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One of the best souvenirs you can take home from a Disney vacation is photographs. Disney offers a great service in Photopass where they have photographers that will take photos for you, and even take photos with your camera. But what about those special moments when there is no Photopass Photographer there? You can get great photos, even if you aren’t a professional photographer.
Tips for taking great Disney Photos
While I am not the most experienced photographer, and there are definitely those with better skills then me, I have learned several things that work to help me take better photographs on our Disney vacations. These tips will help you take photos that capture the magic of your Disney vacation.
*Some of these pictures were taken using DSLR cameras, some with point and shoots, and some with my cell phone. You really can get great pictures with any camera.*
The first thing that I really suggest anybody do is get to know your camera. Do not buy a brand new camera right before vacation, and expect to suddenly know exactly how to use it and take great photos. Especially if it is a camera you have never used before. If you are used to a point and shoot, don’t buy a DSLR two days before vacation and expect to be able to use it like a pro.
Before vacation get to know your camera settings. Read the manual, check out YouTube videos with tips for your camera. Most of all, get out and practice. Play with different settings on the camera. What settings do you like for the middle of the day in the sun? What ones do you like for when it is overcast? Getting to know what the different settings do is important since you don’t have time to play around trying to figure it out in the park.
Once you are on vacation, here are some practical tips you can use, no matter what kind of camera you are using.
1) When you can, control the lighting. I know we don’t always have control over our lighting situations at Disney. Especially for character meet and greets. Thankfully, Disney has started making sure that characters are in more shaded areas most of the time, but other times they are not. Whatever you do, try not to have you or your subject (the person you are photographing) looking into the sun if possible. If they have to look into the sun, try this trick. Have them close their eyes, count to three and have them open them and say cheese (or Mickey Mouse) on three as you snap the picture. Just opening their eyes will help reduce the chance that they will be squinting. You want to avoid harsh shadows on faces as well. Try to avoid using your flash on your camera as a filler, but it can help fix the shadow issue if you know how to do it.
2) With small children, try and get down to their level, or pick them up to others level. If your child is the only short one in a photo, it is hard to crop to zoom in later when you want to frame a picture. Also, it is easier for the child to look at the camera with everyone else if they are closer to the same height as other subjects. Here are some examples. In the first 2 pictures, the characters are down at the Goof’s level. I am able to fill my frame with them, they will be easily cropped without having to either cut out the Goof or the character, and your eye is drawn to both subjects. The bottom one is when we finally got to meet Donald. While I love the picture, when I went to crop it to the size of frame I had made, I had to either cut out the Goof so he barely showed, or cut off Donald’s hat. Plus, when you look at the picture, you kind of skim over the Goof. This could have been fixed by one of us deciding to pick him up. (Smacks forehead for forgetting to do it.) You can also compare the Donald image to the Mickey Mouse picture further down to see what it looks like when we lifted him up for a shot.
3) Don’t let your subjects be too small. And this time when I say subjects, I mean people. If you are trying to get a picture in front of the castle, one of the biggest things I wish people knew was to not take a picture with your family/person right next to the castle so they look tiny and the castle is the only thing you see. If you want a picture of just the castle, take a picture of just the castle. If you want someone in it, let the castle be the backdrop. So how do you fix this? The common mistake is the photographer will back up by themselves until they can fit the full castle in the frame. Have your family/subject move away from the castle with you. That way they don’t look tiny, but you can fit more of the castle, Matterhorn, or other major landmark in the photo. Also, you don’t have to get the full castle in the picture either. I absolutely adore this picture I took toward the end of our last trip of the Goof with the castle in the background.
4) Zoom in. Don’t feel like every picture has to include the entire set up of the ride or all of your surroundings. Some of my favorite Disney vacation photos are those where I capture the expressions on my subject’s face, and there is just a hint of the surroundings in the picture. Here is an example.
5) At the same time, sometimes zooming out and capturing more can be a good idea. In other words, don’t feel like you have to do the same thing for every photo. Decide what you think works best for each shot.
6) Capture something special to that trip. One of our favorites is to take a picture in front of a favorite ride from the trip. Other people have a tradition of taking a picture at the same spot every trip. Whatever it is, find something that is a little more unique to your families vacation that brings memories.
7) Remember to get in a shot or two yourself. There are lots of ways to do this, rotate who is the photographer, selfies, and my favorite, handing your camera to either a cast member or fellow guest to get a shot of the whole group. Sometimes it is easy to forget that we want to be in those pictures as well. Disney’s Photopass/Memory Maker is a great way to get in the picture, but if you are looking for a free option, realize that photopass photographers are more than happy to take pictures with your camera as well.
8) Before you hand off your camera, consider putting it on auto mode. Sometimes I have had no issue handing my camera to a cast member or fellow park guest in whatever mode I happen to be shooting in. Other times, I find they may not have a steady enough hand, know how to focus the shot, etc. I have found it easier to just put my camera in auto mode. I choose auto mode without flash, but you can also choose with flash if you don’t mind the flash going off or if the lighting needs it.
9) Take a lot of photos. Someone may blink, they might have a weird look on their face. Take several photos. Do not let the line behind you waiting to meet a character intimidate you from taking more than one shot. You have paid good money to be in Disney, so take your time. Those other guests will have their time, you take yours. The photo below, we were the last ones to get pictures with the Storm Troopers. I felt rushed. I took one shot. Our niece had her eyes closed. (She probably hates that I post this picture from time to time.)
10) Going along with the last one- Do not expect perfection from your children. They are excited, they are meeting their favorite character, but you want a perfect picture. They won’t stop looking at the character and look at you, or they keep looking at something like the balloons in the distance, it is okay. Do not stress over this. I am especially guilty of this. I get really frustrated when the Goof won’t look at me, but sometimes, those are the best photos. The Goof was so excited about his Mickey’s Kitchen Sink birthday treat, he wouldn’t look at me at all.
Most of all, remember to step away from the camera enough to make the memories. I have been the person who experiences the entire trip through the camera lens, and I have been the one that never picks up the camera. It is sometimes hard to find a happy medium, but it can be done. Just remember that sometimes you need to live in the moment.
Do you have any tips for getting great vacation photos? Were any of these tips new to you? Will you be trying them on your next vacation? Let me know in the comments!