So. You’re headed to Disney. But instead of the same old photos with crowds photobombing your picture, harsh sun and shadows, you want to live out your Pinterest Disney photo dreams with dreamy colors and perfect backdrops. How do you achieve this? Easy. By planning ahead.
Last year, I wanted to up my vacation photo game a little. And not just for Disney. Everywhere. I actually hate bringing back kitschy souvenirs and knick knacks from my trips, but I find that I love looking back on photos a lot to reminisce. So I started investing in nicer photos to have as the ‘souvenirs’ of my trip. I started doing this in a few ways. If you’re here from my Instagram, you’re probably here for information on my Disney photoshoots since I posted my Disneyland photos last week and got a few questions about how I go about them. Before I go over that, I want to go over a few budget friendly tips on how I take my photos for trips. And all these things don’t just apply to Disney. You can do all these things on any trip to get beautiful photos. Or even to just up your regular everyday photo game.
Do your friends or boyfriends or family members take bad photos when you ask them to? Do they only take one shot and it comes out bad?
Fortunately for me, my baby sister and I both are each other’s IG husbands. We’re on the same page when it comes to what we want, how far we’re willing to go and make the effort to get the shot for each other. Our patience knows no bounds when it comes to IG hoeing. But sometimes, she’s not always available to be with me. Sometimes it’s just me and the hubby on vacation or on a date. In the beginning, he would just snap a few shots when I asked him to and I would hate them all. But last year on our Paris trip, I was determined to make the most of our trip in case we never came back. So I trained my husband to take better photos for me. How did I do this? Two ways. Either I would show him examples of photos I already liked and asked him to try and replicate the angle, lighting and pose, or I would line up the shot I wanted with him in it, take the photo of him and show him how I want it to look, but with me in it. And slowly he learned what I liked, my best angles and poses, and the style of photos I preferred. Now when I ask him to take a photo, he’s amazing. He’s patient, takes several shots, tries a few different angles and makes me review them before moving on so I know I have at least one good shot I like.
Invest in a nice camera
Smart phones are getting better and better with their camera quality, it’s true, but sometimes you just need a little more. Like the night shot of the lantern in the Tangled area of Magic Kingdom. My phone takes pretty poor night shots even in night mode. It comes out too blurry or grainier than I would like. This past Christmas, I asked my husband for a camera so I could slowly start to learn how to take better pictures. He gifted me a beautiful mirrorless Sony with 2 lenses to play around with. Honestly I still haven’t learned shit, but when I took it with me to Disney this spring, I noticed a big difference in that Tangled photo on my camera compared to the garbage shot I got on my phone last fall.
Unfortunately a nice camera is expensive (NOT point and shoot), but I would say it’s worth the investment for better quality photos once you learn it. It’ll pay for itself in the end and is more budget friendly than booking a shoot constantly wherever you go.
Learn light editing
Unfortunately, not all elements of a photo are within our control sometimes. Sometimes a photo is too dark or the colors aren’t vibrant enough or you want it to have a certain color palette and style. That’s where a little light editing comes into play. I honestly haven’t learned anything complex yet like Photoshop or Lightroom, so I just do simple editing on my phone through easy apps like Snapseed, A Color Story, and Beautycam. It really helps to make the image pop and give it some extra life.
Booking photoshoots with local photographers
Ah, what you were waiting for. Sometimes I want a certain style and editing and don’t want to worry about the rest. I want my hubby in the photo sometimes too. I just want to open my email and receive all my photos without much further effort needed. A photoshoot with a local photographer is great for this. Of course, these do cost a bit more but they’re worth the investment for some great photos if this is within your budget. I did this for Paris for the first time with my husband and it was definitely worth every Euro. And then for my birthday in Disney. So. Where do we start? Here are 10 tips for a successful shoot!
Put together a Pinterest of styles/looks/ideas - Brainstorm what you want your photos to look like. Use Google, Instagram, Pinterest, search hashtags and look up Disney accounts. Save everything. Save it in a folder, screenshot it, make a Pinterest board, just put it all together. Then organize and narrow it down to a central look you have in mind. I made this board for my Disneyland shoot for my photographer to get a feel of what I was looking for.
Finding a photographer - this might be a little hard depending on how web savvy you are. I started by searching certain hashtags like #disneylandphotographer and #disneylandphotos. I would look through accounts that way to see if I liked a certain style and then I would reach out to that account and see if they did Disney sessions. Find an account you like with a consistent style and reach out to them. DM them, email them, whatever. Tell them what you're looking for and your budget and see if they'll work with you. You have nothing to lose. I actually found my Disneyland photographer through a recommendation of another photographer I wanted but wasn’t available (same thing happened in Paris too actually) and got super lucky because that recommendation was totally up my alley. Her style was light and airy like how I prefer my photos, and very girly. Her prices were also perfectly within my budget and she ended up actually giving me more photos than what was originally promised because we worked together so well on getting so many shots! We communicated great and hit it off which is super important because you always want to make sure you’re on the same page style wise as your photographer so you’ll end up with photos you’ll love. You also want to work with someone who’s just as Disney crazy as you because they’ll be just as passionate in capturing the best photos they can for you. Oh yes, another question I get a lot. Who pays for photographer’s Disney admission? Is it included? So far I’ve booked photographers that have annual passes so I’ve never had that be an issue. This is why it’s great to pick a local photographer wherever you’re going. The photographers I pick are also usually free-lance and don’t charge as much as those spammy Facebook ad suggested photographers either. I’ve found that the locals and indies do a better job sometimes than those in ads that Zuckerberg tries to buy you into.
Agree on a place, date and time - Pick a favorite park. I picked Magic Kingdom last year for my first shoot. Not only is it my favorite but it's also the most versatile and gives a wide range of options in terms of backdrops and themes you can play with to match your style. Pick a date that works best for you as well as a day you can be a little flexible with time with so you'll still have time in the parks after the shoot to actually enjoy yourself. As for time, if you’re new at this, ask your photographer what they feel the best time of day to shoot is. Some prefer to shoot first thing in the morning or early evening when the sun is not so high up and harsh. Some are able to work regardless of time of day and cloud cover or not, they make whatever situation arises work for them. But you do want to communicate with your photographer so you get the best photos out of your session. Work to your photographer’s strengths and you’ll both come out happy. Also set a raindate/backup plan just in case of emergencies. This way it doesn’t put a damper on your day if someone has to cancel last minute. You already have a plan in place so you can continue with your day.
What to wear - Similar to an engagement shoot, I would recommend to pick outfits, accessories, and hairstyles that seem natural to you. But maybe kick it up a slight notch and make it a little fancier. You still want to look like you, but you also want to stand out in your photos. I also find it best to coordinate your outfit(s) with the backdrops and what areas you plan to shoot, like Disney walls, which various ‘lands’ (Fantasyland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland), and any rides you may want to go on. Personally for me, I always like to look a little extra so I’m very colorful and girly. My husband, not so much. But we try to complement each other while still retaining our own unique sense of style. So you’ll look at our photos and think we look a little fancy, but can still say “oh yeah, that looks like them.” I personally also stick to the more girly places for backgrounds to match my outift. I stay within Fantasyland, girly Disney walls, the castle and Main Street. I don’t go near Frontierland, Adventureland or Tomorrowland as it doesn’t marry with my style as well in photos.
Poses - Act natural, smile, twirl, jump, turn around, look back, look over your shoulder, play with your hair, look up, look down, look off to the side longingly, practice in a mirror, study photos of poses you like and see if they work for you. Save them in a folder so you can pull them up during the shoot if you draw a blank. You don’t want to waste any time since the shoot is timed. Have all your references ready.
I also have my own signature poses in my head that I go through when I can’t think of anything else that I know always work for me in photos. Work on a go-to look, whether its profile, straight on, body straight or angled. For me, personally you’ll see I have ‘safe’ poses I use over and over for photos simply because I know they work. I’m short so I always put one leg in front of the other. It helps to create the illusion of height. If I’m wearing a skirt or dress, I’ll hold the hem to create a playful look. Work with your outfit or play with your accessories. I have a list of different facial expressions in my head as well to help vary it up, i.e. big cheesy smile, laugh, hopeful eyes, mischievous, confidence, excited etc. To look genuine, I think of certain events or things that make me feel a certain way to convey that emotion. Like for excited happiness, I'll think of all the snacks I'll get to eat after the shoot. My husband is funny because he'll even hype me up during the shoot standing on the sidelines going "yassss girllllll" leading to my cheesy smiles. You don’t want to have the same stoic look in every photo.
Make sure your significant other is on the same page if you do a couple shoot. I’m honestly not sure how my husband is so cute and good at it but ever since our engagement photos back in 2014 I discovered he’s a natural at posing with me without much need for direction. He just looks at what I’m doing and naturally complements it. Well, when he actually makes an effort and doesn’t purposely ruin the shot, that is. For paid photoshoots, he does take it a little more seriously and put in effort so our photos come out well since we are paying for it.
Props - If all else fails and you still need more posing help, grab a prop! Balloons, flowers, an umbrella, popcorn buckets, plushes, even your favorite snack! Play around with your prop but still look natural and playful. Have a souvenir you really wanted to buy? Grab it and kill two birds with one stone by using it for your shoot.
Outfit changes - if your session includes an outfit change, then definitely make sure you have a strategy for it. For my Disneyland session, my gameplan was to start in Disneyland, shoot for the first half and then change and shoot in Disney California Adventure for the second half. There are lockers located halfway down Main Street that I rented for the day to store my bag in with all my outfits. You can open and close them as many times throughout the day. I found this especially convenient as I didn’t have to carry a huge bag around all day with me full of clothes, nor walk back to the parking lot for anything. In Disney World, my hotel was the Contemporary which was right across the street from Magic Kingdom so I was able to easily walk back and forth from my hotel and change outfits several times a day.
I'm pretty sure all the Disneys provide lockers and there are always bathrooms nearby. They're also easily identifiable on the app if you select restrooms and it shows you where each is located.
Time management - I’ve been doing this for a while so most of everything is in my head. I know which shots I want, which areas to visit, etc. so I get most of what I want done before time’s up. But if you don’t know, this is why I keep recommending to save everything in a folder on your phone for reference. Type up a note with a checklist just in case. Set an alarm on your phone so you know when you’re running short on time so you know to pick up the pace. I also don’t ask or bother to look at my shot while shooting as it wastes time scrolling through when I could be walking to my next destination instead, as I put all trust in my photographer to know what I’m looking for. But if you’re new and not sure, definitely feel free to ask to see a few shots so you know you’re on the same page. You don’t want to be shooting and then halfway through the shoot realize you don’t like any of your photos or that they’re not the style you’re looking for. Communicate. Your photographer wants you to be just as happy with the service they provide so definitely make sure the communication is there.
How to deal with people watching you - I’m bias on this because I honestly don’t care what people think when they see me posing. But I do understand having social anxiety and embarrassment when all eyes are on you. I wasn’t always as confident as I am now. But remember, these are YOUR photos and you want them to look good and just imagine how great it’s going to come out. Translate that into your shoot. Pretend you're that Pinterest girl having a great time without a care in the world. Does she look like she cares what other people think of her? Nope. I don’t care about the eyes watching because I know I’m going to walk away with bomb ass photos instead of their basic bitch vacation pics that look like everyone else’s on a point and shoot camera. Own that shit. In the end, I honestly don’t care because I started living by the phrase “the lion does not concern himself with the opinion of sheep.” Be unapologetically you.
Have fun and smile! - last but not least, have fun with it! You’re going to love these photos, I promise!
Bonus tip! Hahaha if you made it this far, here's the one question I get all the time. "How are you able to get almost no one in your photos?!" I have yet to get myself in a completely empty Main Street in the morning (ultimate Disney photo goal) but the best trick is to go in the morning when it opens. There's still going to be a crowd but once the rope drops, everyone will be rushing to their favorite rides and a lot of the backdrops for photo ops will be free and empty for you to sneak in a shot. It's still much better than trying to take one during the afternoon when it's busiest and everyone has finally gotten up and made their way into the parks. I also try to plan my trips during the low season when park attendance isn't at it's peak. If this doesn't work for you or your schedule isn't flexible for this, fear not as I have shot at almost all the times of the day and night at Disney, as well as a bit busier times of the year. The trick is to simply be patient. Find a spot you want to pose in and then give it some time til the crowd clears a little but be ready. Jump in as soon as you see a clearing and strike a pose! I've done this for that perfect front of the castle pic mid-day and that sitting in the middle of Main Street at the kiss goodnight (if you know, you know). This doesn't work with just Disney. This works with basically every where I go for photos too. And I usually have pretty bad luck too and a crowd appears the moment I try to grab a shot. My sister's have dubbed this the RxBarbie effect for my bad luck photo moments. But I play the waiting game because I'll do nearly anything for the shot. It all depends on how dedicated you are to get the shot. Some of my friends and family will give up in seconds. My sister and I will stand there all damn day. 😅 #forthegram
Good luck with your photos and happy gramming!