Greetings Disney fans and shutterbugs! Even if you are a photography novice with a point and shoot digital camera or camera phone, you can capture digital memories of your Disney vacation and greatly improve your picture taking skills. In this article, I will offer tips for getting the most out of your photography at Disney World. Whether you are capturing images of the family in the park, or taking in the majesty of the resort complex, I can teach you a few simple tips which will make your photography stand up and shout.
I first became interested in photography a little over a decade ago, and Disney World was one of my biggest inspirations to learn the art of photography. There are so many wonderful colors and compositions to capture at the Walt Disney World resort that you will never run out of ideas for pictures.
Most people take hundreds of photos during their Disney World vacation. They excitedly download the images to their computer or display them on their HD television when they get back home. Unfortunately the images are commonly underwhelming, and don’t capture the excitement and fun that was being experienced in the parks.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
In practice I have found that just a few small changes to how people take pictures can make a huge difference in the final product. So if you are ready to take some notes, I am here to help ensure your next set of vacation pictures are your best yet!
What’s your subject? Is it your smiling, wide-eyed child posing with Goofy? Use that camera zoom, or physically move closer to your subject. Closer. Closer still. That’s better, isn’t it? A big part of making a great picture is knowing what your subject is, and filling the screen with it. In this case, it is your smiling child and Goofy.
Don’t be that guy who asks his family to pose for a picture, then moves as far back as he can until they are mere specks in the camera lens.
The image I captured to the left was taken before I knew about composition. But it stands as one of my favorites of my children at Disney. I had read an article suggesting people zoom in when taking pictures at Disney, so I gave it a try while our family was waiting to be called to eat at The Crystal Palace.
My son is very engaged with his eyes fixed on the camera lens. He pulls you into the shot because his interest comes through so well. I consider it a “lucky” shot because I really didn’t know what I was doing with my old point-and-shoot camera. If the shot was zoomed back, his expression would be lost and the image would be a lot more dull. Because I took to heart the advice on zooming in, I was able to grab a very special image even if my skill level was novice at best.
What is the subject of your picture? Is it the sneakers on your child’s feet? Is it the huge crowd in the background? Is it the queue line to Small World off to the side? No. It is your family, and it is their eyes and smiling faces which capture your imagination. Zoom in. Move closer. Fill the screen with their smiling faces and stop trying to record every bit of Walt Disney World surrounding them.
Tip: If your child is posing for a picture with one of the characters, and the character is much taller than your child, ask the character to bend down so that his or her cartoon head is right next to your child’s. Try to fill the screen with the two heads. The goal is not to get a picture of your child standing next to Captain Hook. The goal is to get a picture of your child face-to-face with Captain Hook and yucking it up.
Know Where to Focus
Whether you are manually focusing your camera or using auto focus, it is important to ensure the camera is focusing in the right spot. When taking pictures of people, you want the focus to be on their eyes. Many people focus on the end of the nose, or the center of a shirt. This causes the wrong part of the image to be focused, and the eyes slightly blurred.
This may not seem like a cardinal sin, but the reason a lot of otherwise good people pictures don’t look quite right is because the eyes are not in focus. We are naturally drawn to people’s eyes, whether we are looking at an image or talking to someone in person. If the eyes are blurry, the picture never works as intended.
If photographing an attraction, resort, or other scenery, make sure your focus point is on the most important part of the subject. For instance if you intend to photograph the Grand Floridian, don’t focus on the sidewalk in front of it. Make sure the focus point is on the part of the building which most catches your eye.
Take a Unique Perspective
As you are strolling through the Epcot World Showcase looking for something to photograph, consider taking a unique or unusual perspective. Rather than shooting straight at your subject, what if you got low to the ground and shot straight up at the buildings? Does that look cool through your lens?
What if you positioned yourself near a flowering tree and allowed the branches, leaves, and flowers to “frame” your subject? How many people see an attraction from this perspective?
Pay Attention to Lighting
I’m not going to tell you to avoid taking pictures during the midday hours. You are on vacation, and you should take pictures whenever you want to capture memories of the fun you are having. However the position of the sun in the sky makes a huge difference in the quality of your pictures.
The best lighting is in the first two hours of the day after sunrise, and the last two hours of the day before sunset. Spectacular lighting often occurs very close to sunrise and sunset. The warm rays of the sun and low angle in the sky make for beautiful colors and pleasing contrasts.
During the middle of the day, the sun is high in the sky and very harsh. Colors tend to get washed out, and contrasts are flat and dull. It’s hard to take a good picture in the middle of a sunny day. If you have a choice, take pictures in the shade during the day where the harsh lighting is minimized.
Remember composition (wiki) from art class? A composed image is far more interesting to look at than an image without composition. Try to divide the image into thirds, with your subjects at the intersecting points.
Don’t put your subject in the center of the image, as people commonly do. Try to ensure that the horizon is not in the middle of the image.
For example, look at this spectacular image of the Tree of Life at sunset. Notice how the river makes up the lower third of the picture, and how the terrain makes up the next third with the sky taking the upper third of the image. That’s a good way to divide up your horizons.
Now notice the position of the main subject, The Tree of Life. It is located at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical thirds. Keep in mind that composition does not mean perfection. The subject does not have to be exactly on the thirds. But is should be roughly so.
Just Do It!
These simple tips are very easy to learn. But you want to practice before your vacation so that they become second nature. Get out there and take some photos. Zoom in close to your subjects, and see how much more interesting they look on your big screen television than the typical “zoomed way back” photos most people take.
Practice getting your focus correct, so that your images look sharp and crisp. Play with interesting perspectives, and work on your composition. It won’t be long before you see a huge improvement in the quality of your photos. You will be ready to capture your next trip to Disney World!