Photography Tips for your Disney Vacation

If you are a Mom photographer headed to Disney let me offer you some of my top tips to make your vacation enjoyable but also a photography treasure.
As a Mother who happens to be a professional or hobby photographer, sometimes it’s hard to balance photographing my family at home let alone on vacation… and the idea of documenting the perfect Disney vacation can really make your photographer brain explode.
I find that their are two types of mom photographers.  The first type is the Mom who simply can’t-put-the-camera-down.  You know the one, and maybe you can see yourself in her a bit, she can be seen driving her kids nuts with photo-ops, rather than living in the moment she is watching through the lens. I struggled with this when I was first learning photography.  While we were childless then, I’m certain that my poor husband had to endure A LOT of posed food photos and photo shoots with our sweet dog. The second type… this is me… the mom photographer who has a very hard time photographing her own family at all so ya just don’t.  My perfectionist nature really limits me in documenting my family.  I struggle with juggling 4 young children while trying to create those epic shots I’ve been dreaming about in my head.  Turns out toddlers HATE standing still so momma can set her light. So rather than trying and failing for my images, I tend to not do it at all.  Plus carrying a big DSLR is hard when you are wearing a baby and holding three little hands. It is also hard for me to want to keep working when I get home after photographing so many amazing couples and families during my high seasons.  Pretty sure my kids get phone pics just as much as the next parent out there, if not more. I do make a point to schedule regular lifestyle sessions with other amazing photographers for my family because I know I can’t do it myself. (a post for a different day)
On the heals of our families epic Disney Vacation, here are my top tips to all of you photographer moms out there!

10. Don’t bring your nice camera equipment.  You will be hauling your camera all over the parks and your hotel with your kids.  You do not need to be concerned if a couple of sticky fingers touch the lens or if you need to stash it in a bag while you ride one of the roller coasters. If you’re like me you will have enough too keep track of and thinking about ..so leave your ‘good’ camera at home.  I brought me Nikon D80 with a nice wide lens and that was it.

9. Don’t get too ‘princess-y’ about the shot when you hand your camera off to another vacationing Mom for a family photo.  People get so intimidated when you pass them your DSLR.  Set your focus point to the center of the frame, remind them to look through the hole, and then tell them not to be afraid to take a bunch.  That way you can have a few heads to swap in case of blinkers.  Thank them kindly and return the favor. DON’T examine the back of the camera closely right then.
This super nice Disney police officer noticed me take a photo of my crew under Pride Rock and offered to take one of me too. He also gave the kids each a sticker Mickey Mouse Police Badge. EVEN GUS… who I’m pretty sure will be breaking the rules for at least a few more years…
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Another day I traded cameras with another vacationing Mom and she nailed it with this shot!
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8. Do style your perfect shots a bit too!  I love photojournalistic & documentary photography obviously.  But just like in my wedding photography, I like to help the moments along to make lovely photos.  My Brides love my getting ready shots but don’t really want to see all 15 target bags laying around either.  Same goes for family photography.  Let’s keep it real but pretty too… if we can help it! And if you are like me it’s better to have a photo of those mouse bands rather than having them scattered around my house for weeks and weeks…
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We had an absolute blast finding penny press machines too!
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I knew I wanted to have a photo of my kids in these cozy cones near our pool.  I added the white towels to the backs of the chairs to help frame their bodies. Set my light and took out all of our ‘pool stuff,’ popped a couple of straws in some juice boxes and called the kids out of the pool for a drink break.  This way, I was getting a shot of my kids hanging out without having to pose them… which they hate… while getting the great poolside image I had in mind.
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7. Do let your kids have a chance to take some images with your camera too.  My kids love having a turn behind the lens and I love teaching them about my job and my vision.  It’s fun and helps them connect to me and my job in a fun way.  Greta is really getting the hang of things.  I love telling her about how I’m looking at the image and what I want her to see. I tell ya she is going to be a second photographer in no time!
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Mary is learning but hey, check out this rule of thirds shot she took of Greta and I posing like Balloo and Mogli!  So close Mary Vi!
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6.Don’t expect your kids to pose too much.  Just don’t. It’s no secret that I’m not really into posing kids, yours or mine. They just don’t like it. Kids are made for documentary photography all.day.long. Plus photography, just like Disney, is supposed to be fun! In this age of digital photography it is easy to get carried away with taking hundreds of images in a single vacation.  Remember back in the 80’s when parents brought like 2 rolls of film for an entire vacation?  They rationed those 50 or so frames and let kids just play around with an occasional double snap, ‘just to be safe.’ Take a few photo’s of them and move on.  You really don’t need to document their every little move. This isn’t a flip book after all.
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Sometimes… you get lucky and they want to pose all day long… MV for the win.
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5.Do get inspired. Take a 20 minute stroll around your resort or the park just you and your camera.  Reach in and find your inner artist… remember all of those photo composition classes you took or just find some inspiration from around the AMAZING Disney Parks.  Don’t make every image you take be about your kids.  Let them see you be inspired… I’m constantly chasing light.  My kids know what location scouting is and its good to let them see you filling up and taking care of yourself too. Remember this is your vacation too.
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4.Don’t be afraid to act like a tourist.  Not every image you take has to be a photographic master piece.  Sometimes a simple stand there and smile image is all you need.  We also took advantage of the photo memory maker at the Disney parks and had our photos taken by their professionals.  I’m so glad they were there to photograph the moments of my son hiding from Tinkerbell and my daughter hugging Merida so that I could just enjoy the moment with them.

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3. Don’t expect perfection… from your kids or the Disney Professionals.  I am so bummed about this professional shot.  I thought that the Disney photographer would have mentioned that he couldn’t see the baby from his angle… he did not and I put all of my eggs in his basket.  So I guess we don’t get an iconic family photo with the castle.  I blame myself.  It was my ONE shot must have.  I saw that beautiful halo light and already had visions of the image on the bedside table. I shouldn’t have left this one up to chance. Fool me once Disney… fool me once!
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speaking of not perfect…
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2. Do take photos of the smaller moments too.  These are always my favorites.  I love a good mouse-ear photo with the castle in the background like the next person but, man these photo’s I snapped during our downtimes are the moments I’ll cherish forever.  Of course being a lifestyle photographer that’s a given… I love the everyday moments.  Others who prefer the bigger more posed look of images won’t need as many downtime images as me.  But a healthy sample of both will make for a perfect Disney Vacation Family Album.
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1. Do get IN the pictures and BE Present with your family.  This is the biggest, it is so important to be present in the moment on this vacation.  It takes work to stop your photographer brain from staring at that perfect light or noticing that amazing texture or wall… or detail.  It’s hard for me too. But, I so want my kids to have photos of me with them too.  Even if I don’t love my hair or size or whatever. I cherish the few images I have with my parents and I don’t want to cheat my kids out of them with me.  Smile! It’s Disney World!
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Have you visited Disney with your wild crew?  What are your must take photos?

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