The Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot in Walt Disney World is here! It’s one of the best times to visit Walt Disney World. Why? I’d say because crowds are lower, but honestly, that is a rarity these days at Walt Disney World. No, it’s not because of the crowds, but because it is one of the prettiest times in Walt Disney World, especially Epcot. Spring has hit Florida and depending on the day, you might have idea temperatures waiting for you when you arrive.
With all this beauty in the air you might be wondering how you can capture the essence of Disney and take it home with you to enjoy forever. Through photographs of course! How then, can you ensure you get the best possible shots on your Walt Disney World vacation? By following the tips listed below!
Before we dive into the suggestions, let me emphasis that by following these tips, perfection is not guaranteed. Nor should perfection be your end goal. Instead, the key to wonderful memories, and great pictures to back up the memories, is enjoying each moment on your vacation the best you can. If you are constantly stressing about getting the perfect shot and watching your time at the parks from behind a screen, the pictures you take aren’t going to bring back found memories for you.
Instead, aim to follow these tips and snap a shot or two while you are on your trip. Yet, at the same time, mostly make sure you are in the moments and in the magic. That way, no matter how your shots come out, you can look back at your Walt Disney World trip with joy and remember how much fun you had! Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at how to take the best photos on your Walt Disney World vacation!
1. Shoot Down Low or High
One of the biggest complaint people have regarding Walt Disney World and pictures are the crowds. No matter where you go there are going to be other people, that is a given. While you can sneak into little corners and alcoves to grab a shot or two with no one in the background, you can’t necessarily do this with the ‘icons’ of the parks. I’m talking about Cinderella’s Castle, Spaceship Earth (although this one might be a little easier!), and so forth. Odds are there will be other people in your background. Instead of avoiding these iconic spots all together, just change your point of view.
Instead of shooting at eye level, get down low and shoot up. This way you can cut out a lot of unnecessary background noise. Normally, this would be horrible advice when shooting portraits. As no matter how thin you subject is, if you shoot from down low odds are they won’t look their best. While you can’t work around this completely, you can help your subjects by not having them look directly at you. Instead, have them look at each other or off into the distance. This creates more interaction in your photo and hopefully comes off as more flattering!
No matter what camera you are using, odds are there is a self-timer feature. The self-timer on camera phones provides ample time, usually about ten seconds, to move yourself away from your camera phone to your group that is being photographed. That’s enough time to get in place and look at the camera. Using this feature might require a little bit of trust because you have to set your phone up against some inanimate object and hope that it doesn’t fall down. Odds are, if you angle your phone just right, it will be fine. To help ease your mind make sure there is a secure case on your phone. These cases from Otterbox are the cutest and Disney themed. If I had my way I’d have one with every character!
3. Trade Photos
We all want photos with our whole vacation group. The PhotoPass photographers are great and will definitely use your camera to grab a shot or two. The problem is the PhotoPass photographers aren’t everywhere in the parks! What if you really want a photo in front of the Swiss Family Robinson tree house? You might be out of luck. Or, you can always ask someone walking by to grab the photo for you!
In my experience, most people don’t mind helping out another park goer. I know asking someone to stop and take a photo can make some people uncomfortable. Therefore, let me suggest a way to feel not feel like you are an inconvenience. First, if you see someone attempting to get a shot of their whole group, go up to them and offer to take the photo. Then, afterwards you can see if they don’t mind snapping a picture of you and your group in return. Most people are happy to help you out, especially after you have helped them. Since they were stopping to snap a photo odds are they aren’t in a rush and will have a second to return the favor. If not, you gave them a little pixie dust by taking a photo for them!
4. Use Your Kiddos
If you really don’t feel comfortable asking someone to help you out, you can use the self-timer method mentioned above, or you can try a third option. If you just want a photo of the ‘adults’ in the group, but don’t have ‘access’ to another adult, have your kids take the photo! Especially if you are using a camera phone, kids can do a great job taking the photos.
The beauty of digital photography, aside from not worrying about wasting film, is you basically see a preview before you snap a photo. When your kiddo has the camera phone in their hands they can line up the shot before taking the snap. Provide encouragement like ‘make sure Daddy’s head in completely in the screen’ or ‘don’t cut off Mommy’s arm’. (Just speaking from experience here!) You’ll be surprised at the shots they can get! My four-year old took the shot featured below with my cell phone. Look, you can see both of our heads!!
5. Camera Type
I am a big fan of the saying, the best camera you own is the one you have with you. Meaning, if a shot presents itself the best camera is going to be the one in your hand. You can’t capture a moment without a camera, that’s for sure!
However, that being said, I’d like to add-on the best camera is going to be the one you know how to operate the best! This can be the camera on your phone or it can be a huge DSLR. It all how you use the device in your hands.
That being said, my favorite camera to bring along to Walt Disney World is my DSLR. A lot of people might be against this, but I take it every single trip and never regret it. Walt Disney World is such a great place to take pictures, I highly recommend bringing along a DSLR if you know how to operate it. As I mentioned above, your phone camera is AMAZING. There is no doubt that cameras on cell phones have come a long way over the recent years. Yet, sometimes the conditions you are presented with for your photo are too much for your camera phone to handle.
All that being said, it’s nice to know that a majority of your outdoor shots during the day at Florida are going to have enough light for your photos to come out amazingly! Yet, there are shots, as mentioned above, that won’t have the perfect setup. You still don’t want to miss these shots! Having a DSLR you know how to operate will allow you to control the settings and capture the shot, no matter what the conditions. If you own and can operate a DSLR, bring it along for your trip. If after a few days you decide you really don’t want to use it, you can leave it locked up in your hotel room. At least you won’t spend your time wishing you had brought it along.
6. Wide Aperture
If you bring a camera where you are able to control the settings, you’ll be able to use aperture to your advantage. I recommend shooting wide open, or really close, for a lot of your shots. Shooting wide open, or with a really large aperture, gives you that creamy and dreamy blurred background that we all love. With the background blurred, you’ll still be able to tell where you are (Disney!), but you will eliminate a lot of distracting background elements. I’m mainly thinking of people! Some people in the background might actual add to your shot, as they are an environmental element. Yet, if you have someone who decides to wave ‘hi as you’re snapping a shot, it will be nice knowing they will be blurred out!
If you’re concerned about shooting wide open, there are a few tips you can follow to help your shots come out. First, try to have everyone in the same plane. In other words, this means have everyone’s heads in one row. If everyone is in the same plane you will have a better chance of having everyone in focus. Second, try using the center focusing spot if you are manually selecting the focus point. The center focusing button is the most sensitive and can help you to ensure your shot is in focus.
Shooting wide open can be tricky, takes practice, and takes a well calibrated lens. You can always shoot a few stops above wide open to help keep things in focus, but still have a nicely blurred background. Remember too, if you’re outside and shooting wide open make sure you’re using a fast shutter speed and a low ISO in order to not blow out your photos. If you have more questions regarding wide aperture, leave me a comment below.
If you don’t have access to a DSLR, but have a portraiture mode option on your camera phone, you can achieve a similar look. The portraiture mode uses technology to ‘blur’ out the background of an image while focusing on the subject, helping you to create a shallow depth of field look. Be sure to watch the ‘tips’ on your camera’s screen to ensure you have your subject at the proper distance from your camera.
Florida isn’t called the sunshine state for no reason. A majority of the days in Florida involve sunshine. This is great! The problem comes is when the sun is directly overhead, becoming too bright and harsh for the subjects in your photos to see properly.
In a perfect word, all of you photos would take place in the best light. I’m talking early morning or during golden hour, about an hour or so before the sunsets. We all know that we spend a lot more time in the parks other than one hour in the morning or the one hour during golden hour. Therefore, you have to compromise and make adjustments so you can still get great shots.
First, look for shaded areas to take photos. The shade provides nice even lighting over your subjects. Second, try to position the sun behind your subjects. Just make sure you aren’t aiming the camera directly towards the sun behind your subjects. Your camera might have trouble focusing on your subjects or create a weird haze over your subjects. Instead shoot on a slight angle to cut the haze and glare potentially caused by the sun. Third, if you can’t prevent having the sunlight shining over your subjects causing squinty eyes have them throw on the sunglasses. They help to disguise the eyes and hopefully all the squinting!
8. Use the Walls
If you spend anytime on Instagram following Disney fans and park goers, you might have picked up on the popularity of the different walls in the parks. The walls have become iconic in themselves and provide a great opportunity to snap a shot with a clutter free background! If you aren’t sure where to find them, they are all over. Some are more popular than others, but basically any painted or decorated wall will make a sweet backdrop. If you’re up against a wall you won’t have any crowds in your photos.
9. Go Early or Stay Late
If you’re still concerned with the amount of crowds that can accumulate inside the parks, you could always go early to the parks or stay late. Whether this means taking advantage of an early morning advanced dinning reservations or purchasing a separate pass for a special evening event, you might be able to head to the parks when there are fewer people. There are no guarantees that this will result in an easier time in taking less crowded photos, but it might be worth a shot. Either way, I’m sure you’ll have fun at your meal or attending a special event!
There ya go! A few tips on how to take great photos on your family vacation in Walt Disney World. Remember the most important thing is staying in the moment on your trips and enjoying your time with your family. If you are having fun, when you look back at your photos it won’t matter if they are perfect or not, as you’ll most likely only remember the good times you had! Let me know if you have anymore tried and true tips!
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