Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Orange. Enjoy the ride as we share our Best Picture Taking Tips for Disney!
The Disney parks have always been centered around telling stories. They remind us of the world of Disney movies, give us exotic settings like the Caribbean to piece together narratives, and even tie together real events like those of the founding of America into a story that inspires. From Walt Disney to his imagineers to the modern counterparts of those theme park pioneers, the creation of a park is about the creation of a story…and we, as visitors love it.
We love it because, as human beings, we respond instinctively to story. We love it because we are invited to join in on these great narratives. And we love it because, as Disney’s 2012 marketing campaign celebrates, we are there to write our own stories into memory.
Any theme park visit is a study in story writing, and one of our greatest challenges and greatest privileges is recording and remembering the stories we write in our days in the parks. Certainly, we make memories, but we want something more…well…tangible to remind us of our trip, of the things that happened, and of the story of that particular adventure.
And that’s one of the reasons we take pictures.
But all pictures are not created equal. Just because you snap a photograph of someone doesn’t mean you’ve captured a moment. Take, for example, the earliest photo I have of me in the Magic Kingdom. I’m standing beside a trash can. Um. Okay. I have no memory of this visit, and the picture doesn’t help. But then take a photo from a subsequent visit. It’s me, posing with goofy. Again, I don’t remember the visit, but looking at the picture makes me smile. It isn’t just an image – it’s a moment, a story captured on film.
And then there are the old pictures that might not mean anything to someone else, but they conjure up stories for me. The pictures of my friend and I posed with piles of stuffed animals at Centorium in Communicore East at Epcot, for example. Every time I see those pictures, I remember the giant stuffed Mickey that was, like, 10 feet tall…and I wanted the darn thing so badly…
Capturing those stories, creating images that make us tell those stories of wonder found, laughter released, and silliness shared is what pictures at Disney are all about. And, whether you’re a novice photographer or an expert, capturing stories is an accessible goal in picture taking in the parks. So, as an aspiring novice, here are my best tips for doing just that:
Don’t miss your story while you’re taking pictures – When I’m at Disney with a camera in my hand, I somehow feel that I’ve been appointed a special mission. It is my job to capture everything we see and do. I need to tell the day’s story in pictures. The problem is that my day begins to shrink to the size of the viewfinder. I may manage to capture the perfect picture from the parade, but if someone asks me later how the parade was, I don’t know…I was too busy trying to get the perfect shot. Don’t do that. If you get too busy taking pictures to enjoy, you’re missing the magic, and you won’t have the stories to tell that make the pictures worthwhile.
Seek out the unusual – Disney is a place that’s constantly changing, constantly oscillating between controlled magic and reality. No matter how many times you visit a Disney park, you’re going to discover something new, something remarkable, something you’ve never noticed. Record. That. Wonder. Whenever you discover something – or someone in your party discovers it (even if you knew about it) – record the discovery, make that memory.
Take, for example, the otter in Cinderella’s castle moat. No, I’m not kidding. My friends and I were visiting the Magic Kingdom for the zillionth time when suddenly, crossing the moat, we spotted a flash of movement that was neither the omnipresent ducks nor a fish. Pausing, we studied the water and…yup. Otter. We joked about guard-otters, speculated about the possibilities of a spy sent over from Sea World, and ended up standing on the bridge watching the little furry invader for a good 10 minutes. Was it a typical photo spot or an important landmark in a visit to Disney? No, but it was a story I want to remember, time with my friends that may never happen again.
Don’t just look for the prettiest shot; look for the story – Always look for the story. Far too often, we take the artistic shot; we pose our party in front of a backdrop or snap images of the gorgeous scenery around the parks. There’s no shame in that. I am impossibly proud of some of my Epcot images. But, you know, I have around 100 pictures of World Showcase photographed from vantage points around the lagoon. Every shot is beautiful…and none of them mean a darn thing to me.
When you’re taking pictures at Disney, the single most important thing you can do is remember that your pictures should write your story. Whether you look funny or there’s a little motion blur is not, in the end, the point. The best picture taking tip for Disney is to remember that you’re trying to capture the joy and the wonder, to take pictures that will conjure up those memories later. Your goal as a picture taker at Disney is to capture images that will, even years later, make you tell stories.
Because, in the end, Disney is all about telling stories…
Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Focused on the Magic
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Loop should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
1st Stop ~ Your Highway in the Sky (You are here)
2nd Stop ~ Focused on the Magic
3rd Stop ~ Heidi’s Head
Final Stop ~ A Glass Slipper Vacation