It’s a legitimate question…do you lug your big DSLR camera around Disney World or not? Is it worth it?
I understand what‘s going through your mind…you want to be able to capture the perfect photos of your family while at the happiest place on earth but you don’t want to be a pack mule the whole trip! …You’re already bringing in so much stuff. I get it.
So here’s the question; “Is it worth lugging your big camera around Disney World?”
For me (and probably for you as well) the answer is YES. …with a few exceptions.
To really capture those professional, personal, and quality images that just ooze nostalgia and emotion you really need a dslr. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve captured some pretty sweet images with my phone but overall the dslr will always outperform a phone camera. (so far.)
And yes, you can purchase the Memory Maker and allow the Disney photographers to capture your special moments. However…even though I do love Memory Maker they lack a personal touch and style you can only get from using your own nice camera.
My friend, Lynzi just returned from their Disney trip and after seeing my Disney pictures on Facebook said,
“I wish I would have taken my big camera on our last trip to Disneyland. I was so scared of it getting stolen. So I bought a nice point and shoot that could shoot in raw and on manual mode, but without the big sensor it just didn’t produce good enough images. I really wish I had brought my big one.”
Now that we know you should take your camera, let’s go over the exceptions…
First of all…are you happy with your current level of expertise with your dslr? In other words, do you already know how to use your big camera to capture the kind of photos you like? I ask because if you aren’t getting consistent quality photos with your dslr it’s not worth lugging it around Disney World for a week. Your phone would be a better choice.
If you aren’t at the level you want to be at but what to learn before you go on your trip, I would highly recommend taking this photography workshop. Even if you’ve tried and failed at photography before, THIS workshop will not let you down. It’s been the ‘aha’ moment for thousands of beginning photographers.
Okay, so the other bit of information you need when deciding if it’s worth bringing your big camera is to understand that there are specific moments and places that you will make good use out of it.
I want you to realize that you won’t have to carry it around everywhere for the entire trip! (Find out what to DO with and how to handle your big camera while you’re there, right here.)
There will be times when you will really need it to capture those iconic perfect Disney moments. And there are also times that you really have no need for it because your iPhone will capture the moment just perfectly.
So when are those times?
In my opinion, those times can all be found in one park…The Magic Kingdom.
Insiders Tip: I recommend going to the Magic Kingdom for at least 2 days of your vacation. Here’s why.
I’ve taken my big camera to all the other parks and I’m here to tell you that the pictures you will treasure the most, are the ones you will get at the Magic Kingdom. I like the other photos, of course, but I’ll be honest, I’m just as happy with my phone photos I’ve taken at the other parks as I am with my big camera pics.
So why haul it around when you really don’t need to, right?
Here are the 9 most memorable moments in the Magic Kingdom
you will want to capture with your DSLR:
1| The Castle
I mean come on…everyone knows you need a castle shot (or 20!) of your kids, your whole family, you and your husband, etc.
For me, it was important to get a shot of my 3 kiddos in front of the castle without any other people in it. (I was asking for a miracle, I know.) But I just HAD to do it. And guess what…I did it! It worked.
My advice is to be patient. Go all the way up to the front of the castle and you just might find there really isn’t that many people around. If there are, it’s usually people just like you who are waiting to take a crowd-free shot.
It’s customary to look around, see who is trying to get a picture, then wait patiently for them to finish. There are no actual lines per se, but people are good to recognize who’s there first and who is next.
Here’s my all-time favorite shot I’ve taken of them in front of the castle:
Photography Tip: Use a lens with a shallow depth of field (50mm f/1/8 is a great one!) to get the castle a little blurry as you focus on your subjects. It really gives it that dreamy, professional look. Need to figure out how to get a blurry background? Check this out.
Here’s another one I love with Lily turning to look at the castle. (Using a lens with a shallow depth of field is so useful as it blurs out all the people in the background.)
2| The Fireworks
I’m one of those people who gets choked up every time I watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks show. The music, the words, the fireworks…it’s the perfect blend of sentimentality and emotion.
Because we lived next door to Disney, I’ve seen the show in the park probably close to 50+ times and we could see the fireworks from our house every single night. But even seeing it that often, it still brought out emotion in me every single time.
I wanted to capture fireworks, of course, but it was more important to me to capture the emotion from my family as they WATCHED the fireworks.
Insiders Tip: Be ready with your camera for the last grand finale’ and final seconds of the show… It’s a doozy and always leaves the crowd speechless.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Are you ready? I’m going to tell you where our family’s favorite spot to view the fireworks is. (I guess we’re super good friends now.) It’s such a great spot because you are situated right in the MIDDLE of all the action.
If you didn’t already know, the fireworks are lit off in two locations. One, directly behind and to the sides of the castle. And two, about 2 miles back behind the park in the back lot of Disney Property.
When viewing the fireworks show from the front of the castle it just looks like everything is being lit off in the same place. Which is cool. It’s definitely a good spot to view them.
However, it can be terribly crowded. …as in elbow to elbow crowded. So we found our spot behind the castle in between the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Enchanted Tales with Bell.
It’s FAR less crowded. In fact, there is usually only a handful of people back there. And you literally feel like you’re surrounded by fireworks!
And the cool thing is, you still get to see Fireworks being lit behind a castle…only the castle is The Beasts’ Castle from Beauty and the Beast!
Photography Tip: Before the fireworks begin, get your camera settings locked in by taking several test shots. My go-to fireworks setting when I’m using my 30mm lens is ISO 100, f/1.6, 1/30th of a sec. Remember you are using a very slow shutter speed AND hand holding your camera so you will need to hold very steady.
3| Special Activities
If your kids plan on doing any of the extra activities like the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, The Pirates League, or their first haircut at the Barbershop on Main Street…you will want your big camera with you.
This is a fun experience that can be captured to its fullest with your nice camera so be sure to capture all the special little details…from your child’s expression to the interaction with the cast members.
Photography Tip: Because these experiences are inside, I recommend using a lens that will allow you to have a wide open aperture to allow more light. One of my favorite low-light photography lenses is the 50mm f.1.8 lens. Amazing price and performs so well.
4| Fun Little Hidden Places
I’m ready to share another secret… (because we’re besties now, remember?)
There is a special little gem of a place, tucked away in Story Book Circus that I I randomly came across one day. It’s an open circus tent right next to where the character meet and greet building is.
Here’s the cool thing…under the tent they have tons of adorable chairs, props, etc. just sitting there!
No one was there. Not even a cast member. It was like our own little photo shoot just for us. Lily and I took advantage of it and played around and I took pictures as she did. I was so glad I had my DSLR with me.
I’ve always loved how the pictures turned out…
Photography Tip: To get those fun, natural shots it’s important to let our kids be kids! I know how tempting it is to start trying to orchestrate the whole photo shoot but when you can dial it back a bit and let go, you will be pleasantly surprised at your results.
In this shoot with Lily, I gave her some queues like, “Go sit in your favorite chair.” And then once she was in it I just let her enjoy herself while asking her to “look this way” every so often. Need some help with subject interaction? This awesome course dives deep into how to get those natural and effortless interactions with your subjects.
5| Fun Iconic Photo Ops Around the Park
Because it’s the Magic Kingdom, there are so many fun photo ops all throughout the park. Just like when I stumbled onto that fun tent with cool chairs, I’m so glad I had my big camera for these other opportunities:
Playing at the Dumbo Splash Pad
On the Carousel
6| Disney After Dark
I absolutely love seeing the parks when there are hardly any people in them! I’m not quite sure why, but it’s just fun. One of the ways you can do that is to stay in the park after it closes.
Just to ease your mind, I’m not breaking any rules here! (And neither will you!) All of the parks stay open for about an hour later than the posted closing time. All of the attractions close, however, the gift shops remain open and they allow you to meander through as everyone else usually hurries out.
For me, this is the perfect opportunity to take pictures of the Magic Kingdom without the crowds!
Insiders Tip: In the Magic Kingdom, they have what’s called, “The Kiss Goodnight”. This adorable and nostalgic little castle show takes place after the park closes and is such an incredible end to your day. It’s also super fun to see the park when it’s practically empty!
Photography Tip: Just like with fireworks, to get those awesome night time shots, I hand hold my camera (meaning I never use a tripod) and use a lens that will allow me to open it wide up. In all of these nighttime shots, I’m using my 30mm lens with an aperture of f/1.6. My shutter speed is very slow (1/40th of a sec.) so I am very careful to hold the camera as steady as possible.
Bonus Magical Memory Moments!
I stand by my decision to only lug your big camera around to the Magic Kingdom. However, I also suggest another place to use your big camera…your Disney Resort.
If you are staying on Disney property use your DSLR to capture all the fun memories and details at your resort. Better yet, plan a fun little photo shoot for your family at your resort… or any of the resorts!
Insider’s Tip: You are totally allowed to visit any and all of the Disney Resorts. You don’t have to be staying there to go in and check them out and look around. While we lived there that was one of our favorite things to do, besides going to the parks…explore all the Disney Resorts. We were able to get some fun pictures.
It’s been said you only regret the photos that you don’t take.
That’s exactly how I feel about all of our photo memories now that we’ve moved away. I adore all the photos I was able to capture while we lived near Disney World. Now I just wish I snapped even more!
P.S. Now read about what to DO with your DSLR camera at Disney.
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Welcome to Being Katie Brave! I’m so happy to have you here. If you’re looking to take better pictures (stress-free!), get the inside scoop on all things Disney World, or be inspired to live YOUR best life (even if especially if it scares you to death) …you’re in the right place. I ’ve written 3 photography books, our family lived at Disney World for 2 years, and wear my heart on my sleeve…all of which would never have come to pass if I didn’t push past my fears and step in the darkness. Join me as I share my adventure of life, one post at a time.