Disney is a magical place to millions of people, no matter the time of year you go! There’s never a bad time to visit Disney. You’ve probably been looking forward to your Disney vacation for quite some time and you want to make the most of it. Luckily, Walt Disney was in the business of making dreams come true! I’m here to help guide you and give you easy to implement, practical tips on how to photograph your dream Disney vacation in an intentional way that will bring back all the feelings and emotions you experienced while on your vacation- no fancy camera needed.
Tip 1: The best camera is the one you have on you.
While I am sure that you will probably utilize the Disney PhotoPass Photographers for the iconic family shots (and you really should- they are awesome!), do not think that you cannot capture incredible moments just because you don’t have a fancy camera. The really meaningful, sentimental moments are likely not going to happen for the PhotoPass Photographers that snap your posed picture in front of the castle on Main Street. These little, tinier moments are going to happen all over the park- watching a cavalcade, seeing a beloved character, seeing the most amazing fireworks, or eating that iconic Disney treat! Don’t let these moments pass you by. If all you have is your phone, use it.
Tip 2: Let the moments happen.
One of my biggest pieces of advice is this- don’t make your family/friends stop what they are doing and smile at the camera. Let them enjoy the moment. Let them live in that moment and experience every second of it. Take the shots through the moment ( as in, shoot a little before the moment- you’re going to be anticipating them- and don’t stop until after it’s over) with as little interference as possible and I promise they will be better than any posed picture. These capture a feeling and will evoke that feeling years from down the road- and that’s Disney magic, my friends.
Tip 3: Don’t forget the details.
Details are my favorite things to photograph. When I am at a session with a family, I’m always paying attention to little details throughout their home or in their children that help shape the story I’m trying to tell. When I photograph our vacations, I’m doing the same thing. I’m looking for those little details that shape our experience. This past time we went, one of the things that we enjoyed the most was the Holiday Cookie Stroll at Epcot. I made sure to take a picture of each cookie we tasted (they were all delicious!). To make them more personal, I included my children’s hands holding the cookie or even bite marks in the cookie! I also enjoy taking pictures of Hidden Mickey’s I find and details within the attraction que. My favorite details to capture though are ones that involve my family. I’m looking at the pins on their lanyards, the new ears they pick out, even the clothes they are wearing. All of these will be so, so nostalgic in 20 years and will bring back so many memories. For more information on how you can use details to help tell the story through imagery, click here to read a more in depth blog post.
Tip 4: Shoot the landscapes and thematic elements.
In my opinion, there is no comparison when it comes to the incredible attention to theming and landscaping at Walt Disney World. I’ve never seen a more immersive and beautiful theme park. My personal favorite for experiencing this is Animal Kingdom. Everywhere you look, there is something spectacular to see- whether it’s in the savanna of Kilimanjaro Safari, handmade cultural holiday decorations (if you go near Christmas!), walking through the base camp of Expedition Everest, or exploring the lush, other worldly beauty of Pandora. You’ll be so glad you stopped for a minute or two to capture and appreciate the beauty that the Imagineers developed.
Tip 5: Don’t stop shooting once you leave the parks.
This is huge for me- if you take away anything from this blog- take away this tip. I know when you exit the parks and the day is coming to a close, it’s easy to pack it up and call it a day. But, hear me out. When I am working with my clients, my camera is out and ready the moment I step out of the car, usually before my clients even know I am there. My camera doesn’t get put away until I have pulled away from their house. Why? Because you never know when moments are going to happen. Some of my very favorite and most memorable pictures from our vacations are after we have left the parks and I may be the only one awake. One of my son’s favorite things about Disney is the Monorail and Disney buses! After a long, fun, magical day at the parks, I snapped a picture of him with his tired little head resting on the railing of the Monorail que, expectantly waiting to see it pull into the station. It’s a really meaningful image for me as a mother because I know it will take me back to a certain time and place in his life- one where he was obsessed with transportation and trains… all the childhood innocence that comes with that. Another favorite is my daughter checking out her reflection in the bathroom mirror at the resort after getting a princess makeover. Another favorite is when we stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge and we could see the fireworks from our room window/balcony. My husband and two children were laying on the bed watching the fireworks over the savanna and fell asleep. I remember getting so emotional and grabbing my camera to freeze this moment in time for us forever. For me, it was such a tender and beautiful moment. All of these happened outside of the parks, and I’m willing to bet you’ve had or will have some of these moments yourself. Keep that camera handy, friends.
I hope that you will find these tips helpful and easy to implement into your memory making. Also, buy a power bank before you go! Ours is always such a lifesaver for me. Keep that phone charged and stash an extra memory card (and battery too!) for your camera. Be ready to capture those memories! I’d love to hear about your experiences and see your pictures- tag me on Instagram @jess.nicole.photography!
Jess is a wife, mother of 3, and family documentary photographer living in Chesapeake, Virginia with a serious love of all things Disney! Especially anything Haunted Mansion or Mary Blair! She has been pursuing photography for almost 10 years and has a passion for getting moms in the frame with their family in real, honest, and unscripted moments.