Below you'll find 11 tips and tricks to help you capture the moments of you and your family in the magic of Disneyland without sacrificing a lot of time and effort. These are all super fast and can make a big difference, whether you're using DSLR camera or the camera on your phone. Let's "snap" to it, shall we?
1- Lighten Up
You're standing in the line for Space Mountain. It's about 2:00 in the afternoon. The summer sun is beating down on you from above and you're probably sweati...er...glistening. It's the perfect time for a picture, right?! Well, yeah, it can be if you find the right angles. It can often be tough to take pictures in harsh light, which there's a lot of in Disneyland. However, there's ways around that. Disneyland and California Adventure both have a lot of tall buildings and structures to block light. Additionally, there's a lot of trees and shade structures to help out with filtering the light.
Better yet, use the light to your advantage by using the previously mentioned structures to create some cool light flares and shadows. This effect is super fun to get creative with when you add in filters or go with black and white images.
2- Get Up Close & Personal
In case you hadn't noticed, Disney spares no expense when it comes to their attractions and the attention to detail they put into not just the rides, but the queues, landscaping, sidewalks, fences and just about everything is second to none. We all know about the hidden Mickeys placed throughout the park, right? These are not only a fun activity for the kids to do while exploring the parks, but they also make for great photographs.
Another fun and different thing to do is to place a smaller item at the focus in front of a larger piece of more iconic scenery. For instance, taking a picture from the deck of the Sailing Ship Columbia looking out over the Rivers of America with the rigging ropes as your focus. It's a different look at a rather iconic scene. Take a look all around you and notice the little things. You might be surprised at what you'll find.
3- Take A Step Back
There's a lot to see in Disneyland and DCA. I mean...a lot. From ride entrances, to landscapes and flower beds to mountains, there's literally acres of awesome that is worthy of a photo. Don't be afraid to take photos that capture the size and scale of the parks. A wide angle lens for your cameras are perfect for this option, but even when using your cell phone cameras, taking a few steps back from your subject can make a world of difference in your photos.
While you're stepping back, take a gander towards the sky. As I mentioned, Disney is known for their attention to detail and that doesn't stop once they reach eye level. There's a lot of roof lines and skylines that are incredible in both parks (did you know there's hidden ship masts and sails along a certain roof line in New Orleans Square?!). These will offer up some really cool views people may not be used to. Which leads me to...
4- Look for Unique Perspectives
It's pretty much a requirement to get your photo taken in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. The building is an icon, not just for Disney fans, but for visitors from all over the world. But, we also know it's nearly impossible to get a decent picture there, let alone a picture with few people photo-bombing your special moment. What a lot of people don't realize is that castle is just as stunning from the sides. Take a jaunt to either side of the castle and you'll find that you'll get a new vantage point and one that has far fewer people you'll need to work around. Not only that, but you can also time it to capture incredible sunsets and reflections on the water surrounding the castle. This goes for many of the more famous photo locations such as the Matterhorn, Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain (ever gone on the hidden path near Splash Mountain?).
How often do you see pictures taken from Tarzan's Treehouse? Or how about from the various vantage points on the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail? Let's not forget Tom Sawyer Island and the Pirate's Lair. This location will give you a look at the Rivers of America, Splash Mountain, New Orleans Square and more. It's not a bad thing to get those iconic photos we see on Instagram, but don't be afraid to get adventurous.
5- Food Porn
Rides and attractions aside, the food is probably one of the most talked about aspects of Disneyland and California Adventure. This makes sense because, for the most part, it's delicious. It's also super photogenic. From Tigger Tails to Mickey Beignets and corn dogs to churros, the food and treats in the Disney parks do not disappoint. They are literally covered in amazing textures and colors. Taking pictures of your food is a fun and easy way to add some color to your timeline and it gives your viewers a little break from the scenery, not to mention it will make your friends uber jealous.
All that being said, don't forget to pay attention to light when it comes to food photos. The same rules apply here as they do when taking pics of your family. Avoid harsh, overhead light, this will also keep from heavy shadow from appearing. Use other items to help tell the story such as menus, table features, backdrops in windows, etc. Food is great, but when you can tell a story, it's even better.
6- Shoot From Below
One of the most difficult things to do in Disneyland and DCA is avoiding crowds. This goes for photos as well. Trying to get photos of yourself or your family in front of the castle or down Main Street USA with no crowds is near impossible to do. You essentially have two options here. First, you can just embrace the crowd and make them a part of the photo, showing the magical chaos (positive spin, right?) that we all know and love. I've seen some stunning photos taken in this manner, but it takes a keen eye to make it work.
The second option is to cut the crowd out by shooting your picture from below your subject. For instance, taking a picture at the Sword in the Stone near King Arthur's Carousel can often be difficult, but if you're not afraid to crawl around on the ground for a minute, you can take the photo from below and use the sky and the Fantasyland roof tops to create a pretty spectacular scene with no people! If you're near the castle, have your subjects hop up on the benches (safely, of course) and snap a picture with the castle in the background. This also works for the entrance signs of many of the lands. Super simple and effective!
7- Many, Many Multiples
This one is pretty straight forward. Unless you're a photography genius with the skills of a master, you'll never capture the perfect photo on the first shot. Don't just take a single shot when you take your photos; take at least three each time. With so many factors at play, such as wind, crowds, melting ice cream...children, taking multiple photos at once gives you several options to choose from when you look back over your photos and allows you to pick the best of the bunch.
This especially comes into play when taking action shots. Whether you're snapping pics of the kids on the Mad Tea Party or the double-decker bus on Main Street, taking multiple photos will literally give you a different picture every single time, offering up new distances and angles without having to move. But, like any other photo, don't be afraid to take a step or two to the left or right just to make sure.
8- The Rule of Thirds
This is one of the golden rules of photography and it applies to every type of camera, cell phones included. In fact, cell phones make it easier for you and give you a grid option on your screen. Simply put, the Rule Of Thirds means you divide your photo into thirds with two imaginary lines vertically and two lines horizontally making three columns, three rows, and nine sections in the images. The subject of your photo, whether it's a child or a mountain, is placed on or near these imaginary lines and where they intersect.
You can opt to turn these grid lines on in the settings of you camera app, but once you have the basic idea down, you can turn them off. This simple step will make a world of difference in your photos and make them feel much more composed and balanced.
Cell Phone Tips
The tips below are specific to cell phone cameras. If you're like me, the idea of lugging a full sized camera around the park seems daunting and frankly, a bit annoying. Most cell phones these days have amazing cameras integrated into them and can provide you with stunning images for your social media. If you plan on using the pictures for professional purposes, or plan on having them resized for printing, a traditional camera is probably best.
9- Clean Your Lens
We use our cell phones a lot these days and we are constantly taking them in and out of pockets, purses, backpacks and more and when we do that, it's not unusual for our grubby, churro dust- covered fingers to accidentally touch the lens of the camera. Before you start taking pictures, take a second or two to wipe off the lens of your camera. Preferably, use a microfiber cloth, but the inside of your shirt will work as well. If you don't. you may get pictures that look foggy or just plain ugly.
10- Skip The Zoom
It's only natural to want to zoom in on your subject, whether it's to avoid crowds or just to create a more intimate picture. The problem is, when you zoom in using your cell phone camera, the image becomes very pixilated and grainy. These are not good pictures. Instead, take a step or two towards your subject. Not only do you get the same effect, but you also keep the higher quality image with none of the graininess.
11- Avoid the Flash
Disneyland and California Adventure are amazing to visit, but when the sun goes down, the parks become even more magical place, with an entirely new atmosphere created by the various rides and attractions you'll see. When the lights go out, we naturally want to turn on the flash on our cameras and phones, but have you ever taken a picture of the Mad Tea Party with no flash and just relied on the lights surrounding the ride? The results can be incredible. The same can be said for the parades you'll encounter. There's a reason why they do some of these parades at night. Take advantage of that unique glow and let the magic happen. Sure, you may need to go in and adjust the lighting, highlights or shadows, but don't go too crazy here. You might be surprised at the results.
Traveling to Disneyland, or to any Disney park for that matter, can often be a rare occurrence, and you want to make sure you capture the memories and experiences you're sure to encounter while visiting. Hopefully these tips will help you capture the magic in the best way possible. As always, don't forget to share your pictures with the Park Hoppers. If we can't be there, we love to live vicariously through our listeners and readers. Happy Snapping!