Wait in line for an hour to squeak out a mere “Hi” to someone and that’s it?
Not on my watch.
Part of the magic of being at Disney is having the opportunity to meet the beloved characters.
I mean come on…how cool is it to finally meet Mickey Mouse himself or your favorite princess who you’ve loved your entire life? I’ll tell you…SO COOL. Don’t underestimate this experience. There have been a handful of certain character meetings that hold a special place in my heart.
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And part of the magic is also returning home from Disney and having the perfect photos to look back on.
So when it’s finally our turn at the front of the line, I want to make it count. I want to capture the most memorable photo ever.
Is that too much to ask?
I admit, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to get the perfect picture and miss out on the whole experience all together. I have also found myself falling into the trap of only taking those generic, cheesy snapshots that leave me feeling less than magical about it all.
So that’s why I have 6 tried-and-true tricks to keep you in the moment but still able to capture everything like a total pro.
Are you ready for some proven tips, tricks, and hints on how to perfectly capture your Disney character meetings?
1 | Take Pictures of the Entire Experience
When our family went to Disney World for a week-long vacation back in 2011 I felt incredibly rushed once it was finally our turn to meet the characters. We would wait in this super long (and sometimes HOT) line and when it was our turn I felt like I was in a gameshow where we only had 25 seconds to take a picture, give a hug, and make a memory. (If you want to know the BEST times to visit Disney World to avoid the heat and lines, check this out.)
It was stressful.
So instead of only getting my camera out when we were finally face to face with the character, I started taking shots of my kiddos before they even met the character.
I found there was a story to tell in the events leading up to meeting them.
For example, I took this picture (above) of Lyndon waiting in line and admiring Pluto from afar. He told me the night before this picture that he couldn’t wait to meet Pluto so he could pet him and scratch his belly. So you better know that when we saw Pluto we were definitely waiting in line to see him.
This photo of Lyndon anticipating his turn was all part of his story.
You could also take a video while you’re waiting in line while asking your kids questions like, “What are you going to ask Mickey?” or “Do you think Tiana knows your name?”
Capture them anticipating the moment. Those memories will be just as priceless as the ones with the character.
2 | Frankie says “RELAX
As mentioned previously, by the time we got to the front of the line I felt so rushed to just take the picture and be done. But as I became a seasoned Character-Picture-Taker at Disney, I realized I just need to slow down and take my time.
In reality no one was rushing me except for me.
The character attendant who was assisting didn’t mind at all if I took a few extra moments to get the shot I wanted.
Since living in Florida we have become friends with many cast members, two are character attendants. Each of them have said to me that they want people to get the experience they are looking for. They never try to rush anyone through.
It’s their job for each person to have the best character experience ever.
With that said here’s an example (on the left) of when I should have taken my time and not rushed us through. You can see that neither Maddie nor Goofy are looking at me.
It’s because I didn’t wait for the Disney photographer to finish before I took my pictures so they were looking at him and not at me.
The cast members know that you want to take a picture with your own camera so be patient. After the Disney photographer is finished, get right in there with your camera.
Stand front and center.
Don’t be a jerk, of course, but allow yourself to relax. Disney WANTS you to get your special shot.
Expect you will get it.
Here are some good ones where I waited until the Disney Photographer finished and then I took my turn:
I love this story… Here’s a prime example of a Disney cast member not rushing us through the line:
Lily held this position with Doc McStuffins for a looooong time.
Everyone in line assumed it was because of her intense love for Doc. But the reality was that Doc kept rubbing her back. And when you rub Lily’s back be prepared to be the first one to break because she never will.
Doc eventually stopped and Lily eventually walked away.
I never felt rushed once.
In fact, everyone was reveling in such a sweet moment right along with me.
3| Capture That First Moment of Recognition
The first look, first interaction, and first hug… that’s my all-time favorite shots I get of my kids and the characters.
It’s pure wonder, awe, and excitement.
And it’s all completely unscripted.
The Disney cast members usually keep the next people up to meet the character just far enough back that they can’t see the characters until it’s their time. So while we are waiting for our turn, I get my camera out and ready.
I put my kiddos out in front of my husband and I so that they will be the first ones to see the characters. And then as soon as they see the character I’m ready to snap away.
Funny story…I did this exact thing when our family met Darth Vader. Lily (our 3-year-old) was the first one to approach him. It was so sweet because she instantly just walked up to him and put her hand out and he put his hand out to her.
I was taking pictures of the whole thing. Snap, snap, snap. I wasn’t really watching Darth Vader but more of how Lily was interacting with him. (Sorry for the blurry photos…it’s all I had and I wanted you to get a visual.)
I looked up from my camera and watched Darth Vader slowly, menacingly approach me. He pointed at my camera and then pointed toward the cast member. As if telling me I was encroaching on his space.
I (nervously) chuckled and said something like, “Oh, okay. I need to give my camera to the cast member?” He was totally playing up his role of being evil and intimidating…and doing a good job. I have to admit, even though I knew he wasn’t real, my heart was beating hard and my face went totally red. (Thank you to my son who pointed that out for all to know. )
He made me stand by him for the family picture but I didn’t want to do it! Hah!
Apart from Darth Vader, all the cast members and characters are totally onboard with you getting shots of the first encounter.
4| Think Outside of the Box
To add variety to your pictures consider taking various shots from all different angles. It’s so easy to get stuck in the same rut of merely clicking the button from the same position…standing directly in front of your subject.
Instead, try getting a shot from the side or zooming in on a special interaction. I also love to crouch down in order to capture a new angle from below.
For example, in this picture of Minnie and the girls, I waited on the side of them and took the picture that way. With Lyndon and Buzz I got down on Lyndon’s level and took the picture from his perspective of interacting with Buzz. This helps to tell the story from Lyndon’s point of view.
5| Be Prepared to Capture the Interaction and Emotion
As I mentioned previously, meeting a character can evoke all kinds of emotions.
I LOVE taking that opportunity to capture it in a photo. The way I do is to keep my camera ready to snap a picture at a moment’s notice. I also anticipate the emotion like I do when I get set up to capture that first interaction.
Don’t be afraid to take the shot. You’ll only regret the photo that you DIDN’T take.
I was able to get the following shots because I anticipated what was coming AND because I took a bunch of throw-away shots before and after the moments.
6| Don’t Forget YOU!
I admit, in the spirit of trying to capture all of these memorable experiences of my kiddos, I very seldom make it in a photo myself. I’ve totally regretted that in the past.
As your kids looks back at photos over the years they want to see themselves, or course, but they also want to see their parents!
So I’ve made it a point to hand my camera over to the cast member so that I can be sure to get in a photo with the characters too.
Lily and I had such a fun experience one evening at Hollywood Studios and I’m SO GLAD it was all captured in photos…
My husband took our 2 older kids to the Animation Drawing Class (which no longer exists…so sad!). Lily and I were hanging out near the entrance waiting for them to finish. As I was standing there, a cast member came up to me and asked if we wanted to meet someone special. …A “secret meeting” she said.
Um, YES. A thousand times, YES!
I had no idea what she was talking about but when you’re invited to a secret meeting anywhere in Disney World…YOU GO. She gave me instruction on where to go and we were off.
If you’re familiar with this area in Hollywood Studios (which is now where the Star Wars meet and greets are), she guided us back behind the other characters in the lower level of the building. As we walked back behind a gated area there were a couple of cast members that welcomed us through a private door. When we walked through the door we saw…
She opened her arms wide and welcomed us in.
Lily happened to be Minnie for Halloween that year so it was specially exciting for her. …Or so I thought…Lily was a little in shock to see Minnie in person and she didn’t want to go see her immediately. Because we were the only people there we just took our time as Minnie tried to win Lily over.
It was such a special surprise and I was delighted when a cast member actually asked me for my camera so that she could document the whole thing for us. …just one more reason why Disney is such an amazing company. (Check out these 10 Secrets locals know about Disney World…you won’t want to miss them if you’re planning a trip there any time soon!)
So there you go! Six surefire ways you will be able to document your Disney Character meetings in an unforgettable, memorable way.
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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.