Walt Disney World Photo Tips for Families

Walt Disney World typically ranks among the most photographed places in the world. If you’re going, you’re going to take photos, probably a lot of them. Here are some practical photo tips for real-world families who want to capture their vacation memories.

    • BACK UP your photo files early and often. Yep, before you take a single shot, you should have plan to back up your pictures. Someday you’ll have time to make your photos sing. Someday you’ll de-red the redeye, balance the white balance, correct the colors and PhotoShop a smile onto your crabby-pants cousin Al. But that day is not today. In the meantime, make sure you don’t lose your photos. Take an hour to send them to the cloud, download to your laptop, and turn on your Time Machine or copy them to a flash drive. When you’re an empty nester you’ll be able to make beautiful photo gifts for your children, but if you lose the images, that will never happen.
Walt Disney World Photo Tips for Families
Don’t worry about how you look. Sometimes messy is more memorable.
    • Think about what you’re wearing. I’m not saying you have to make matching tee shirts or color coordinate everyone’s outfits, but honestly, those kind of details can make a meh picture into a good picture. At the very least, think about whether you want certain logos on tee shirts or whether a shirt should be tucked in.
    • Ask adults’ permission before posting/tagging their image on social media outlets. It’s only polite.
    • Your camera has a better memory than you do. Take advantage of your camera’s, well, photographic memory. Snap shots of your room number, your rental car, your parking space, your child’s outfit of the day (in case he gets lost), and anything else that’s mission critical, but not part of your daily routine. When you inevitably lose or forget these items, your camera will have your back.
    • A photo of a thing is sometimes as good as purchasing a thing. When your child is beggggging you for a souvenir, suggest that you take a photo of it. Sometimes that alone is enough to avert a meltdown.
    • No one looks good in bright sunlight. Move to the shade. It will look like you’ve been to the spa and gotten 8 hours of sleep in comparison to a shot in the sun.
Walt Disney World Photo Tips for Families
Little kid + big object = classic family photo
    • Pictures of little kids next to absurdly big things are cute, always. The juxtaposition of a toddler with Goofy, the Toy Story toys, a plus-size turkey leg, or the
      oversize icons at the Pop Century resort bring a smile every time.
    • Photograph different combinations of your family members. I have twins. There are approximately 57 zillion photos of them together. There are approximately 6 pictures of either of them with other family members. Mix it up. You’ll never know when you’ll want to prove that little sis really did have a happy moment with big bro. Or someday little sis may decide she wishes she had a photo of just her and big sis (awww), without annoying big brother in the frame (grrr). Capture all the options.
    • Take photos of individual family members. When your child is older, she can frame the picture of herself with Mickey next to a photo of her own daughter with Mickey at the same age. See, you’re crying already. This won’t be possible if the only picture of her with Mickey has the annoying brother in it. (What’s with him, anyway?)
    • Take the obligatory posed-in-front-of-the-icon photos. A photo of your family standing in front of Cinderella Castle is not interesting or imaginative. Take that picture anyway. Someday, when your child tells you that you never did anything for him, and you’re sure he’s spending more time with his therapist than he is with you, you can console yourself by looking at that Castle picture and remembering that there is evidence that you tried your darnedest and really did bring him to the happiest place on earth. Besides, what else are you going to put on the mantle?
    • Take photos of the adults. Yes, we may think we need to lose 10 pounds. Our hair is a fright from the Florida humidity. Those shorts do nothing to conceal the cellulite. Trust me, I know. But I assure you, your children don’t see this. They think you’re beautiful and will someday cherish that photo of mom hugging them in front of a giant golf ball, cellulite and all.
Walt Disney World Photo Tips for Families
The on-ride photos often reveal who is the brave one in the family
    • Take a billion photos. Perhaps even two billion, really. It’s hard to get good photos, someone’s always blinking or looking the wrong way or pinching their little sister. The more photos you take, the more likely it is that somehow an actual quality image will sneak in there among the mayhem. In fact, I absolutely forbid you from taking any fewer than a dozen shots any time your child is standing next to Mickey.
    • It’s OK not to photograph/video some things. Here’s the contradictory corollary to the item above. If something truly amazing and wonderous happens, try to be in the moment rather than reaching for the camera. When my oldest daughter was six, she was pulled on stage at the Biergarten in Epcot to chat with the bandleader. My husband and I both remember this as a star-making moment where she showed intelligence, diplomacy, wit and charm, dazzling her way into the hearts of thousands. I’m sure if we had a video of this, we’d see that instead of being the next Emma Stone, Princess Kate, and Hillary Clinton all rolled into one, as we remembered, she was really just a stammering little kid. I LOVE my version of it. I’m glad there’s no video to prove me wrong.
    • Nothing good can come of photographing your kids naked. Junior rips off his diaper to run free at the Epcot fountain. It’s hysterical, yes, but resist the urge to capture the moment in JPEG. Someday he’ll be president, or at the very least have a mother-in-law. No commander-in-chief or hubby-to-be wants prying eyes on his tiny tot schmeckle.
    • Ask a helpful cast member if you can take a photo with them. This will not only help you remember a great moment, but also the great people behind the moment. And you never know, you may run into that cast member cast on your next trip and be able to forge a long-standing relationship. Or even better, give them a shout-out on the Cast Compliments account on Twitter and they’ll get some love from the world at large.
Walt Disney World Photo Tips for Families
Castle photos are a classic for a reason
  • When you’re traveling with kids, consider leaving the DSLR at home. I own a workhorse Canon D70 and half a dozen precision lenses and some flashes and other indispensable accessories. When my kids were small, I took all that to the parks with me. This meant that I was carrying 20 pounds of photo gear, 20 pounds of diaper bag, and 30 pounds of preschooler back and forth across Fantasyland for days on end. My physical therapist could buy a Ferrari with the money I’ve spent to get my back back in working order. If you’re not carrying anything else but your camera, go ahead and take that SLR to the parks. If you’re toting kids and their gear, your phone camera is probably fine, or invest in a good pocket model instead. You’ll make up the expense in savings on Advil in just one trip.
  • Consider an upgrade to your phone. If you’re using your phone as your primary camera, think about whether it has the capability to get the kind of shots you’ll want on vacation.
  • Brush up on your camera techniques. Again, if you’re planning to use your phone as your primary camera, now’s a good time to review all the things you can do with your phone’s camera. Do you know how to zoom? How to take action shots? Can you use a timer for selfies? Do you know optimal photo composition techniques? Maybe spend an afternoon watching YouTube videos on best photo practices for your camera model.
  • Check on your available storage. If you’re using your phone as your camera, before embarking on your trip, check your available storage. If you’re close to maxing out, now may be the time to invest in some cloud storage, offload unused apps, or otherwise clean house. You don’t want to miss capturing a magical moment because you’ve unexpectedly run out of memory.
  • You can never have enough camera batteries. If you need an extra memory card, you can buy it at the parks. But the odds of them having your exact model of battery fully charged is zero. Go on Amazon, buy six extra batteries for your camera. Do it now, I’ll wait. When they arrive, charge them all and put them in your Disney backpack. If you’re using your phone as a camera, you absolutely must bring an external charger, or two, with you into the parks. No more vacation camera power worries.
  • Be careful with your flash. Better, yet, just turn your flash off. It’s rude to take flash photos inside attractions, flash photos at night are nearly impossible to pull off, and daytime photos rarely need a flash.
  • Spend the money on the ride photo. You have the means to take your own pictures so yes, it’s absolutely ridiculous to spend $25 on one PhotoPass picture or to spend $150 to buy a Memory Maker Package. Do it anyway. You will never look more vulnerable and happy and frightened and silly and human than you do when you’re dropping into the abyss at Splash Mountain. And remember that the pictures taken by Disney staff may be the only ones you get that include the entire family.
  • Label your camera. If you’re using a camera, put your name and cell phone number somewhere on it. When you inevitably lose the camera, a good samaritan will return it to you. Similarly, use a Sharpie and write your cell number on all your memory cards. If you’re using your phone, be sure to enable the “find my phone feature” (or similar) and perhaps show your email address on your lock screen.
  • Let your kids take some photos. Hand over your old phone or buy an inexpensive pocket model. There are many waterproof digital cameras on Amazon for about $75. (Now you don’t have to brainstorm a birthday present.) That 75 bucks will entertain your kiddo in the pool for hours, allowing you to enjoy a fruity beverage and another chapter of that page turner novel on your Kindle. And who knows, Junior might even get a decent shot or two. You’re welcome.
  • Keep your mask on. I get, you’ve spent all this time/money/energy to get to the parks and try to take great pictures, but during the pandemic having a mask on in pictures, the last thing you want to see is a mask covering your family’s faces. But keeping your masks on, particularly in-park pictures, is common sense, good manners, and a strenuously enforced rule. In 20 years, those masked photos will be huge conversation starters with the grandkids and valuable artifacts of this unprecedented time in history. If you absolutely need to take a picture without a mask, do it while you’re at the pool, seated with food, or on the balcony of your own hotel room.

OK fellow shutterbugs, what are your favorite real world photo tips? What’s your Disney photo strategy? Let us know in the comments below.

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