phone? Any other help you could give on the process or just helpful tips would be greatly appreciated.. I found your article very informative. Thanks for sharing.

Reply
William Apr 26, 2016 at 9:41 p.m.

I have the same question as Melissa, and also the same desire for any additional helpful tips. Great article and great website- my family bought our park tickets for our coming trip here!

Reply
Vern Woodruff Apr 26, 2016 at 10:09 p.m.

Hi Melissa,

Glad that you found my article informative. I would have liked seeing a review like this prior to my family's trip. Anyway, we did not download the app or register before leaving. When we first arrived at the Studios, the Photo Connect store was just inside the entrance to our right (Islands of Adventure should have a similar store just inside the entrance). A Photo Connect photographer was outside the entrance (he is the one that took the very first photo that is at the start of this posting). We redeemed the confirmation letter in the store to receive our Photo Connect Star card and the salesperson helped my wife get the app on her smartphone. You might be able to add the app in advance to your phone, but it worked fine for us just doing it in the store because my wife could ask any questions. Having the app was quite useful because my wife could check on pictures we had taken to be sure that they showed up in our account on the app. After returning home, I set up my account to view and access the pictures (FYI: I can still view and access my pictures nearly 5 months later). Hope this helps and have a great trip!

Reply
Mike May 27, 2016 at 3:54 p.m.

I have 2 teens and a 4 year old so expect to split up regularly while at Universal. With the star card package, do you only get 1 card so everyone has to be together for the pics to go on the account or do you get 2 so I can keep one and send one with my teenagers?

Reply
Vern Woodruff Jun 3, 2016 at 4:38 p.m.

Hi Mike,

My family was together the entire time we were at the parks, so I would recommend contacting Universal or Photo Connect to find a definitive answer to your question. My guess is that one of two options would be available. The first would be if they could either give you two Photo Connect Star Cards with the same identifying information of which the photographers take a picture, or if they can make a photo copy of the side with the identifying information for your teenagers to use.. The second option would be for the teens to obtain a regular Photo Connect card from a photographer after a picture, try using that same card whenever another picture is taken, and then link the pictures on that card with the Photo Connect Star Card account at one of the photo desks before leaving for the day. However, I’m not sure how or if this option would work with the ride photos. Sorry that I don’t have a better answer, but hopefully Universal will be able to answer your question. See the end of a response of mine from Mar 7, 2016 for information on Photo Connect’s Facebook page and website. Have a great time at the parks!

Reply
Lyn Holtmann Jun 10, 2016 at 12:34 p.m.

I paid $100 for a 3-day PhotoConnect pass and was extremely disappointed. We got less than 100 photos which resulted in 53 good pictures after eliminating duplicates. First there were very few photographers available throughout the park limiting the number of available poses. Our files included pictures that were not ours and excluded many that had been taken. Additionally, most of the poses were not enhanced with frames, character inserts or animated backgrounds. Unlike the Disney World Memory Maker which is automated by the wristbands, the PhotoConnect process is highly subject to human error. The photographer takes a picture of your card followed by the actual pictures which explains the misfiled picture. I definitely do not recommend wasting money on the PhotoConnect product.

Reply
Emily McGregor Jul 12, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Do you only need to purchase 1 pass for 2 people if they are staying together?

Reply
Kimberly D Nov 17, 2016 at 9:59 p.m.

We are headed down shortly and thinking about getting this. As parents we will have to switch due to a service dog. We do not want to buy a second card since that doubles the cost for the same duplicated photos. Is there a photo on the card or anything to prevent us from just switching necks for who ever rides with the kids?

Reply
Candace Dadswell Jan 28, 2017 at 7:37 p.m.

My family will be visiting Universal in March and going to the parks on March 7, 9, & 10. Would this still count as three consecutive days, since we are taking a day's break from the theme parks? Thank you!

Reply
FrogBlog Jan 29, 2017 at 5:41 p.m.

Hi Candice,

From what we understand, the 3-Consectutive Days would need to be three in a row (March 7,8 and 9 for example.) Give Universal Orlando Guest Services a call at 407-363-8000 to make sure.

Keep Hopping!

Leap

Reply
Cleveland Mar 12, 2017 at 4:09 a.m.

I just got back from Orlando with my family, 3 days at Universal and 4 days at Disney. My teenagers loved Universal over Disney. However, I WOULD NOT PURCHASE the 3 consecutive day photo special from Universal. Disney has photographers all over the park to capture your family moments. Universal has a photographer at the gate of each park and you can get the photos from some of your rides. It was a complete waste of money. My wife and I just looked over the portal and half of the pictures we took are not even added to our account. Save the money and hand your phone to another visitor to take your photo.

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