One of the best and longest lasting souvenirs you’ll take home with you from Disneyland will be the photos you take or buy. There are many places and characters to take photos but you don’t want to spend all day just taking pictures so these tips are to help make the most out of the photos you do bring home.
10. Leave your DSLR at home
You might love your DSLR with that super expensive lens that can shoot photos in the dark but unless it’ll be your 20th time going to the park, leave the arm canon at home. Stick to your compact camera that you can carry in your pocket, and these are the reasons why:
- $1000 worth of equipement vs. 60,000 people
- You’re going to have to take it on the rides with you
- Not everyone knows how to use a DSLR, and at some point you’ll need to hand it off to somebody else to shoot a photo
- Do you really have a free hand once considering you’ll be holding onto your kid’s hands, pushing a stroller, snacking on popcorn, or dealing with your wallet
- Selfies, you know you’ll want to take one
- It’ll take you a year to go through editing, and sorting through 15mb files
9. Leave it to the Professionals
You know whats better than not bringing a DSLR, is not bringing a camera at all. Disney offers a service called the Disney PhotoPlus+ Pass which will provide you a digital copy, of all, i mean ALL the photos you’ll need while one vacation at Disneyland and California Adventures. For $99.95 (or $69.95 if you purchase 14 days prior) you can get all your photos taken by a professional with a DSLR camera, get all your ride photos, and have the ability to add Disney characters to your photos for a single price.
Be creative, and don’t be afraid to do something silly, and when in doubt ask the Cast Member for advice, they’ve seen them all.
8. Stick with your iPhone
I’ve taken about 80% of all my pictures at the park with just my iPhone but any Smart Phone for that matter will work too. You wont be the only one either, with the recent report that Disneyland is the most tagged location for instagram users in the US. Most phone camera are starting to rival typical point and shoot megapixel levels its like carrying two of the same device. The best things are the apps that you can you can use to shoot and edit on the fly while sharing it with the world without having to plug it into a computer. These are the essential apps for preloading when going to the park:
- Camera Awesome – a fuller function picture taking app
- Snapseed – photo editing app to adjust lighting, cropping and other stuff
- Frametastic – photo collage app to combine multiple photos into a single framed image
- Instagram – photo filters and social sharing app
7. Think twice before you flash the camera
Rarely does a photo taken with flash at night ever comes out good. Also remember you’re not the only family at the park and getting flashed in the eye when its dark isn’t very courteous. When Cast Members tell you that flash photography is not allowed, its not that they don’t want you to take pictures of the rides, but its very disturbing and distracting to other riders, especially at the Haunted Mansion, and the Pirates of the Caribbean. Flash has a limited distance that it can reach, and unless you have a External Flash, you can really only capture about 5 feet in front of you.
Most cameras have a Firework setting
6. Switch to Video
Sometimes still photos can’t tell the whole story, and you need to switch your camera to video mode to capture everything. I wouldn’t suggest shooting a lot of video because it will take up a lot of memory, editing video is must more time consuming than photos, and you’ll look back at videos a lot less often then flipping through pictures. My basic tips on shooting video to follow are:
- Know when to switch modes – what you’re looking for when shooting videos is everything you can’t capture with photos; a build up to a reaction, sounds, lights and movement.
- Shoot in short bursts (15-30 seconds) rather than one long shot – no one wants to wait to get to the good part
- Don’t shoot while moving – no one needs a personal Blair Witch Project.
- Don’t zoom – it takes time for the camera to refocus
5. Know when to put the camera away
There are a few times where you should resist the urge to pull out your camera and leave it tucked in your pocked. “But i’ll miss a memory” you say, but what you don’t realize is that enjoying the park in that 3 inch screen instead of with your full vision of your eyes. Disneyland does a very good job of the details, and there are lots of little hidden treasures scattered throughout the park that need your full attention to see.
The second reason is that if you go with a group of people taking pictures, people don’t know what camera to look at and no one will have a good picture if everyone is looking at a different camera. They’re digital cameras people, we can share them in an instant!
My favorite application is the shared photo stream on iPhones. This feature allows you to create an album that will share photos to other iPhone users in an instant. No more having to email or text pictures, they’ll get all of them automatically.
4. Pass the Camera Around
As the photographer you can get pretty caught up capturing every moment of your family’s trip, and that typically means that you’re not in any of the photos. Pas the camera around to the members in your group, because they’ll capture things that you may not notice or pay attention to. Let you kids get pictures from the ground up, and let them get a few pictures pictures of you while they’re at it. Make use of Cast Members walking around the park any time you need a group photo taken.
If you’re getting a group shot taken, preface it by asking them to take a few photos in landcape and portait style
3. Learn the basics to photography
Two non-physical things to bring with you is your smile, and your skills. First teach your kids how to smile and how to pose in pictures. Not every pictures needs to be everyone standing straight and smiling, so add some funny faces, or poses into your picture. Check out these 10 Rules for Family Photography at Walt Disney World.
The second thing is your camera skills. Being in focus is probably the most important but its not the only thing. It’ll help make your photos more interesting if you learn the basics principals of photography. You don’t want every photo to look the same, so here are few rules you should get to know:
- Lighting – the best natural light is early in the morning and the worst is high noon
- Rule of thirds – don’t put your subject directly in the middle of your shot
- Balancing elements – make sure you don’t over load one side of your picture with everything
- Leading lines – where are the elements in the photo drawing your eye to
- Framing – use external elements to put your subject as the focal point
The worse thing you can do get to the park, get all setup and realize that you can’t take a picture! Most likely you haven’t used your camera in a while and your memory card may be full or battery meters says its full but if you wait a minute will drop to zero. The night before make sure that you’ve emptied your memory card, charged your battery, and made sure its working correctly. Also don’t forget to bring your phone charger, along with your camera charger because if you’re like me now you’ll be using your phone all day and by mid afternoon it will be dead.
Disneyland is pretty good about hiding their outlets so use this guide to find available power outlets.
1. A picture with Mickey and Friends
Ask any Cast member and they’ll tell you that you can always find Mickey Mouse at his house in Toontown. Sometimes the line gets pretty long but you’ll definitely get picture with the head mouse. The rest of the gang are scattered throughout the park:
- Goofy, Pluto, Minny and Donald also live in Toontown
- The Princesses have their own Fantasy Faire where you can line up to take meet and take pictures with all the princesses in Fantasyland
- Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore hang out in Critter Country
- On Main St. USA you can bump into the likes of Chip & Dale, and Cruella de Vil, and other classic characters.
- Storm Troopers like to hang out in Tomorrowland
Other famous photo locations are all over the park, so make sure you plan ahead to which ones you want pictures with.
- Floral Mickey, a lovely spot just as you enter Disneyland park (when you still look fresh).
- In front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
- Along the river at New Orleans Square at Disneyland park.
- On the bridge at Disney California Adventure park with Mickey’s Fun Wheel as the backdrop.
My favorite place to get a picture with Mickey is actually much later into the night, you can find him wandering Main St. typically without many people hounding him, and he’ll actually have time to interact with you.