PhotoPass Tips from a Former Disney Photographer

How to Make the Most of Disney PhotoPass and Memory Maker—From a Former Walt Disney World PhotoPass Photographer

Disney PhotoPass is a complimentary service that makes commemorating your Walt Disney World vacation through photography a snap. From on-ride photos to portrait studios, from character meet-and-greets to family photos in front of Cinderella Castle, the resulting images are the perfect souvenirs for any trip to The Most Magical Place on Earth. Best of all, with Disney PhotoPass photographers as ubiquitous as Mickey ears inside the parks, taking advantage of everything the service has to offer is simple and convenient.

So, how can you make the most of your time in front of the camera while also maximizing your time in the theme parks? What can you do to make sure you return home with wonderful images you can look back on for years to come? As a former Disney PhotoPass photographer myself, I’m here to share some tried and true tricks and helpful hacks I picked up during my time behind the lens and my many, many trips to the parks.

Disney PhotoPass Service Tips, Tricks & Hacks – How to Capture Every Magical Moment

Aside from one big exception (Disney’s private Capture Your Moment photo sessions, which I’ll talk about a bit later), it doesn’t cost you a thing to have your picture taken with Disney PhotoPass. What is going to cost you, however, is the digital downloads or prints of whatever images you want to take home with you. (Luckily, there are another couple of exceptions to this, and one of them is a biggie.) So, to make sure the photos you take are worth the price you pay later, here are a few tips to ensure each photo opportunity is time and money well spent.

Remember, It Doesn’t Cost Anything to Have Your Photo Taken by a Disney PhotoPass Photographer in the Parks

Sometimes, it feels like you can’t turn a corner at Walt Disney World without seeing a PhotoPass photographer, which is awesome because it doesn’t cost anything to take advantage of these Disney photogs. That’s right! Having a Disney PhotoPass photographer take your picture is absolutely free. Whether you want to buy your photo (or not!) is completely up to you—no purchase is required. So, feel free to stop and strike a pose any chance you get. Plus, why leave your group’s designated photo-taker out of the shot when there are so many other people around who are literally getting paid by Disney to do the job for you? I guarantee you’ll appreciate all those images once it’s time for your vacation to end.

Have Disney PhotoPass Photographers Use Your Personal Camera or Cell Phone

Don’t let the Nikon hanging from someone’s neck or patiently waiting atop a tripod fool you. Disney PhotoPass photographers are more than happy to snap your photo using your cell phone or personal camera, too, meaning that you can get pics with the same poses and backgrounds without ever having to pay for them. Sure, you won’t be able to get fun Magic Shots this way. And yes, photographers will typically spend more time and frames using their own camera instead of yours. However, you’ll usually get a photo that is just as good—and it won’t cost you a dime. You can do this during character meet-and-greets as well. Just ask the nearby PhotoPass photographer and/or character attendant.

Take As Many Photos As You Can

Photography is a numbers game. The more shots you have to choose from, the more likely you are to have images you want to keep, share with friends and family, and look back on for years to come. At Walt Disney World, that means taking photos anywhere and everywhere. So, save all those ride photos to your My Disney Experience account. Get pictures in front of the park icons from different angles and vantage points. Ask for all the Magic Shots. Go and see as many Disney characters as possible.

And while you’re at it, remember to hand over your phone or camera to double up just in case something goes awry. By the time your trip is over, you’ll have so many options that it won’t even matter if someone blinks or is making a funny face. While this is something we recommend for everyone, it’s especially worthwhile for those planning to get Memory Maker, Disney’s unlimited digital downloads photo package (more on that later).

Dress for the Occasion and Pack Some Props

Want to take your vacation photos to the next level? Consider dressing up and bringing some props along with you. And no, I don’t mean something fancy unless that’s the look you’re going for. This can be as simple as coordinating t-shirts or casual, character-inspired DisneyBounding outfits. You can even use accessories like Mickey or Minnie ears to pull your look together (and, bonus, they make awesome souvenirs!). As for props, they can be as simple or as creative as you like—think those wearable Mickey Mouse gloves, character plushies, or balloons. You can even use snacks like Mickey ice cream bars, turkey legs or DOLE Whip!

Snap Great Photos with Disney Characters by Knowing the Flow of Meet-and-Greets

No Walt Disney World vacation is complete without meeting a character or two (or ten). Not only are these interactions a ton of fun, but they’re also incredible photo opportunities from beginning to end. And PhotoPass photographers are trained to capture it all, from the time you first walk up to Mickey Mouse until the moment you say your goodbyes. So, don’t just walk up, hand over your autograph book to Cinderella and then get ready for your photo. Instead, take time to make conversation and give whoever you’re meeting an opportunity to respond so you can react in turn. That way, you won’t just walk away with the obligatory posed photo but possibly some candids, too. It’s these snapshots in time that are often the most magical because they show so much emotion.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Particular Poses or Group Configurations

Disney PhotoPass photographers are there to help you commemorate your time at The Most Magical Place on Earth. So, don’t feel like you need to hurry up and be on your way just because there’s a line of guests waiting for their turn in front of the camera. Rather, feel free to ask for individual shots, pictures of just the kids or the parents, or any other configurations that are important to you. Want some silly poses or something more romantic? Maybe you want to attempt a jump shot. Just ask! PhotoPass photographers are more than happy to accommodate. In fact, they’ll often have even more ideas in mind if you’re open to them.

Always Ask for Magic Shots

Disney loves to add an extra sprinkle of pixie dust to just about everything, and that includes photos taken through PhotoPass. Magic Shots add in various post-shutter special effects, from character appearances to whimsical embellishments like balloons, light painting, Figment or fairy wings, Mickey-shaped clouds and confetti. Sometimes silly (especially when you’re posing) but always fun, Magic Shots bring a little extra something to every photo you take. Available Magic Shots vary from park to park and even area to area within a park. So, whenever you pay a visit to a Disney PhotoPass photographer, be sure to ask them which Magic Shots they can do. (Just remember that Magic Shots are only an option when using the photographer’s camera, not your own. Disney is good, but they aren’t that good.)

Look for Photographers Nearby for the Same Backdrop with Shorter Lines

Disney PhotoPass Photographers often travel in packs, particularly around icons like Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, the Chinese Theater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. As the most popular photo backdrops in the theme parks, these shots will often have the longest lines. But don’t worry! There are usually several photographers in the area offering a similar view with a shorter wait.

For example, there is typically a line of PhotoPass photographers posted up along Main Street, USA, in front of Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom, with a long wait for those closest to the entrance or the castle. However, you can often find photographers stationed at other vantage points, too, like the bridges that lead to Tomorrowland or Liberty Square. Not only do these spots offer a more unique angle, but they usually have little to no wait.

Be on the Lookout for PhotoPass Photographers Everywhere, Not Just in Front of the Park’s Icon

Similarly, don’t just visit the nearest PhotoPass photographer when you’re in and around those iconic backdrops. Keep an eye out for photogs in other areas as well. Although these photo ops might not be as instantly recognizable as the park icons, they’re still just as memorable. Plus, they often have a prop or Magic Shot that you might not be able to get otherwise. Places to look out for include the Tangled-themed area where Fantasyland meets Liberty Square in Magic Kingdom, where you can pose with one of Rapunzel’s lanterns and the garden alongside the UK Pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase where you can hold a lantern with Tinker Bell inside. And that’s only barely scratching the surface!

Go Early or Stay Late for Beautiful Backgrounds with Fewer Crowds

Although many guests use park open or close to take advantage of shorter lines for the attractions, I like to use the time to take some pictures instead. While everyone else is busy going on Tron Lightcycle / Run, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or Avatar Flight of Passage, you can snap some shots in front of typically packed backgrounds before they get too crowded or after lots of people have left. In the evenings, there’s also the added bonus of everything being gloriously aglow, making your images even more enchanting.

Stop by a Disney PhotoPass Studio

Do you wish you had more time in front of the camera, away from all the crowds? Maybe you’d like some more formal portraits. Either way, you might want to give one (or all) of the Disney PhotoPass Portrait Studios a visit. Just like attraction photos and photos with Disney PhotoPass photographers around the parks, it doesn’t cost anything to strike a pose at any of the four portrait studios across the resort. This makes them a great option for all sorts of occasions, whether you want to commemorate something special or simply want to do an impromptu photo shoot.

Each PhotoPass Portrait Studio has something different, from digital or fixed backdrops to props and even Magic Shots. If you only have time to visit one, I recommend the location in Marketplace at Disney Springs, in between Arribas Brothers and Marketplace Co-Op. Here, you can choose from a bunch of virtual backgrounds as well as some props, offering plenty of variety that the others just don’t have. Other Disney PhotoPass Studio locations include:

  • Royal Portrait Studio – Inside Sir Mickey’s in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom
  • Wandering Oaken’s Pop-up Portraits – Inside the Wandering Reindeer at the Norway Pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase
  • PhotoPass Portrait Studio – On the 2nd floor overlooking the lobby of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Consider Booking a Capture Your Moment Photo Shoot

What if you’d like to do a private photo shoot inside the theme parks? Then Capture Your Moment is for you. Priced at $99 per 20-minute session for up to eight people, Capture Your Moment photo shoots are decidedly not free (or even cheap, for that matter). However, for the price, you get to explore an area of your choice (subject to availability) with a team of two Disney PhotoPass photographers by your side.

Throughout each session, you’ll get to take advantage of their photography expertise and knowledge of the theme parks as they snap photos of you in front of the best backdrops that land has to offer. Although 20 minutes doesn’t seem like that long, it is still plenty of time to take some great photos with all the different configurations and poses you’d like, especially since each photo shoot starts with a planning session where you share your vision. Just keep in mind that, as with all other Disney PhotoPass photos, any images that come out of the photo shoot are at an additional cost.

Purchase Memory Maker If You Plan on Buying Lots of Photos or Want Access to Digital Downloads

So, you’ve taken some awesome photos. Now, you want to take them all home with you. What’s the best way to buy your favorites without forking over a ton of money for prints? Your best bet is, without a doubt, Disney Memory Maker. Ringing in at $75 for a day’s worth of images or $185 or $210 for your entire vacation, depending on when you purchase the package, Memory Maker isn’t cheap by any means. However, you get A LOT for what you pay for, namely unlimited digital downloads of any and all photos you take.

Considering that it costs around $20 just for one photo print, that is a steal. Once you’ve bought Memory Maker, all your images are free to do with as you please. Share them with your friends and family, post them on social media, print them out and frame them—it’s all up to you. Best of all, if you follow all the tips and tricks above, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to picking out the best photos from your trip, making the initial cost incredibly worthwhile.

Do you have any suggestions for making the most of Disney PhotoPass? Let us know in the comments! Then, learn how you can make room in your budget for Memory Maker by buying our Disney World discount tickets.