by: guide4wdw – Collin

Disney World Pictures – Our Photography Guide for Walt Disney World 

Taking pictures of Walt Disney World has become a larger and larger part of the experience with social media and a “sharing” culture that has developed over the last 10 years or so. However, Disney fits in a relatively odd spot in that it’s a place that is recognizable the world over. Nearly everyone you meet has been there at least once so on each visit you want to capture something distinctly “you.” It doesn’t matter if it’s something you saw in the parks, or a moment you want to capture with friends and family, some how or some way you want to have the tools and ability to get the shot and savor that moment forever. This article was written with that goal in mind and hopefully to encourage a few of you to take the leap into the Disney photography realm or at the very least help you take a few better photos in the parks. 

On the contrary to all of this, I’ve always been a little torn on seeing the world through a lens. Today, everyone has a camera on them at basically all times and truthfully it’s a pretty good camera for about 75% of applications. As a result, we feel the need to document everything and in my opinion that’s not always the best way to do things. Obviously, you know I’m a photography guy if you look at the photos here or on our facebook or instagram pages, but at the same time I was that person for years that refused to experience the world through a lens or quite literally a screen at this point. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t detract from the overall feeling of being there and enjoying being in the moment without a care in the world. It’s also the main reason I elected to leave my DSLR in the room for one full day of our last trip. I love photos and photography as a whole but setting things aside and taking the time to enjoy the moment with no distractions can be the most powerful feeling in the world. Why do I share that in a photography article? Truthfully, because I’ve learned that lesson the hard way and no matter what, I recommend you always remember to be present in the moment and not so enthralled with a device that you forget to enjoy the little things.

Moving back to the topic of today’s post itself (after that tangent), I wanted to share some advice in what I would do or consider if you’re looking to take better photos at the parks. I’m also going to add before we get started that by all real definitions of the word I am not professional photographer in any way shape or form. According to Websters a professional is a someone engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather that as a pastime. I don’t work photography contracts at this point, and while that would be great, I’m simply a tourist with a camera and a ridiculous amount of stored away information about what makes up a good photo in the most general sense.        


Of course, the camera you use is going to make a difference and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Composition makes all the difference in the world but if your camera can’t handle the scene you’re trying to capture… well you’ve got a grainy image and some disappointment to deal with. Truthfully, the camera market is a market of diminishing returns the higher in price you go. In essence, you have five options of camera type at this point at a variety of different price points: Phones (yes, I will count those!), Point and Shoot, DSLR – Crop Sensor, DSLR – Full Frame, and Mirrorless (in both full and corp sensor varieties). For the most part, the prices are going to increase in that order.


In the world of convenience, iPhones are the ideal pick in every way shape and form. In the world of quality, they’re surprisingly good with daylight and sunset lighting due to new technologies and improved phone capabilities, but they really struggle in low light situations. In Disney terms, photos from Pandora, Dark Rides, Fireworks, and really anything without at least a fair degree of light present, a lot of grain is going to be introduced into the image as the camera tries to compensate for the lighting. The sensors on phones are so incredibly small that the light gathering capabilities simply cannot handle the environment. 

On the flip side, iPhones in particular perform surprisingly well in well lit environments. So much so in fact that often times you can rarely tell the difference between an iPhone shot and one from a DSLR without really cropping in to see all the details. For most applications, phones do surprisingly well and continue to get better with each increasing model. The kicker to it all is price. The new iPhone costs what? $1000 for the base model! Sure, it does more that just take pictures but an entry level DSRL can cost less that half of that! 

Point and Shoot Cameras

In my opinion, until mirrorless cameras started to become more cost effective for the average consumer (thatks Sony!), point and shoot cameras were making a come back. Almost ironically, (since they were the ones that started making mirrorless more affordable and worth having) Sony’s RX100 series was incredibly popular despite costing near $1000. Even at $1000 it’s the only point and shoot camera I’ve ever even considered buying and that is because of the image quality it can produce. Sony was and is smart in creating a point and shoot camera with almost full “manual” functionality similarly to what you’d find in a DSLR. As a result, it is likely the best point and shoot camera for night photography due to the added benefit of long exposures and being able to set exactly what you want the camera to do and the ability to override what the camera “thinks” is right. 

Super zoom cameras are good (the ones with the massive reaching extendable lenses that are attached to the camera body), but the Sony tends to be a cut above the rest and is the right blend of usability and image quality while remaining pocket size. There are more budget friendly options but the main goal is to buy a camera with the ability to shoot in full manual mode. You may not understand it at first but it’ll be worth it in the long run!   

DSLR Cameras 

DSLR cameras are my personal preference for anyone really looking to make the most of their Disney photos. Inevitably, DSLR’s tend to be more difficult to use and in all reality you’ll have to learn the ins and outs of aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual modes to get the most out of your camera. If you don’t want to fool with all (despite how much I recommend that you take the time to learn) of that, stick with your iPhone or a point and shoot camera. The advantages of the DSLR only really shine through when you take control of the camera and get it out of the”auto” mode. 

Almost ironically, you can pick up an entry level DSLR from Nikon’s refurbished (outlet) site for around $400 ($398 on Amazon). Compare that to the RX100 and the cost vs. performance benefit is better in both regards. Sadly you lose out on some of the added benefits in the video realm of things as well as the form factor of the Sony as well. The camera world tends to be a game of trade offs. My personal recommendation, and the $400 one mentioned, is the Nikon D3400. The 3400 is a great deal for the money and truthfully the image quality is pretty superb for the price due to an extraordinary sensor. Every single image in this article was taken on a Nikon D3400. Of course, any entry level camera is going to have its downfalls and after using a 3400 for about a year I have to say one of its greatest weaknesses are medium to high iso situations. For the non “camera people” iso is essentially artificial light introduced into the image so that the exposure is corrected (that is a vast over simplification but the best way I can describe it) in very dark scenes while keeping your shutter speed high to “freeze” the scene you’re trying to capture. 

If your budget allows I’d recommend a higher end model, but for most theme park guests a d3400 or even the Canon or Sony equivalents should be more that adequate. If money was no problem (I’m a college student so money is always a concern for me lol) I highly recommend Nikon’s full frame lineup. Full frame cameras are going to always be more capable that crop sensor cameras and far superior in dark situations when equivalent lenses are being used. 

Full frame cameras utilize a larger sensor that the lower tier “crop sensor” alternatives but also accompany a much more aggressive price point. If you can afford it, Nikon’s D750 and D850 are some of the best cameras ever made. Tom Bricker even called the D750 The Best Camera For Disney Photography before the D850 hit the market. Obviously, he’s a far more accomplished and experienced photographer that I, but to say that’s high marks is an understatement. Tom is the go-to guy for Disney photography tips!

Last but certainly not least, you have mirrorless cameras. Sony is the pioneer for mirrorless and if you want the ultimate in performance the A7R III is a mind glowingly capable camera. The downside to the A7R III is that the camera body itself costs around $3,000. Up until a few days ago, Nikon had no real mirrorless alternative, but if your budget allows Nikon’s new Z6 and Z7 cameras look like they will be quite impressive once they ship! Mirrorless cameras offer up the blessing of a compact size while retaining incredible image quality. Truthfully I see mirrorless cameras as the next big thing in photography if the price continues to fall. The compact size is unmatched and the weight savings is a bit shocking. For Disney parks photography, light weight and compact size is a huge blessing when carrying around camera gear all day. (As always, if you do want to pic up a camera before your trip, buying through these links really helps us out here on the site and costs you nothing more!)     

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If you’re looking to take photos of your kids or even simple scenery around the parks, a stock kit lens that comes with most DSLR cameras and Mirrorless cameras from the factory will more that exceed your expectations. If you really want to up your photo game and develop the sharpest images possible, I highly recommend investing in a better lens that the one included with your camera purchase. Nicer lenses tend to be better in low light due to faster apertures and the results tend to speak for themselves. In the case of dark rides, a lens with an aperture of f/1.8 or lower is ideal for capturing light but no lens is going make you a better photographer without first learning to shoot in manual mode. It is the cornerstone for any great photo and makes all the difference in the end result – especially at night! 

In perhaps the greatest oversimplification possible, to get great shots at night ideally you’ll need three things. A tripod, time, and some patience. The darker conditions you shoot in the longer you tend to need to keep your shutter open, and the tripod is used to keep the camera as stable as absolutely possible during the longer shutter speeds. For areas like Pandora after dark, a shutter length upwards of 30 seconds is often required to retain a proper exposure for the image. If the camera is bumped or moved while that shutter is open, the image becomes blurry and basically unusable. The patience part of the equation tends to be waiting out the crowds. 

You’ve likely all scene the empty park shots, and they’re some the best shots around, but oftentimes we’re taking those images up to two hours after the park officially “closes.” If you wait around, Disney will let you mill around main areas for quite some time after officially closing while guests finish dining or riding those last minute attractions. The lighter crowds that late at night coupled with long shutter speeds (know as long exposure shots) essentially turn the individuals in the photos into “ghosts” if the keep moving continuously while the shutter is open for upwards of 30 seconds capturing the image. It’s a crazy concept and one that I’ll readily admit is hopelessly nerdy, but the results tend to be spectacular. Once you try late night photography, you’ll be hooked after you capture that one image that takes your breath away. 

The Average Guest

If you’re an average Disney parks guest, your iPhone is likely going to serve you quite well, but chances are if you clicked on this post you’re looking for more out of your photos and hopefully this answered a few questions. People ask me about my photos all the time, and truthfully I’m probably not the best person to ask. I’m admittedly new to this and don’t always get it right. However, to me this just goes to show that you can get a lot of neat shots (even if they’re not technically perfect – I still have a lot to learn!) with very little technical experience and on a relatively tight budget. My entire camera setup wasn’t all that expensive and if you’d like me to do a full overview of all the gear I use, feel free to let me know and I’ll make it happen! On the other side of things this article may not be all that popular and is likely the least “Disney specific” post I’ve ever written. It’s a bit tough to explain too much in detail in writing one article, but hopefully this answered a few questions and may help you in starting your road to taking show stopping photos that far exceed mine! 

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there, and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Need a Travel Planner?

If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They’ll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you’d like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thatks for supporting those who support us.

Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you’re starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You’ll probably even save money along the way.