After our last trip to Disneyland a couple of weeks ago, I got so many questions on Instagram about how to take awesome Disneyland family photos. Honestly, one of my favorite things about the park is how fun it is to take photos there — to me, it’s an attraction just as much as the rides or the shows. It’s such a beautiful and thoughtfully put-together place, and I love documenting our family there. Catching the magic in a kiddo’s eyes while they run around and take it all in just kills me. And truthfully, getting great family photos at Disneyland doesn’t need to be a chore or overly difficult. After our last trip, I really thought about how we got some of the photos that we ended up with and broke it down into my ten top tips for how to take awesome Disneyland family photos. And believe me, none of these tips necessarily need a fancy camera or anything more than your smartphone.
How to Take Awesome Disneyland Family Photos
Keep the Camera Handy
You can’t get great photos if you miss all the great moments! If it’s your smartphone, keep it handy in a pocket or somewhere easily reachable. I’d recommend having a shortcut to the photo app if you’re using a smartphone. And if you’re using a larger camera, I like to keep mine on a strap, slung over one shoulder and around my neck. I don’t wear a purse in Disneyland for this reason (I usually wear overalls or something similar with lots of pockets, and use our stroller for bigger items). I just keep the camera on my back and can flip it around to snag a photo in just a second or two.
This is something that we tried more this trip, because usually I’m the one taking the photos and don’t end up in too many! So Ryan and I passed the camera back and forth throughout the days, trying to make sure that we each ended up in some snapshots.
Watch for Moments
Not every photo at Disneyland needs to be in front of a castle or with a character. There are so many beautiful little moments around each corner, if you watch for them. On our last night, we sat down to dinner at sundown and Henry was helping Maggie with something while we were waiting for our food. The light was coming through his little head and it was the sweetest scene, so I just snapped this photo down below. I’ll remember that moment for a long, long time. Keep an eye out for the little things, too.
Don’t Put Pressure on Character Photos
Our kids are super hit-and-miss with characters. Sometimes they’ll march right up to Mickey by themselves and give a big hug, and sometimes they flat out don’t want to say hello. So we don’t pressure it. If they want to hug, or high five, or talk, or just stand next to them, or be in our arms, or not take a photo at all, it’s all okay. There’s no point in forcing them into it when they’ll be traumatized and all you’ll end up with is a photo of them crying anyway. 😉 Characters can be really overwhelming for little ones, so we always recommend letting them call the shots.
Use the Environment
Disneyland is SO. DANG. PRETTY. Every corner, every nook, every wall was highly considered and is thoroughly cared for. So use it! The park is your backdrop. Look for great walls (I love the walls around Small World, the tile in California Adventure, and the doors in New Orleans Square), pretty benches, beautiful foliage, or colorful rides and make them your backdrops. You can’t go wrong.
Don’t Make them Smile
With our kids, if we tell them to smile for a photo, we usually get some toothy grimace with dead eyes. Haha! So we totally stopped telling them to say cheese. We find lots more success in just letting them have their experience and documenting it. Watch them, wait for them, and capture the moment when the ride takes off or when they see Mickey for the first time.
… But Do Make Them Laugh
That being said, if you’re trying to get a posed family shot or something similar, where you want to all be looking at the camera and smiling, your best bet is to make them laugh. Say something silly, or remind them of something cool, or go with a good old fashioned tickle to get them giggling. It makes for much more natural photos than a cheese-face.
Let Them Play
Some of my favorite photos come from me just hanging out on the sidelines when the kids are running around and enjoying the park. In the photo below, Henry had just gone across the street by himself to high five Pluto and came back SO PROUD. Look at that face. You can’t get that anywhere else! Let your kids loose a little bit (within reason) and you’ll catch some gems. Great places to do this are the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail or in the play areas in ToonTown. Just be careful that you always keep an eye on them, that they’re not too far, and that if you’re on a street area there are no vehicles traveling toward you.
Every so often as we’re traveling through the parks, I’ll let Ryan walk ahead with the kids while I snap from behind. You can catch some sweet moments that you wouldn’t expect.
I love a filter! Especially on a Disneyland photo, to make it just a little more magical. If you’re going to edit your photos after your trip, I recommend using a light hand so it doesn’t look too forced. But if you have a great photo that you love where maybe the lighting isn’t ideal, or the colors aren’t quite right, don’t be afraid to edit a little bit and see where it takes you. You can find some of our favorite editing apps right here.
Are you a Disneyland person? Do you love to take photos there as much as I do?