The top 5 photography mistakes I saw at Disney

You may have noticed the way in which I haven’t blogged for quite a few weeks now. Yes, I do manage to relax once in a while. Or once in three years :) We just got back from nearly 3 glorious weeks at home in Florida with friends and family. It was so very much needed. Of course, it’s taken me 4 days to just scratch the surface of my inbox, but ya know…same old same old.

What I want to talk about today is the mistakes I saw folks with cameras making while at Disney. You might not believe it but other than my one scheduled photo session, I didn’t touch my DSLR once. I only took photos with my iPhone and compact camera (Canon G1X) and it was soooo relaxing. Unfortunately, not everyone around me was quite as successful at excluding camera stress from their vacations.

Without further ado…

5.  I saw parents being cross at their kids for not standing here or there. Not posing the way they wanted, not saying “cheese” on time. Lots of “smile! SMILE!” and “no, stand here!”. Kinda stressful for being at the happiest place on earth, no?

Our crazy family photo taken with an outstretched arm

4. I saw so many people missing out on getting in photos because they weren’t handing their cameras over to someone else. Those PhotoPass photographers allover the park are allowed to take photos for you. With your camera. And if one of them isn’t around, people don’t really mind taking photos for you. Feel free to hand your camera over and ask someone to quickly snap a shot for you. I got in most pictures just by holding my camera out and taking the shot myself. The G1X has one of those handy flipping screens so I can see myself. It’s not exactly canvas-worthy, but these shots are memories all the same and I love them –>

3. One thing that had me laughing often was people using their pop-up flashes in totally nonsensical ways. Like taking pictures of the castle at night. Did they really think the pop-up was going to reach 1/4 mile and light the thing? I dunno…it just made me laugh. If you’re going to have a DSLR capable of killer images, just learn a couple little things before you end up looking at your photos with regret. Here are a couple tips off the top of my head:

  • There are ways for a newbie to take better nighttime photos. When I first got my DSLR, I was thrilled simply to find the ‘flash off’ setting. Might look like this –>   With this, your camera will arrange the settings so you can get the shot without the flash coming up. But keep your hand steady because it might slow the shutter in order to achieve this. It’s not ideal, but it’s a good place to start.
  • There’s this thing called aperture. Depending on the lens you’re using, you may be able to get much better low-light shots if you open up the aperture. Read this for other ways to get away from your pop up flash.

2. Taking tooooooo long to hit the shutter. I noticed so many people missing shots by taking too long to hit the shutter. This is a vacation, not a photo session. Not everything in the frame will be perfect and you can’t control every element. There might be some guy picking his nose in the background. But don’t lose the shot of your kids attacking an ice cream just because of things you can’t control.

and drum roll please…..the number 1 biggest mistake I saw at Disney was….

1. Folks living their vacation through a screen

I have to confess that I cry during the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom. It really chokes me up. And when I look around at hundreds/thousands of people who are watching this magical moment through the back of their cameras/phones, I want to cry even harder. They weren’t filming it and watching it live. No, they were literally watching it through their camera screens. Absent. What a shame :(

Don’t get so wrapped up in lugging a heavy camera around and stressing over memory cards and handling your raw files that you miss your vacation. Just relax! Get your hands on a reliable compact camera and take shots to help you remember your precious time without missing out on it altogether.

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  • hi Elizabeth, I know what you mean. I might even be guilty of “forcing” my kids to smile, sometimes :)

  • Completely agree with all these mistakes and as for fireworks – the same situation was during Chinese New Year celebration in Hong Kong, it was wonderful, breathtaking, we went there especially for watching it and that’s why I simply took my tripod and put a camera on it and enjoying the incredible fireworks, at the end I had an emotional memory in my mind and in my compactflash card…

  • Jodi

    I cried during the fireworks at Disney too. I was on the verge of tears several times through our trip, especially when my boy got to be a “Jedi” and battle Darth Vader. I took a ton of pictures of that but at one moment I looked over at my husband and we both had tears in our eyes. Our boy is on the autism spectrum and it was HUGE for him to be up on stage going along with the show. So many amazing moments. It’s definitely hard to balance. I find that I take so many pictures because I want to be able to remember every moment

  • Gwen

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m going to be at Disney with my family this weekend for their Very Merry Christmas Show and I’ve already been stressing about which camera and lens I’m going to be bringing…not to mention, putting stress on myself to get some “perfect” photos.

  • Cyndi

    You have the coolest posts! I love the little blurb about “tweet that little diddy” so I did, lol. You’re absolutely right about the whole vacation thing. We took our little rickety Powershot skiing with us and got some fun photos…and I only used my DSLR when I was taking photos for my photo project. Ack…no living behind a lens…such a metaphor there. :)

  • Great advice!

  • Darren

    Great post Elizabeth! Glad to hear you had a great vaca. Disney certainly is a magic place and a a great spot to take photos. I had to see the fireworks twice at the Magic Kingdom…once through the screen/lens and another with just a naked mark 1 eye ball. Thanks for the post.

  • Kristin

    I rarely comment on any posts but this was so great I had to pop in and tell you! I’ll definitely be sharing this on my page!

  • we are in the middle of planning our first Disney trip and so glad I saw this in my inbox. I’m def keeping it in my Disney folder to read before we leave.

  • lea

    hi Elizabeth,

    Amen! this is the best disney vacation advice ever! I btw, love the photopass it totally takes the pressure off me from lugging my camera and lens around and worrying about it on rides and it really allows you to enjoy your vacation. Which for me is being able to see my son’s smile from ear to ear.

  • oh yeah! I was there this past weekend and saw so much of that. It was also the first time I didn’t bring my Canon in so I had more time to notice people making those photo mistakes. I cringe more at the flash use more than anything. Thanks for sharing this! Glad i’m not the only one who feels this way haha. :)

  • Shannon

    I was once one who lived my vacations through my lense. Now I make it a point to leave my dslr at home. My husband will ask me where it is and I’ll tell him and he’ll be all sorts of shocked. I even had to relearn how to use my compact camera. I’m getting to where I can just go to the park or lake without a camera at all. I had to ease off my dslr addiction, I couldn’t go cold turkey.

  • All great points – can’t tell you how many people told me some of those things before my first overseas trip last year. I took a ton of photos, but also experienced the places I went to (Ireland), as well. Always enjoy your posts! Happy Holidays and best wishes for an awesome New Year!

  • We are heading there in February, so these are great and timely tips. I am in two minds whether to bring my DSLR, or maybe just to the parks for a couple of days (Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom), and use my iphone or borrow my kids new compact cameras for the rest of the time. Would love some firework pics, but so true that I could miss it all while trying to capture an image. (PS took MORE twinke light pics tonight based on your tutorial – on my blog)

  • Greta

    I cry at the fireworks, too!!! ANY fireworks, really. I guess I feel lucky to be alive and share those moments with my kids that make me cray. Anyway, we just got back from Disney, and yes, I snapped 700 photos, but I make them quick! I am actually looking for a compact p&s to take on vacations now so I can leave the biggie at home.

  • #1 Mistake i am guilty of is missing the show cause i am looking through the back of my canon!! Thank you i will not do this as much and it is so true i feel like i have missed the show sometimes.

  • Hope J.

    I see #5 a lot even when I am not at Disney! LOL People need to realize that Disney is sensory overload for most kids and they need to capture as many candid, eyes-full-of-wonder shots instead of a forced, arms-flat-by-sides squinty cheese shot in front of a Mickey shaped topiary or something. Heat + excitement + forcing pictures may = meltdown.

  • Monica

    As a photographer AND a Disney travel agent, these are great reminders, but I feel if I’m spending that much on a vacation, I’m going to have some great images to remember it by! We went to DW in May and I took both my “real” camera and my point and shoot…I started out with my point and shoot, but just wasn’t getting the quality images I wanted, so started taking my dslr with me to the parks. After seeing the images taken by my daughters and my other family members(there were 17 of us!), I was SO glad I took my dslr. I made a beautiful book with all the images for my parents as a Christmas gift. The memories of the actual fireworks show may fade, but I will always have gorgeous images of them to have forever! Sometimes you just have to look at life through the back of a camera!

  • Lisa

    We just took a wdw trip in the fall as well. And I too left my heavy camera behind and let our phones and point and shoot be our only tools while on the trip. I swore I would not be that parent who was yelling at my kids to get the perfect family vacation photo. we used the photo pass almost exclusively, are they the worlds best photos um not by a long shot, but they are not for my walls anyway. Sure there were times when I secretly wished I coudl get that killer shot of the castle at night etc. But it can wait until I go when retired;) I too noticed the hoards of people living through their video screens

  • Craig Solow

    Oh I am soooo with you on this. I left the DSLR and used my sons little Canon point and shoot. I took less photos and took more AVI video, small and cute. The most fun was turning on the video cam on the roller coaster, record and enjoy the ride. I was not looking through the viewfinder, but watching it after the vacation was sooo much fun.. Dad and the crazy cam—hehe. Ya family time is priceless, don’t get caught up in recording it than enjoying it.

  • Jeanne

    THANK YOU! We visit Disney once or twice a year and I have witnessed the same things every time. Because we are fortunate to visit so often, I don’t feel like it’s necessary to capture every moment of our trip on film. However, I usually bring my DSLR into the parks one day for some standard photos…other than that it’s point and shoot or iphone pics. The one that struck me was your number 3…I, too, find myself shaking my head at all the flashes going off around the castle during fireworks. It’s all I can do not to snatch the cameras from those around me and flip it to manual. But, that might be a little over the top. ;)

  • This year I just took the majority of my pics with my phone. We go every one to two years… and my phone takes acceptable pictures. I agree with all of your points, but especially the last one! I watched a dad carrying a giant ipad video his entire entry into the park and down main street, without once looking up from his screen to watch his kids frolicking… I wanted to shake him. Step away from the screen….

  • Great post about living in the moment to enjoy your family and vacation. I remember reading an interview with Annie Leibovitz where she said for her days out with her family she simply carries her iPhone as the best and most simple point and shoot. That speaks volumes. Great Post.