The Disney Memory Maker is an incredible program that allows you and your family to enjoy your vacation and let Disney photographers handle capturing your memories. For a single price, you can get all of the photos taken of your family on your vacation by Disney photographers at character meet-and-greets, park photo spots, and special moments. No more hassle of carrying a camera, posing shots, or asking strangers to take your family’s picture. However, if you don’t want to pay the additional price for a Memory Maker Package, here are some tips for making your own magical memories on your next Disney vacation.
A phone is not a camera replacement, but it can still take some pretty good pictures.
For any photography enthusiast, the idea of ditching a “true camera” and using a cell phone for your vacation photos is out of the question. For anyone else who wants to enjoy their vacation without lugging around a full-size DSLR camera and attachment or even a small point-and-shoot, newer cellphone cameras are more than up to the task of capturing shots of your kids meeting their favorite Disney character or posing in front of Cinderella’s Castle. In many cases, it is less about the equipment you have and more about how you use it.
Why take one shot when you can easily take six.
One of the greatest advantages of digital photography is there are virtually no limits to how many pictures you can take. If your kid is meeting Mickey, you can keep hitting that big red photo button until the cast member politely escorts you away. After the special moment is over, it is easy to go back through the dozens of pictures to find the one you love, but if you only took 4 shots, and they are all blurry, you’ve missed a magical memory.
To increase your snap speed, turn off your camera’s auto flash feature. Without the flash to slow you down, you can take shots in rapid fire. This is particularly handy if you have a child with a fleeting smile. Just pose the kid with Mickey and start tapping away at your photo button. You’re likely to catch at least one smile and usually a number of other choice faces.
The Flash Paradox
While turning off the flash is helpful in full sun or bright rooms, it presents other challenges at night. Say you’re trying to get a shot of your kids in front of Cinderella’s Castle all lit up at night. Here’s the problem. Without a flash, the castle is beautiful, but your kids’ faces are dark blobs. With a flash, however, the exposure adjusts so you get wonderful smiling faces with the beautiful castle dark and dim in the background.
This is where your default camera app on your phone may fall a bit short. Luckily, there are a number of alternate camera apps available that take up the slack. “Camera Awesome” is a free app from SmugMug with a handy little feature to combat the flash paradox. Hidden in the flash settings is a flashlight option. This feature turns on your camera’s flashlight function to illuminate your kids’ faces while still properly exposing the castle. It’s a pretty cool little trick. Apps like this also give you more control over manual features.
Don’t lose your kids, keep them close.
The most common issue we see with vacation photos are poorly composed shots. How often have you been in the parks and seen a parent trying to get a picture of their kid in front of their favorite ride? The kid is standing right up against the building or ride sign, and the parent is 30 feet away trying to fit the whole sign in the shot only to find there is a constant crowd of people flowing in front of them. And when they find a break in the crowd and finally get the picture, the child is lost as a tiny figure down in the bottom corner of the photo.
If you want a picture of your kid in front of a ride, go to a point far enough away to get a good shot of the ride or the sign or the castle and then position your child into the shot right in front of you. You shouldn’t need to be more than a couple of feet away from your subject’s face. (This is important when using the flashlight feature mentioned in the previous tip.) And don’t let your child’s head float at the bottom of the shot. Make sure he is still the main focus of your photo with the ride or sign sitting just over his shoulder. This may mean getting down low or even sitting on the ground and shooting up to properly position everything in the picture. Putting a little extra thought into the composition of your pictures makes a world of difference.
Finally, preserve your memories somewhere other than Facebook and Instagram.
We live in a digital age where it is easy to share pictures through social media and store them in online cloud galleries, but there is still something a bit more magical about having a printed copy of your memories to share with family and friends. Online photo services, such as Snapfish and Shutterfly, offer the perfect digital solution. For our past few Disney trips, we have created a Disney Vacation Photo Book through Snapfish. These are really well done, hard-cover albums that are completely customizable. There are a number of Disney themes to choose from, and you can easily add various photo layouts with captions, special graphics, and backgrounds. The final product is a unique photo book at a price much cheaper than the Disney Memory Maker Package.
So on your next Disney vacation, remember that with little more than your cellphone, some shot planning, and the understanding that you may return with 12,000 photos to sort through, you can easily capture your own Disney memories and preserve them for a lifetime.