How To Take Special Occasion Photos At Disneyland

This month, my husband Phil and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. We are two true Disnerds – Disneyland was one of the first things we talked about – and because of this, we wanted our engagement photos to be taken at Disneyland. However, commercial photography is frowned upon at the park, so we had to get creative. Here are some tips that I have for anyone who’d like to take special occasion photos at the happiest place on Earth. 

Tip 1: Secure Magical Photographer

If you want to follow in our footsteps, the first step is hiring an adaptable photographer. We were lucky that one of my husband’s friends, Matthew Gush, is a professional photographer (shameless plug for hiring him: he is so good. He only didn’t do our wedding photos because he was already booked. THAT’S how good he is). We told him what he wanted, and he said he could make it work. You see, Disney does not appreciate it when you roll up to their park with tons of equipment, so Matt only brought what could fit in a backpack that also wouldn’t break any Disney rules. You gotta follow the rules, guys!

Tip 2:  Do Weather Dances

Sometimes Mother Nature isn’t going to cooperate with you. We had to reschedule twice in January because of rain. Unless that’s the gloomy vibe you’re going for (I’m picturing a Haunted Mansion “Till Death” themed engagement shoot, and it’s super cute. You’re welcome to steal that, readers.), you and your photographer have to be flexible with dates and times. The day we ended up doing it, the sun was out for a couple of hours before going back to gloom, and you better believe we took advantage of it. Your photographer should be able to make changes in post to brighten up and edit your pictures, but sometimes you just can’t photoshop beautiful weather.

One of these things is not like the other.

Tip 3: Make A Shot List

I also suggest mapping out where you want shots to be taken, and create a “shot list” for your photographer, kind of like what you would do for a wedding. To prepare for this, Phil and I did a trip to Disneyland for a “practice shoot,” i.e. an “I took pictures on my phone of my uncomfortable-looking fiancé at various spots in Disneyland” shoot. This makes your day enormously more efficient, and it takes some pressure off of your photographer. And though we had specific ideas, Matt would still see a gorgeous opportunity that we didn’t think of because, well, that’s his job. Again, it really does help if you fully trust your photographer.

Tip 4: Make Wardrobe Decisions

You want to express your guys’ personalities. You also want to coordinate your outfits, but not be too matchy matchy. At the same time, you also don’t want to arrive in a full on ball gown because that will draw way too much attention, and you’ll be much too hot to move. That’s a lot to think about, I know, but standard tips for photography sessions apply here: avoid huge logos and too many patterns. You’ll also want to decide if you want to include any (inconspicuous) props. Phil and I bought Mouse Ears with our wedding date embroidered on them to wear for about half of the session.

Tip 5: Don’t Underestimate The Importance Of Body Language

If the occasion you’re taking pictures for is romantic (engagement, wedding, anniversary, etc), be prepared to be kissing and holding your partner in public. If you’re usually not super into PDA, like me and Phil, this may take some getting used to. I kissed that man over and over all over Disneyland. However, these are the types of shots you need. You don’t want to stand there looking awkwardly at each other while Mickey watches you from behind. He’s always watching…

Overall, you want to have fun, be comfortable, and be ready to pounce! You never know how long kids will want to play in the jail at Toon Town before you can get in there.

Angie Dahl

Angie feels about books the way Smaug feels about gold: she can never get enough and will threaten people with her fire breath if she finds any are missing. Her book collection can only be matched by her stash of lipsticks, where her favorite shade is the same color as her boxing gloves. Her ultimate goal in life is to go on a murder mystery train.

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