Take Better Disneyland Photos

Ideas to get the Best Disneyland photos for Scrapbooking

When the trip is over, chances are good the only thing you have left are the photos you've taken. (Okay, maybe you have an overpriced sweatshirt or a pair of Mickey ears you'll never wear again, but I think you know where I'm going here.) You know what sucks? Having pictures that suck. That's what. It probably seems like everyone is taking better photos at Disneyland than you are. If you're a scrapbooker and a Disney fanatic like me, you'll likely understand my obsession with great photos!  They are by far my favorite things to scrapbook, so it's important to maximize my picture taking opportunities.

My family has been going to the park pretty much every year since 2004 (some years more than once) so it has given me a lot of opportunities to learn what to do and NOT DO to get the absolute best photos .  I consider them my ultimate souvenir (who needs overpriced shirts and key chains when you can have pictures of your family?) so you could say it's pretty important to me.

There are a lot of tips for great photos out there, but I'd like to share with you my ULTIMATE LIST for taking better photos at Disneyland.  I'm all about getting great shots of the fam, not so much creating artsy fartsy stuff that looks like you could mass produce and sell it.  So keep that in mind.

Invest in the MaxPass and take advantage of the PhotoPass that comes with it!

Max pass is possibly the best thing Disney has come up with yet.  Not only do you have access to their FastPass system right on your phone so you don't have to dart all over the park collecting them (can we say chafing, anyone?) but the PhotoPass photos are included!

(MaxPass is the best money you'll spend besides your ticket, and not just for the pictures. If you're unfamiliar with it, you can learn more here.)

That means that anywhere you see a PhotoPass photographer (which is usually in all the best photo spots) you can get your picture taken AND since they are included, you get to keep them ALL.  A couple of great reasons why this is the perfect idea:

Your photos can include the ENTIRE family.

No more scrapbooks where people ask why you didn't go on the trip because you're not in any of the photos.

Cute graphics and frames

You can go to Disney's website when you get home and add all kinds of cute graphics and frames to the photos. When you get home, be sure to log in and download all the photos.  Take a look at the editing options because there is some cute stuff there! As you edit, be sure to save it as a copy so you have them both. When you're scrapbooking, you might actually want the photo without the frame.

You get all the IN-RIDE photos too.

This includes the photo where all your kids decide to act like they're throwing up right as the camera takes the shot. My family's favorite thing about the in-ride photos is all the posing they can do.  We've had some real doozies. Some of them are absolutely fab, while others come back to haunt us over and over again for years to come. (Just ask my sister) These are definitely some of the best photos possible.

Disneyland photos taken on rides are the best
Poses in ride photos are the best! I decided to spare you the throw-up face photo.

Check the app and see the character schedule.  

If taking great photos with characters is important to you (and it should be) you need to know where to find them and the best possible times to get them.  No one wants to wait in a two hour line behind a million people with autograph books. You can do your best to avoid this by checking the schedule. Some characters have set times, so make plans to be there pronto. And on this note…

Take action shots (especially with characters)

Some characters are super boring (sorry, Cinderella) but some of them are SO GREAT!  The best possible photos you can get with characters can happen when they are messing around with your kids. Some of the most popular silly characters are Chip and Dale and Goofy, but have you ever run into the Mad Hatter?  That's a real treat! If you happen to spot him, run, don't walk. He's the best character in the park.


Goofy being Goofy makes for fun Disneyland photos
These are some of my favorite character pictures ever! Goofy refused to pose and instead kept imitating everything my daughter did. It was awesome!

If you're really wanting character photos, take advantage of a Character Meal.

My personal favorite is Goofy's Kitchen for dinner.  The food is overpriced for sure, but since it's a buffet they have a TON of kid-friendly food to choose from.  Plus you're not really there for the food, more for the experience and some of the best photos ever! Don't forget pictures of the food too. You need reservations in advance, so this is something you need to plan ahead.

(By the way, Goofy's Kitchen is where we were first introduced to the Mad Hatter.  He sat at our table and talked about eye boogers with Sleeping Beauty. It was pretty awesome.)

Watch your lighting

All the best photos happen in the morning or just before twilight.  Be at the park when it opens, and if you want a castle shot, first thing in the morning is the best time.  People are running off to their favorite rides and no one cares about the castle, so you can run over, pose really fast, snap the pictures and be on your merry way.

Go low

Take the best photos from a lower angle looking up.  You'll be able to get more of the background in the photo, like the Haunted Mansion, for example. Just don't go so low you make everyone look like their heads are out of proportion. I'm not saying lay on the ground on your belly, but a little squatting action never hurt anyone

Be aware of off the beaten path opportunities

Everyone wants that perfect castle shot (with no one else in the picture, of course) but what about a shot from the side?  Those little paths that take you close to the castle are a great place some of the best photos. Angle the camera up and you should be able get some great shots that include the castle from the side.  There are places like that all over the park, so put on your photographer glasses and keep and eye out for them.

Photos of Disneyland Characters off the beaten pathWe found this Goofy off the beaten path back behind Thunder Mountain where Billy Hill and the Hillbillies used to play! Haven't seen Western Goofy since. You never know who you'll find where!

Have a subject in every photo

It's tempting to take these shots that seem to scan the crowd, or maybe a shot from the railing while your kids are on the teacups, but without a focal point, the shot looks off.  If you want a teacups shot, take advantage of the teacup that's not a part of the ride. Sometimes a focal point on a treat or other food makes for a great shot, but always remember that your memories are tied to PEOPLE.

Plan your wardrobe

It's not necessary to buy matching shirts for everyone. As I consider some of the large groups wearing matching neon shirts I've seen wandering the park, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say just don't do it. But that doesn't mean you can't put a little forethought into what everyone is wearing.

This might mean designating a specific color for each day and everyone just wears something in that color.  My personal preference is to do a couple of coordinating colors, like red and yellow for example (those are great Disney colors together!). You will be amazed at the difference it will make in how your photos turn out!  I try to keep anyone from wearing logo t-shirts just because they look… not very flattering in photos. Everyone can be cute and still be comfortable and have fun. Looking like you just rolled out of bed and grabbed a shirt off the bathroom floor does not make the trip more fun.

And if you actually want cute coordinating Disney shirts, buy them before you go!  (Notice I said coordinating and not matching?) Amazon has a great selection and the prices are better than what you'll see in the park.

(If you're really sold on the matching shirts, go for it.  The basic problem, though, is that not every shirt is flattering on every body.  It's not possible for everyone to look great in an oversized Hanes men's t-shirt.  That's all I'm saying. Plus everyone all scrunched together wearing the same neon green shirts makes the group all meld together and look like the blob with multiple heads.  These are definitely not the best Disney photos ever.)

Take massive amounts of pictures

Maybe I'm a overdoer, but the surefire way to end up with the best photos of Disneyland is to take a million of them. You don't need to print them all, and you definitely don't need to scrapbook them all. But if you take ten, you're sure to have at least one good one.

And now my most important tip of what NOT to do:

Don't take pictures on rides.

There are many reasons why I say this.

  1. They always suck. Somewhere a better photographer than you with a better camera has already taken great photos. If you don't believe me, do a google search for your favorite ride and check Images.
  2. You don't want to be THAT PERSON that is ruining the ride for everyone else with your flash going off every two seconds.  People are trying to enjoy the ambience of the ship battle in Pirates and no one needs your incessant flashing destroying it.
  3. If you're so busy taking photos, YOU'RE MISSING THE RIDE. You'll get off the ride and realize you didn't even enjoy it.  Then you'll have to relive it through your crappy photos and it's just not the same. Put the camera away and be present in the moment.

And now that you're all ready to go get great photos, it's time to plan that trip! If you don't know where to start (or just want some tips to get you started) you might like my other post: 5 Tips for a Successful Disneyland Trip.


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