You don’t need to be a professional photographer to snap some amazing photos at the Walt Disney World Resort! It’s not necessary to buy a DSLR or any kind of fancy equipment to get the best photos in Disney if you’re not looking for that kind of investment. Whatever camera (or cell phone) you’re planning on using can easily do the trick with the right strategy in mind, and we’ve outlined everything you need to get all your shots in this post:
Know your camera
If you’re using a new camera (or phone) for the first time during a Disney trip, you don’t want to find yourself fumbling through all of the settings not knowing what’s what in the moment. Practice using the camera at home before your trip and spend some time learning how everything works. When in doubt on a Disney trip, keep your settings on Auto (without flash) and Sport.
I go back and forth between my Nikon D3300 and my phone (a very dated Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+). If you’re thinking of purchasing your first DSLR camera, I highly recommend the Nikon D3300. It’s really easy to get used to as a beginner, and for me it’s been a great value compared to other products on the market.
Edit your photos
I’m not saying to PhotoShop yourself, I’m just suggesting you clean up the photos with editing. I use Lightroom to edit photos (including all of my trip photos and everything on my Instagram feed) and I think that’s really the best way to go. It’s not as technologically advanced as Photoshop and some other editing programs, so if you’re new to photo editing it isn’t that difficult to get used to. You can also download presets (basically filters) that make editing photos a breeze. (I’ve purchased a few different presets from Helene in Between and I love them!)
Turn off your flash!
One of the easiest ways to make lots of people angry on a dark ride is to use your flash! Dark rides are dark for a reason, so to keep the magic going for yourself (and everyone else on the ride) never use your flash. The same goes for brightly lit phone screens that can expose parts of attractions that aren’t meant to be seen or unintentionally blind the people behind you. In my opinion, photographing rides is best left to the professionals–they know how to get the best shots without ruining the magic for everyone else. If you want to give it a try though, use the Sport setting to offset the motion of the ride vehicle and never use your flash! (My no flash rules applies to fireworks too–for the best possible photos there is really no flash needed!)
Use a camera strap
You don’t want to end your vacation without your camera because you either left it somewhere by accident or dropped it off a boat, the PeopleMover, or any other ride vehicle. Additionally, the strap helps keep your camera handy without you having to search through a bag for it when the moment strikes. I know especially when I’m in the parks with my friends who are local or family who visit often, the rest of the group isn’t usually interested in stopping for photos, so having the strap is super helpful that I have my camera at the ready while we’re on the go.
Purchase Memory Maker
Memory Maker is the best way to get the whole family in the picture and ensure that you leave the parks with some worthwhile images. This package includes all of the photos taken by Disney PhotoPass photographers out in the parks, as well as ride photos, character meet and greets and dining images, and more. Since the photos are taken by Disney’s photographers, everyone gets in the picture and you’re not stuck handing your camera off to a random tourist to do it. It’s $169 to purchase in advance of your trip, and $199 to get while you’re there. It’s pricey, but we think it’s 100% worth it if you’re looking to grab the best photos (find out why we love Memory Maker here!). If you’re on the fence or think you’d rather skip it, still take photos with Disney’s PhotoPass photographers as they’ll happily photograph you with your own camera or phone.
Get to the parks early or stay late
If you’re looking to get photos with little to no crowds in the background, arrive early to the theme parks or stay late. Stay at a Disney resort and Extra Magic Hours can help you here! Another way to get into the parks before other guests in the morning is to make a reservation for breakfast before the park opens! If your’e not an early riser or a night owl, pack your patience and edit photos later to see how you can easily crop other guests out. At the end of the day, crowds are a fact of life in Disney, but if you’re really looking for those empty park photos these are the best ways to get them.
Live in the moment and don’t stress!
I don’t have any photos of Happily Ever After (yet). I have tons of photos of Wishes, because I’ve seen it so many times that spending one showing of these fireworks taking photos didn’t really make much of a difference to me. But the first couple of times I’ve seen Happily Ever After, the newest fireworks show in the Magic Kingdom, I didn’t even turn on my camera or open Instagram or Snapchat. As much fun as it is to be an amateur photographer in the parks, it’s even more fun to live in the moment. If you’re experiencing something for the first time, or having a hard time focusing, put the camera or phone down and live in the moment.
If you’re all about the photos in a given moment, don’t stress… about how they’re coming out, what the lighting is like, and especially what other people think. I’ve had some unique mini-photo shoots in the parks, and on occasion you do get some looks from passersby who don’t get it. It’s totally fine though–you don’t know them, they don’t know you, and in a few minutes they won’t even remember it happened, so don’t worry about what other guests might be thinking. Just enjoy yourself and capture those sweet vacation memories however you like!
I’d LOVE to see your favorite photos from your Disney trips! Share them with us on Instagram by using #CastlePartyLife and if you have any questions about getting the best park photos don’t hesitate to comment below or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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