If you are planning on taking a dSLR camera to Disney, make sure you are comfortable with it before you go, as Disney is hectic, and you don’t want to miss moments because you’re looking for the right button. If you’re new to photography, don’t worry about learning to shoot in manual, instead practice using aperture priority or shutter priority modes.
Spend time using your camera daily before you go so you feel confident using it. You don’t need to read your manual back to back, but there are a few things you can learn that will improve your images, such as how to change your aperture and shutter speed.
If you’re new to photography and are not sure where to start, I have a free roadmap on my website which shows you what you need to learn to improve your images quickly. And don’t worry mobile phone photographers, there’s plenty you can use in the roadmap to improve your photography, even if you don’t have a dSLR camera.
Focus on mornings and evenings for the best light
During the day, the lighting can be harsh and tricky to work with, especially if you’re lucky enough to be in Florida or California, where sunshine is pretty much guaranteed. Cloudless blue skies are great for vacations, but that strong light is not the best for portraits, as it leads to squinting and unflattering shadows on faces.
During the morning and evening, the sun is lower in the sky and much softer. It makes for beautiful photos, so try to get portraits at these times of the day, instead of in the midday sun.
Use the Open Shade Trick in Harsh Light
If you really want to take portraits during midday, use the open shade trick to take photos without harsh shadows. It’s a simple trick that makes a big difference. To use open shade:
1. Find a building or something that’s casting shade on the ground
2. Find the line where the shade meets the sun
3. Have your child stand in the sun, near the edge of the shade. Make sure they are facing the sun, not looking into the shade.
4. Get them to step back into the shade. Watch their face as they do this. You’ll notice the shadows leave their face as soon as they step into the shade.
5. Make sure they stay close to the edge, that way there will still be enough sun on them to light their face and their eyes.
Disney is an amazing but tiring trip. With all the walking and standing around, you don’t want to lug a massive camera bag with you. Keep your kit simple so it doesn’t become a burden. I’d recommend taking the following;
Your dSLR camera and one lens. A nifty fifty is great because it’s small and light, but a wider lens might be better for taking photos in tight spaces. I took a 35mm lens, but a 24mm would have been better for images like this one on the teacups, where space was tight.
Take a comfortable camera bag, or use an insert to turn a regular bag into a camera bag. I used the inserts from my regular camera bag in my handbag, and then kept snacks, drinks etc in a separate rucksack. You can buy camera bag inserts for £10 to £20 from Amazon. It’s worth it to protect your expensive equipment.
Keep Your camera to hand
Don’t miss candid moments because your camera is stashed away in a bag. Keep it ready to capture the action. I recommend getting a comfy camera strap so you can wear it around your neck, ready to go. Scarf style straps are great for comfort. If you have little children, get one that’s long enough to wear across your body. That way you won’t accidently bump your children when you bend down to pick them up (I have done this lots with my own child 🙈)
Book a breakfast reservation to get quieter park photos
Even with Extra Magic Time it can be tricky to get a clear shot of the castle, there are so many people all heading for the same place.
Investing in a breakfast experience gets you into the park when it’s quieter so you can get an uninterrupted view of the castle.
If you’re not into early mornings, try getting at the castle from a different view. You’ll avoid the worst of the crowds this way and get a clearer shot. You can also change your angle to avoid the crowds. Get low and point your camera upwards to focus on the castle.
Research the best spots – but don’t stick to them
Before you head off, do some research of the types of images you’d like to get and the best spots for photos. Use Pinterest and Instagram to get inspiration. Make a list on your phone so you can check them off when you get to the parks.
Refer to the list to make sure you get the shots you want, but don’t just stick to the list. You may find you get the best shots in the less picturesque spots. Insta-worthy locations will be crowded, so once you’ve got your Micky ice cream in front of the castle shot, focus on the in-between moments instead. Capture your child’s reactions, or a sweet moment between siblings. These moments may not be the ones that get tons of likes, but they will be the ones you treasure in the years to come.
Don’t make it a chore
When we first arrived at Disneyland Paris, I couldn’t wait to get some photos in front of the castle. I tried a few different spots to avoid the crowds and tried to get my daughter to pose.
It was our first day, we had not been on any rides, or even eaten breakfast. My daughter was excided and hungry and in no mood to stand for photos.
We were all getting grumpy so in the end I gave up and we enjoyed a few rides and got something to eat.
Later on she was more than happy to pose in front of castle for me and I got much nicer images.
It’s easy to get so hung up on getting the perfect photo that we forget it’s our holiday. Remember to put your camera away and take time to enjoy yourself. You’ll get much more cooperation from your family if you give them a break between photos every now and again.