7 Tips for Family Photos at Walt Disney World

On our trip to Walt Disney World, I knew I wanted to do a professional photo session because we never have good family photos when we’re relying on our cell phones and most of the time I don’t even make it into the photos because I’m holding the camera. On Eva’s first trip to Disneyland, we had a family session with White Rabbit Photo Boutique and I love that I have these beautiful pictures of Eva’s first pixie-dusted trip. I did not, however, pull it together to get a family session for Calvin’s first Disneyland trip two years later, which is basically the story of Cal’s life as the second child.

So, since this would be the first WDW trip for them both, I knew the moment had to be recorded. Somehow the stars aligned and Nate and Jensey from Root Photography moved back to the Orlando area just weeks before we got to FL, which meant I didn’t have to fly them in to take our photos. (Yay!). They did our engagement pictures and were our wedding photographers so it made sense to stick with them for this session. (In other news, apparently I’ve never blogged about our Disney wedding on this site…something I will excessively correct in the near future.)

Unlike our wedding and engagement photos, these photos contained two unpredictable humans and two really exhausted parents, so I set a low bar. I wanted one photo of the four of us looking at the camera and one cute photo of the kids to put up on the wall as the photo of their first Disney trip. Miraculously, I got both:

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As a bonus, we got lots of other cute pictures of the kids and even a few more family photos where not everyone looks run over. First, though, I’d like to share 7 tips for your family photo session at Walt Disney World, just in case you’re getting in front of the camera:

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1. Don’t just hire any photographer. I am practically obsessive when it comes to choosing photographers because I think that combination of style and talent is everything and definitely not universal. Although price should factor into it, I really feel like it’s a better investment to hire the photographer you’re totally confident in than the one that you might be satisfied with. Family photos are such a pain to organize and unless you’re doing them all the time, you’re probably going to want them to last for a while. To find a great photographer in an area you’re unfamiliar with (like Walt Disney World), check wedding blogs for referrals (like mine) and see if any of the photographers you like take family sessions.

2. Lower your bar. I don’t care how good your photographer is, there’s a high chance that your own family will suck on picture day. Trim your expectations to wanting just one or two great photos and be happily surprised if you get more than that. This is not your wedding. This is the upgraded version of JC Penney portraits. (PS – also, get to know and love the world of Photoshop. I’m not telling you which photos were tweaked, but yes there was some tweaking…)

3. Do whatever you can to keep your kids happy. This includes making sure they’re rested, they’ve been fed, and perhaps there’s a little extra sugar in them than usual. You also shouldn’t yell at them if they aren’t cooperating or force them into too many poses because there will be a riot on your hands and you’ll be left with photos of armageddon.

4. Put some thought into what everyone is wearing. I very much didn’t do this for the session and it wasn’t until we got the pictures back that I even thought about it. I knew I wanted our photos to be casual, but in retrospect I think it would have been a bit better if (A) Eva’s hair had been brushed, (B) any thought at all had gone into my hair or wardrobe, (C) Cal was wearing pants that fit, etc. The only person I wasn’t in charge of was Kyle, which is why he looks awesome and the rest of us look like we fell out of bed and ran outside. Not the end of the world, since I suppose we look like that all the time, but a little more effort is definitely going into planning for the next session.

5. Time it right. Nate and Jensey were really helpful with this since they’re used to shooting in that area. They gave us a choice of early morning or late afternoon photos and we took early morning so we could get the kids while they were fresh (albeit rumpled and full of maple syrup). I’ve seen family sessions that were obviously done midday with the sun overhead and the hard shadows on everyone’s faces, so I was really happy that we weren’t fighting with lighting issues on top of everything else.

6. Skip the parks. Not all photographers will give you the option of shooting in the parks, but even if yours will I would actually recommend that you stick to the resorts. We’ve done photos both in Magic Kingdom and in Disneyland and even though the photos are fun it is kind of a chaotic place to shoot. When we did Eva’s photos in Disneyland it was early in the morning but we were still trying to manage Eva AND fight crowds AND cover large distances to get to the different photo spots that we wanted. This time around, we were able to just wander around the resorts and get photos that had Disney in them but were ultimately just of our family. I think a park session might be in our future when the kids are much bigger (or perhaps for our next West coast session since those resorts aren’t quite as themed) but I was really happy that we chose Art of Animation this time around. Added bonus: since we were staying there, we didn’t have to lug a huge diaper bag around or worry about getting the kids on busses bright and early.

7. Schedule the session early in your vacation. This is another piece of advice that I didn’t follow, but I would recommend scheduling your family photos earlier rather than later. Part of the reason that we didn’t do this is because we were staying off-property for the first part of our trip and I didn’t know what our schedule would be like. We also wanted to get some photos with Kyle’s parents who didn’t come until the end of our vacation so that made sense for us. That being said, if it had rained on our session day we would have had only one more day to try to fit the photos in and then we would have missed our chance. We were also a little wiped out by this point on our trip, running on nearly two weeks of not much sleep, wearing clothes that definitely needed to be laundered, and I don’t even want to talk about my hair + Florida humidity. It’s enough to make me think that we should have done photos ASAP instead of having it be the last think we checked off.

All of that said, I am so grateful that the Roots are in our lives and that we have all of these photos to remember our first family trip to WDW. Cherished!

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Eva’s wearing her Disney Peek shirt and some H&M jeans and sneakers. Cal is head-to-toe H&M. Kyle and I are wearing who-knows-what, probably from Target and Old Navy because we’re awesome like that.

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One thought on “7 Tips for Family Photos at Walt Disney World

  1. It’s so cool that you fit in these photos to remember your first visit. They’re definitely well above the JC Penney/Sears portraits of yesteryear. lol Also, don’t beat yourself up about what you were wearing or not coordinating outfits with the family. I like how realistic these are and I’m sure when the kids are older, they’ll appreciate that you didn’t make them wear matching sweaters. lol

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