Daisy Duck in DinoLand USA at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park

17 Dos & Don’ts for Disney World Character Photos

No trip to Walt Disney World is complete without meeting some Disney characters. Whether you only have time to meet Mickey Mouse, the big cheese himself, or you’re hoping to see a slew of characters, chances are you’ll want to commemorate the moment with a photo or two. As a former Disney PhotoPass photographer, I spent a lot of time behind the camera at character meet-and-greets. Of course, I’ve also had the chance to meet my fair share of characters, too.

Here are some tips and tricks I picked up along the way that are sure to help you take the best photos with Disney characters ever and return home with magical memories that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Town Square Theater @ Main Street, Magic Kingdom by @cdharrison is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

DO Know the Flow of a Disney Character Meet-and-Greet

There’s more to a Disney character meet-and-greet than meets the eye. While these might seem like whirlwind experiences in the moment, they’re really more like an elaborately choreographed dance or a stage show between the character, the Disney PhotoPass photographer and you. Each encounter has a beginning, middle and end, including the actual interaction with whichever character you might be meeting and, yes, even the photos taken while the interaction is happening. By knowing what is going to happen and when, you not only ensure that you have the best meet-and-greet possible but also that you take the best photos possible.

In general, meet-and-greets with Disney characters are broken down into five distinct parts. (Technically, as far as my training was concerned, it’s really only four parts. However, I find that breaking things down further actually makes it easier to prepare as a guest.)

Entrance

Although it might not seem like it to you, your character encounter begins before you even get up to give Mickey a hug or possibly even wave hello. By the time the group before you wraps up and gathers all their things to leave, the Disney PhotoPass photographer will have their camera trained on you, waiting to capture your reaction to seeing Mickey or whatever Disney Princess you might be meeting once it’s finally your turn. There won’t be any characters in these photos. However, if you’re lucky, the photographer might get a photo of your child looking on in awe or with bright eyes and a big smile on their face.

Mickey at Hollywood Studios by Sammy Santiago is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Hellos and Chitchat

The next part is the action of the interaction. It’s those first hugs, handshakes and high-fives. It’s pointing out your Mickey ears, the dress you’re wearing or a princess-inspired tiara a child got at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. In my opinion, this is when the magic happens—or at least it can happen if all the pieces fall into place just right. Photos taken during this time are all candids, meaning you can get some wonderful, authentic reactions to the moment.

Rather than the formal, posed images that largely look the same aside from the character you’re with, these are the photos that will help to tell the story of the meet-and-greet. During this time, be aware of where the camera is located and try to place yourself accordingly. For example, when going in for a hug, lean to the side that is closest to the camera so that you don’t accidentally hide your face behind Goofy’s nose.

Mickey at Hollywood Studios by Sammy Santiago is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Autographs (If You Want ‘Em)

Next, it’s time to take care of any autographs. (Keep in mind that not all Disney characters sign their signatures. Others use premade stamps, while some don’t do any autographs at all.) Try to make the process as easy as possible by having your autograph book open to a fresh page or other item ready to go. You should also have the marker uncapped or pen clicked so all the character needs to do is write away. Be sure to hand them the marker or pen with the point facing away from them toward the ground. The last thing you want is to get a mark on Mickey’s face or dirty Minnie’s dress.

During this time, whoever you’re meeting will often try to gently wrangle you so that you’re positioned alongside them. That way, you can easily watch them as they leave their mark in your book, and once they’re finished signing, you’ll have a great view of the finished product. You’ll also be in the perfect place for the next portion of the meet-and-greet. Again, the PhotoPass photographer will be snapping away the entire time, getting even more candid shots of the moment.

Mickey at Hollywood Studios by Sammy Santiago is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Strike a Pose

For most guests, this is the moment that they’ve been waiting for: the big, posed photo. If you aren’t already where you need to be, the character will help you get there. They might even suggest particular poses for you to do. The photographer will typically take four different shots, including full-body and more close-up framing in both landscape (horizontal) and portrait (vertical). Feel free to use this time to suggest your own poses or, for those visiting as a group, different configurations of people.

Hugs, Kisses and Good-byes

This is the final scene in the character interaction. Just like during the initial hello, the PhotoPass photographer will typically snap some final photos of your good-bye hugs before turning their attention to the next group.

Mickey at Hollywood Studios by Sammy Santiago is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

DON’T Expect the Exact Same Process for Character Dining

So, what happens during character dining? Does the same order of operations apply? To some extent, yes. However, due to the nature of character meals, you can expect some changes. In general, the process is sped up to ensure that the characters in attendance are able to see everyone who is dining at the time. As a result, the interaction and autograph portion of the encounter can be clumped together. That said, depending on how busy it is, this can change from meal to meal or character to character.

DO Have Your Camera Ready

Be aware that while there might be a PhotoPass photographer snapping photos during meals with Disney characters, you will likely be on your own more often than not. So, make sure that you have your camera out and ready to go for when the guest of honor gets to your table. Once they’ve arrived, you are free to take as many photos as you would like (within reason, of course—characters still have places to go and other people to see).

DO Ask Someone Else to Play Photographer If Necessary

Don’t worry if there isn’t a PhotoPass photographer nearby. You can still get that group shot you’re looking for by simply asking someone else to take it for you. Your server or even someone from the table next to you will often be more than happy to help. You can even do what I do and offer to take a group photo of them if they take one for you.

Chef Mickeys by Living By Disney is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

DON’T Walk Into a Disney World Character Meet-and-Greet Unprepared

Although you can certainly walk away with a great shot without any real preparation at all, putting a little thought into it and going the extra mile can take your photo from ordinary to extraordinary. Does it require a bit more work? Possibly, but that standout shot is going to make an awesome souvenir.

DO Dress for Success

Consider dressing up for the occasion. This can be something as simple as everyone in your group wearing matching t-shirts or Mickey ears. Alternatively, you could really go above and beyond by putting on a Disneybound outfit inspired by whoever you’re planning to see that day. Whatever you choose, you’ll not only elevate the overall look of your photo, but chances are good that you’ll also get a great reaction from the character, which can then be caught on camera.

DO Bring Props and/or Creative Things for Characters to Sign

In the same vein, feel free to bring some things along to make your photo even more special. This is an especially great idea if you’re Disneybounding, as it helps to strengthen the connection between what you’re wearing, who your outfit is inspired by and the character you’re standing next to. For example, you could grab a couple of dinglehoppers (AKA forks) from the nearest quick-service restaurant for a meet-and-greet with Ariel. Similarly, you can also be strategic about what items you have certain characters sign, using their story as inspiration. Frying pans are a great choice when meeting Rapunzel, while storybooks are a wonderful option for Belle.

DON’T Just Pose for a Photo and Leave

While you could certainly walk right up to Donald Duck, smile for the photo and then call it good, this will only leave the experience wanting and result in lackluster photos. Instead, feel free to slow things down and make the most of the time you have. This will help to deepen your character encounter, giving you a better interaction overall while also allowing for even more photo opportunities. Photography is often a numbers game, one that you certainly won’t win if you’re rushing off to get to your next destination. After all, you can’t capture the moment if the moment never has a chance to happen.

DO Have Some Talking Points in Mind

Some people find the idea of talking to Disney characters a little bit awkward, especially if you’re meeting someone like Mickey and Minnie. However, just because they’re on the silent side doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. Use a character’s backstory or what they’re wearing as conversation inspiration. This will prompt a more memorable interaction—and a more interesting photo opportunity—than just automatically going in for a hug and a posed photo.

DO Request Specific Poses

If there’s a particular pose you saw someone do on social media, or you want to take both group and individual shots, feel free to say something! Unlike during character meals, meet-and-greets have less of a time restriction. So, go ahead and take both regular smiling pictures and something that’s a little more creative. Do a graceful princess hand or point your toe like Minnie Mouse. Stick up your finger when you’re standing alongside Donald Duck to remind everyone who’s number one. Snap that selfie! This is your moment, so you should get the shot you want.  (That said, you should still be respectful of other guests’ time. Walt Disney World isn’t just The Most Magical Place on Earth. It’s also the place where time is most definitely money.)

Child Meeting Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen by kellyv is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

DON’T Force Your Crying, Terrified Child to Pose for a Photo If They’re Scared

Yes, some young children find the Disney characters absolutely terrifying when meeting them in person. I can’t tell you how many times I had a baffled parent say that they couldn’t understand why their little one was so scared of Mickey or Minnie when they loved watching them on TV. Well, because there is a BIG difference, quite literally, between watching a cartoon character on a screen and having them loom over you.

If your kiddo is unsure of the situation, the worst thing that you can do is force them to take a photo when they’re upset. Trust me, although the photo will undoubtedly be a memorable one, I guarantee that it won’t be for a reason you would like. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to give up and move on right away. There are a few things you can do to help salvage the situation and possibly even snap a photo that’s worth framing.

DO Let the Character Work Their Magic to Make Them Comfortable

The first thing you should do is let the character do what they can to make your child feel safe and secure. After all, Mickey and his pals and the Disney Princesses are pros when it comes to kids. You might see them kneel or even sit down on the floor to bring themselves closer to your little one’s level, making them less intimidating to a terrified toddler. They could even try to play peekaboo with them or make them laugh. With luck, this will be enough to help your child crack a smile for the camera.

DO Get Into the Photo to Help Them Feel Safe

If they still aren’t exactly sure, feel free to join your little one in the interaction to show them that it’s safe for them to let loose. If mommy and daddy are comfortable giving Goofy a hug or posing for a photo with Winnie the Pooh, then hopefully, they’ll feel free to do the same, and you’ll be able to take that picture you’ve been hoping for.

DO Place as Many Bodies in Between the Upset Child and the Character as Possible

Still no luck? Don’t call it quits just yet. For your last-ditch effort, all you need to do is load everyone in your group into the photo and put as much space as you can between the character and your kiddo. This creates a comfortable buffer of people that your child is already familiar with, helping them to feel safe and secure enough to take a picture. Sure, it might not be the one that you were hoping for. But a group photo with your little one on the outskirts is better than no photo at all and wasted time spent in line.

Town Square Theater Rehersal Schedule – Magic Kingdom – Disney World by JeffChristiansen is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

DO Be Prepared to Have Your Picture Taken by Automated Cameras

For certain Disney character meet-and-greets, you may come face to face—or, in this case, face to lens—with an automated camera box instead of a PhotoPass photographer. These automated cameras first made an appearance back in 2019, and let’s just say that most people aren’t exactly impressed. Me included—as a former PhotoPass photographer, I know the thought and effort that goes into capturing the perfect shot, particularly those extra-special candid moments, for guests. And the thought of a stationary camera on a timer accomplishing the same thing a trained photographer could is unlikely and insulting at worst. Never mind that it’s also incredibly impersonal. (Can you tell that I’m a little bit salty about it?)

Still, the use of automated cameras at Walt Disney World doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. So, the best thing you can do is learn how to work with them. Should you happen upon a character encounter that uses one, know that the camera box, though themed to match the setting of the meet-and-greet, will be very easy to spot. So, there won’t be any confusion about where you should look.

You should also know that the camera will take photos at a regular pace every few seconds throughout the interaction, meaning that, just like at a meet-and-greet with a PhotoPass photographer, it will start clicking as you enter and stop as you exit. You’ll also want to keep in mind the camera’s location and position yourself accordingly so that you don’t accidentally block it and any photos that it could be taking at the time. Because unlike a photographer, who will move around to capture the interaction from different angles, that camera box is stuck in one spot the entire time.

Meet-and-greet locations where you might find an automated camera box include:

Magic Kingdom

  • Pete’s Silly Sideshow in Fantasyland (Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck and Goofy)
  • Town Square Theater on Main Street, USA (Mickey Mouse)
  • Princess Fairytale Hall in Fantasyland (typically Rapunzel, Tiana, Cinderella and Elena of Avalor)

EPCOT

  • Royal Sommerhus in the Norway Pavilion at World Showcase (Anna and Elsa)

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

  • Adventurers Outpost on Discovery Island (Mickey and Minnie)

Encanto Disney Character Meet-and-Greet with Mirabel in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World

DO Trust the Cast Members to Take Great Photos for You

Disney cast members are professionals when it comes to taking photos, and I don’t just mean PhotoPass photographers. This is especially true for cast members who often work closely with Disney characters, like character attendants and servers at restaurants with character dining. So, if you need someone to take your photo during a character interaction and there isn’t an official Disney photographer nearby, do feel free to ask the nearest cast member instead.

Although they might not officially be paid by Disney to take photos of guests, I can say with almost complete certainty that it is something they do regularly throughout the day. Typically, they’ll be more than happy to stand in as your impromptu photographer. In fact, even if there is a PhotoPass photographer or one of those darn automated camera boxes there snapping shots, you can still ask the character attendant to use your own personal camera to capture the moment right alongside them. Sure, they might not be able to do quite as good of a job as the photographer can with their Nikon camera, but you can bet that they’ll turn out better than whatever comes out of the camera box.

DO Ask to Use Your Camera, Too

Last but not least, whether you’re with a PhotoPass photographer or other Disney cast member, remember that you can always ask them to take some photos with your camera, too. Although a photographer’s main priority is to snap shots with their own camera, they’re also happy to use your cell phone or camera to capture the moment as well. However, they can’t do that for you if you don’t ask them first.

Remember, photography is a numbers game, and it’s better to have too many images than not enough. Plus, any photos taken with your personal camera are already yours, while any pictures taken with a PhotoPass photographer’s camera will need to be purchased individually or as part of Disney Memory Maker. So, save yourself some cash and simply hand over your camera instead.

Do you have any top tips for taking Disney character photos? 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.