Last year I began to pick up photography as a hobby. I wasn’t, and am still not, very good at it, but I thought it’d be an enjoyable and active experience that both my wife and I could, at least partially, do together. One of the biggest reasons I was drawn to photography was because of our love for Disney Parks. Needless to say, we go visit theme parks quite often and loved other bloggers and photographer’s Disney photos. The parks are very photogenic and it doesn’t take a ton of knowledge to get a decent shot of one of the landmarks. I wanted to share a few pointers that I’ve learned in my first year of photographing in the Disney Parks.
Again, I’m not a very experienced photographer so these tips are coming from a beginner. I’ll try to make them Disney specific and not so much about equipment. I will say this about photography equipment though, the old phrase “you get what you pay for” holds true in the short amount of time I’ve photographed. That’s not to say you can’t get quality pictures without expensive equipment. Expensive equipment just makes it easier. Let’s get to the tips:
1. Take tons of pictures and take them everywhere.
This is a rule for photographers in general (oops, I already forgot that I was trying to do this Disney specific), but I think it holds true at the parks more than anywhere. The more pictures you take, the better the chance that one of these photos turn out (insert math equation joke). At Disney Parks there’s also more people around than usual which can be a blessing or curse. You may be able to capture a candid moment but there might be a 48-year old man in a tank top walking through your shot of World Showcase at sunset. As far as taking photos everywhere, I think it’s natural to be drawn to the center of the park. I know that’s what I’ve done in the first few trips since having a camera. Some of my favorite photos though are somewhere else around the parks. There’s a few I love of random signs in attraction queue’s. The parks are (mostly) beautiful wherever you go. There’s water, beautiful rock-work, and iconic attractions everywhere you go, so take pictures everywhere and take them often.
2. Stay out late.
I know this isn’t an option for some people. But, I think that the parks feel differently at night and there are some beautiful photos to be had late at night with all of the lights on. Of course, these photos can take more effort (a tripod is nearly a necessity) but to me, it is worth it. The other benefit of taking photos late at night is that the parks are pretty empty. Not many people are around if you stay in the parks past closing (usually security won’t kick you out until at least an hour after closing). Getting a picture of the castle without anyone in front of it is great. There are also many creative opportunities when no one else is around. There’s also something special about being the last person out of the park. If staying up late isn’t your thing, try to be one of the first inside the park. The mornings can give some great light and there won’t be many people around.
3. Don’t be afraid to go slow.
This is one of my Disney rules in general, but some people have a hard time following this. I usually make an agreement to go as fast as my group wants to go on the first day, but the following days I will try to take my time. If there’s a photo I have in mind, I’ll take my time to get it. It’s okay to not run from attraction to attraction because that’s only part of what the parks offer. Take your time to WANDER (name of the blog alert!) around the parks and get some photos. This is when you find the fun detail to photograph that makes your pictures unique.
4. Your photos don’t have to be ‘Disney photos’.
I covered part of this in the first tip, but it’s okay if your photos wouldn’t be recognized as being from a Disney Park. In fact, I may argue that’s a good thing if that happens. One of my favorite photos I took at Disneyland is just a picture along the banks of the Rivers of America. The parks are filled with landscape that photographers travel to, so take advantage and shoot those too.
5. Bring a tripod.
Now, I know these weren’t supposed to be equipment based, but I think this is a pretty essential key. You can obviously get good photos without a tripod. There have been some on this blog. But the tripod enables better capability of catching firework, sunset, and nighttime photos which are some of my favorite to capture at the parks. We have a pretty cheap tripod (if anyone would like to buy me a better one, I’d be happy to accept it), but I carry it most days that I go to a park. Tripod’s generally aren’t very heavy and won’t add a bunch of weight to your camera bag, which they usually will attach to. They can also be bought for under $30 if you’re on a limited budget (again, if you want a good one then pay more). A tripod can really change how you photograph and will help (and make) you a better photographer.
Those are some really easy, quick tips on how to begin taking photos at Disney Parks. One quick bonus tip I have is to not be afraid to put the camera down. If you’re having more fun without the camera then scrap it for the day. If it is way too hot to be carrying another 10 pounds on you, then don’t do it. If you feel like you’re not truly experiencing the parks because you’re worried about getting pictures, then stop getting pictures. For me, photography has increased my love for Disney Parks. If it doesn’t do the same for you, then don’t do it. With that being said, I love the challenge of trying to get something unique at one of the most photographed places on earth. Good luck and happy
shooting (ah, that doesn’t sound too good) photo-taking!