Disneyland isn’t just one of the most magical places on earth: it’s also one of the most photographed. The Disney Parks regularly tops lists of the most Instagrammed places in the world, and for good reason – they’re designed to be freakin’ gorgeous! But capturing all of the magic isn’t as easy as you’d think: from harsh sun to crowds of brightly dressed people to that inevitable sticky, sweaty look everyone gets around 4pm, there’s a certain art to Disneyland photography. Ok, maybe not art. More like craft. Art AND craft.
The point is, Disneyland photography is challenging. There’s a reason why Disney hires a bunch of photographers to camp out at the best Disneyland photo spots and sell you high quality pictures at premium prices! But even if you’re not a professional, you can absolutely take some truly Instagram-worthy Disneyland photos. Our Disneyland photography tips will have you covered on technique and style, and our Disneyland picture ideas will help you capture your trip like a pro, no matter your level of expertise.
Table of Contents
I want to give a little disclaimer here: while we are professional travel bloggers who take lots of pictures, and I am a former Disney World Cast Member with a massive crush on all things Disney, we are NOT professional photographers. So we’re gonna skip most of the really technical stuff and keep our photography tips to a level that you can easily emulate yourself, whether you’re working with a high quality smartphone camera or a fancy DSLR.
Psst: Looking for more Disney posts? We’ve got a bunch! Check these out:
- The Disneyland Scavenger Hunt & How to Next-Level Your Disneyland Trip
- What to Pack for Disney: The Ultimate Disney Packing List (for Adults)
- How to Do Disney: A Disney Parks Guide by a Former Cast Member
- 10 Tips for Soothing Your Post Disney Depression
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Disneyland Photography Tips
Disneyland is the perfect place to let your inner child run free and dive straight into the welcoming waters of nostalgia, and a magical place where you’ll create memories with your loved ones that you’ll cherish forever. Take pictures at Disneyland is a great way to document your vacation and visit to Disneyland, whether it’s your first trip or your thousandth!
But capturing Magical Moments at Disneyland isn’t the easiest task – that’s why there are Cast Members whose job it is to stand in specifically photographable spots and use excellent cameras to capture them for you.
But let’s say, theoretically, that you are a cheapskate and want to take your own photos (and come join the club! We don’t have matching t-shirts or anything. We’re a club for cheapskates). Well, we’ve got plenty of tips to help you capture the magic of Disneyland during your next trip all by yourself!
Be Prepared for Hard Lighting
From morning until sunset, the lighting at Disneyland is INCREDIBLY hard. The sun is hot and bright, which does more than just making you extremely prone to buying Dole Whips and Mickey Bars.
The buildings cast dark shadows, and if you happen to look in a certain direction, half of your face gets eaten by darkness, like some kind of Disneyland horror movie. This is probably the biggest challenge when it comes to photographing Disneyland.
If it’s a clear, sunny day, the worst hard lighting starts late morning and lasts all the way until twilight – this was the case with our most recent trip. Your best bet is to go on a day that’s partly cloudy: the clouds will provide the perfect cover all day long.
Still, if the sun just happens to be shining pleasantly overhead, pack a ton of sunscreen and plan to take most of your photos as early in the morning as possible – or during that golden hour of twilight.
Wait for a (Semi) Clear Shot
Patience is the name of the game when taking photos in a crowded place like Disneyland. There is seemingly ALWAYS a family in matching neon shirts, a couple in bright red tracksuits, thousands of people taking selfies, and a million other people blocking your ideal shot at all times.
Deep breaths – the path will clear, eventually, for a second or two at a time. You just might have to stand there for a while, serenely, meditating, framing your shot, thinking about being “in the moment,” etc.
Or just say f*** it and include people in your photos. Hey, it’s more “authentic” that way. And on that note ….
Focus on a Subject in Every Shot
Whether the subject of your photo is the castle, a delicious Mickey bar, you and your loved ones, or a character, it really helps to have a subject in every shot at Disneyland. In the photo above, the subject is the girl, and the background is the Mad Tea Party – it’s bright and colorful, but just out of focus enough to help wash away all of the people in the background (waiting for a moment when the ride is mostly clear helped a lot, too). The effect almost looks like a private moment.
Focusing on a subject and especially utilizing depth of field will really help your Disneyland photos, particularly in crowded areas. Otherwise, your photos may end up just looking like you were taking a picture of the crowds! You’ll notice that in many of the pictures below, there are plenty of crowds and people, but they’re far enough away from the subject or just out of focus enough to fade into the background.
A little bit of editing helps draw the eye as well: using a vignette, blurring or de-saturating the background slightly, or just brightening up your subject will all help it “pop.”
Angle Your Camera Up Above the Crowds
A lot of the photos below are taken of stuff ABOVE the crowds: a pretty dessert that I’m holding way over my head, a bunch of balloons floating in mid-air, the castle towering over the streets. By focusing your camera upwards, you’ll reduce the crowds to nothing more than a blur of anonymous heads.
Other than taking pictures of stuff above you, you can also achieve this affect by making yourself lower and aiming your camera upwards. Yes, this means getting down on the ground in front of your photo subject like you’re about to propose. Bonus points if you do this in front of the castle and make everyone around you gasp. Extra bonus points if someone yells “OMG, I just got 5 points on the Disneyland Scavenger Hunt!” 😉
Utilize the Photo Pass Cast Members
Here’s a secret that you may not know, from one former Cast Member about another: those handy Photo Pass Cast Members, who are always camped out in the best possible spots to take the most iconic photos at Disneyland, are actually your BFFs.
In addition to taking Disney Photo Pass pictures – which are always excellent quality, but cost extra $$ – those Cast Members are happy to take a photo of you using YOUR camera. And they’re handy with those cameras, too: hand them your beloved DSLR and they’ll fiddle with the settings like experts, lining up your shot just right. It’s like asking a stranger to take your photo but the stranger happens to be a professional photographer whose job is it to take photos of strangers for free. Jackpot!
So next time you see a line of people all taking the perfect shot in front of the Walt and Mickey Statue, get in line and wait, and then hand over your camera to an expert.
What to Pack for Disneyland (for photos)
What to pack for Disney is a whole other level of strategy, but when it comes to taking the perfect Instagram shot at Disneyland, we do have some helpful suggestions!
But first, one thing you absolutely should NOT bring to Disneyland? A selfie stick. They’re not allowed! That means that if you’re alone and want to take pictures of yourself, or maybe you want some couple/family shots, you’ll either need to ask a stranger orrrrrr suck it up and bring a tripod. But more on that tripod thing below.
Camera Gear for Disneyland Photography
- Camera: Duh, you need a camera. But depending on your needs, you don’t necessarily need THE BEST camera. I mentioned that we aren’t professional photographers, but we did just ball out on a REALLY nice camera (this one) so it sort of feels like we should be? (We’re not, though.) Before we upgraded, we had this DSLR, and before that we used this powerful, pocket-sized point and shoot for YEARS. It’s actually a fantastic camera, and we highly recommend it for travel. But if you don’t have a good camera and you’re not keen to shell out for a new one, don’t worry: your phone will do just fine. Most smartphones these days have awesome cameras – and there are even lenses, like this wide angle lens that fits right on your cell phone!
- We love our Travel Tripod. It’s TALL, but it compacts down into a small size and it’s nice and lightweight! We love being able to whip out this bad boy when we want to capture a couple’s shot. It sets up and breaks down really easily, and we highly recommend picking it up if you want to take your photos to the next level!
- Camera Bag: If you’re using your phone for cameras, you don’t need a camera bag. But if you’re bringing gear, like lenses and a nice body (… camera body, but we’re glad you’re feelin’ yourself) you’ll want a comfortable camera bag that can fit your gear PLUS all the snacks, water, sunscreen, and other emergency Disneyland supplies. We take our Pacsafe Camera Bag everywhere we travel!
What to Wear for Disneyland Photos
- Mickey Ears
Yup, you gotta do it. I couldn’t find mine for this trip and I regretted not having them the entire time! I know, I could’ve bought a pair in the park, but … is it not clear yet that I’m a huge cheapskate?!
Mickey Ears are the perfect accessory to any Disneyland photo. Plus, they add extra height, which is perfect for those above-the-crowd upward angled shots we talked about.
Pick up a pair before your trip to save $$, because they are PRICEY once you arrive! You can get a basic pair of Ears on Amazon like this one, and you can even snag a pair of those rose gold Ears in the photo above from the Disney Amazon store!
- Hair Bow
A hair bow is the next best thing to a pair of Mickey Ears, and it’s what I went with for our most recent trip. It clips right in so it’s comfortable enough to wear all day long (unlike a pair of Mickey Ears, which are best worn for photos only if you’re prone to headaches like I am).
Find a big, oversized, brightly colored hair bow that will stand out against your hair color. Lighter colors like white, pink and yellow work best for dark hair, and bright colors like blue and red are perfect for blonde hair.
There are roughly a zillion hair bows for sale on Amazon, but our favorites are these glitter bows in red and gold, these bows for every season (especially Halloween omg), and these epic colorful bows. I’d tell you where to get the hair bow I wore in these pictures, but unfortunately I
stole borrowed it from Jeremy’s teenaged sister.
- Disney-Inspired Outfit
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to dress in a silly costume to look theme-appropriate for Disneyland (and in fact, costumes aren’t allowed in the parks for anyone over the age of 14). If you haven’t heard of Disneybound, allow me to be your introduction to the wonderful world of Disney inspired outfits! Sure you, can buy something with Minnie ears on it or whatever, but if you’re not the type to buy Disney-branded clothing just for a photo op (ahem: me, cuz y’all know I spent all my money on tickets and food, right?) you can totally cobble something together using whatever you have handy in your closet!
My outfit for our most recent trip was Americana style and inspired by Jesse from Toy Story: jeans, a blue chambray shirt, a yellow cardigan, a cheap red bandana, and a red pair of my favorite travel sandals. That’s it. Normal clothes that I already had. Plus, I was comfortable all day long, which is 1000000% more important to me than looking cute in photos (I know, I’m a terrible Instagrammer).
Bonus Tip: If you do opt for a dress, I recommend wearing a pair of comfortable spandex shorts underneath to prevent any dreaded chafing. This pair is my favorite because they have POCKETSSSSSSS! And who wants to keep track of a purse at Disneyland?!
Disneyland Photography Ideas
Now that we’ve covered all enough to make you a Disneyland photography pro, let’s jump into some of the best and most creative Disneyland photo ideas! We threw in our favorite shots from our most recent trip, and then I spent like like a thousand hours scouring Instagram for …. “research” (bright side: my entire feed is now Disney themed).
Here are the best creative pictures to take in Disneyland as well as Disney’s California Adventure!
Give the Castle Some Love
Disneyland begins at the castle. It’s iconic. It’s beautiful. It’s what dreams are made of. It’s specifically designed to look bigger than it really is, and if you’re really loaded, you can hang out inside. Magical.
You’re want the castle in the background of as may shots as possible, right? But one of the best Disneyland photos you can get is a full on castle appreciation shot. We framed this one with the back of my head and a giant, pretty bow. Mickey Ears are also perfect in this shot. We also love photos of Mickey Ears being held up in front of the castle!
The Castle, but from One Side
It’s realllllly hard to get a picture in front of the Castle without a zillion people. Trust us, we’ve tried. But there’s a fantastic alternative: head off to one side! On other side of the Disneyland castle there are pathways leading into other areas of the park.
Sure, there are still people passing through, and you’ll need to wait for a clear shot. But in our opinion, it’s the perfect place to set up your tripod and take a few adorable couple shots!
The Small World Wall
Famous for being the most Instagrammable wall in Disneyland, the baby blue and white patterned wall outside of this infamous ride is the PERFECT backdrop for photo ops. We love taking advantage of pretty walls for photo ops, because you’re guaranteed to have a crowd-free backdrop.
Plus, that color is PERFECT any time of day! We love the way the red of the Mickey and Minnie Sundaes from Clarabelle’s in Toontown pops against this wall in the photo above – what do you think?
The Castle + Ballooons
This is another one of those iconic shots, but honestly, it all depends on luck! You’ll have to catch a Cast Member selling balloons in just the right spot, and then get down on the ground and angle upwards to frame it JUST so. If you get REALLY lucky, you might even get this shot with one of the special balloon bunches!
We sadly didn’t get lucky enough to take this shot on our last trip, so it’s still on our wish list for next time.
The Pink Teacup Outside of the Mad Tea Party
This is another Photo Pass spot, and I don’t think we would have even noticed it if not for a Cast Member waving us over. It’s a cute spot to sit with your sweetheart and post for a couple’s photo. Cozy up!
Mid-Spin on the Mad Tea Party
This photo isn’t easy to take, but only because you’re in the middle of a ride spinning at a zillion miles an hour. You’ll need a buddy to pull off this shot. One of you will have to handle the spinning work – and I learned while taking this photo that those teacups are HEAVY when you’re spinning all by yourself!
To nail this shot, the photographer will need to hold as still as possible or use a quick shutter speed. If you’re using a phone, you might try taking a video and screenshotting a flattering frame. The model will be moving, laughing, hair flying, breeze flowing – everything you want in a model, really. But try to remember one thing: keep your hair out of your face and mouth! I kinda managed
The Walt & Mickey Statue
There’s something about the Walt and Mickey statue in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle that just kinda gives you a lump in your throat and makes tears spring to your eyes. Er, maybe that’s just some residual Cast Member love left over? Guys, I can’t even get through a mental replay of Walt saying “to all who come to this happy place, welcome” without tearing up. Disney got me real good.
Anyway, whether you revere Walt and Mickey as your iconic former employers like I do or you just think it’s a cool lookin’ statue, it’s a fantastic photo op. It’s also one of the most popular places to take photos in Disneyland, sooooo be patient, wait your turn in line, and cross your fingers that a Photo Pass Cast Member shows up to help capture your shot!
Holding the Disney Balloons
This is another one of those “you gotta do it” photo ops that’s way too cute to pass up just because it’s super common. Every Disney Cast Member carrying balloons full well expects to help with this photo op roughly 198268276 times a day, so don’t feel shy about (politely) asking to pose holding them.
Don’t worry: the Cast Member will still be holding onto the end of the balloon strings, so you’re in no danger of accidentally releasing a very expensive bunch of balloons into the air (and if you do, it’s on the Cast Member, not you. So they’ll hold on tight!)
We jumped on the first bunch of balloons we saw, but we would have loved to take this photo somewhere on Main Street USA, or anywhere within eyeshot of the castle. So if you see some balloons near the castle, make a bee-line!
Holding Something Delicious in front of the Castle
There are roughly 1 zillion delicious treats at Disneyland, and they never look more tantalizingly tasty than when they’re being held up in front of the Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. This particular macaron is from the Holly Jolly Bakery, conveniently located on Main Street USA just a few steps away from the castle. It’s a one stop shop for Instagrammable Disneyland treats.
If you’re too far from the castle to get this shot, find something else that’s iconically Disneyland for the same style photo. Try holding a Dole Whip up in front of the Adventureland sign, for example.
At a loss to find something iconic before your Mickey Bar melts all over your hand? Just look for the nearest bunch of balloons: the colorful Disneyland balloons make an excellent photo backdrop for a Disney treat!
- Bonus Tip: To maximize the appeal of this photo, get a manicure before your trip – the more Disney-appropriate your nails look, the better. For Instagram, of course. Or just take the easy/cheap way out and get that extra AF look for less with these Disney nail stickers. I’m kicking myself for not finding these earlier!
The Disneyland #Shoefie
I didn’t make the word shoefie up, I swear – it’s a real hashtag! This angle is also known as #FromWhereIStand. Let the record stand: I’m not actually an expert on shoe-related Instagram hashtags, I just found these while researching for this post. … And took note.
Anyway, keep your eyes out for some pretty patches of ground for a good shot. There are a whole bunch of them – in fact, here’s a guide to Disneyland Shoefies on the Disney Style blog! See, I told you I didn’t make that word up. There’s a good one in that area between the entrances of Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. There’s also a fantastic black and white Route 66 sign on the ground in Disney’s California Adventure!
- Pro Photo Tip: Take this photo up a notch and have everyone in your party stand in a circle around your chosen spot, fitting all of your shoes into the frame! Oh, and wear cute shoes, obviously. Or at least, non-scuffed up shoes that aren’t super dirty. This photo is a great way to show off a good pedicure, too.
The Incredicoaster & The Pixar Pal-A-Round
What’s more Instagrammable than the GIANT Mickey face floating above the entire park, peering down on his minions like the Eye of Sauron? … too dark?
Anyway, whether or not you think Disney is a cult, and whether or not you realize Disney is a cult and happily joined up for life anyway, Pixar Pier is hella cute and you should get yo’self a shot in front of the Incredicoaster and the Pixar Pal-A-Round – that’s the new name for the Ferris Wheel.
- Pro Photo Tip: Lean right up on that fence, have your photographer (and/or your tripod) get down low like you’re shooting a music video, and angle that camera up. You’ll end up with more of the Ferris Wheel filling the background of your photo than the sky.
The Entrance of Pixar Pier
Pixar Pier is OPEN, people, this is NOT A DRILL! Unfortunately, we haven’t been yet 🙁 But, we’ve been creepin’ pictures, and we can safely say that it is VERY Instagrammable. We love that the photo above is taken from the back of the entrance sign, so it says “Adventure is Out There” instead of just “Pixar Pier.” Love it!
Cars Land in Disney’s California Adventure
Cars Land in Disney’s California Adventure is like what I want Death Valley to look like. Except Death Valley doesn’t look like that at all because nobody can live in Death Valley without, you know, dying.
But I could TOTALLY live in Cars Land. It’s so cute! It’s all retro and pastel and desert and adorable. And it’s suuuuuper Instagrammable. Some of my favorite photo ops are the giant pink and blue sign, the gas station, and the Route 66 Wall, which deserves its own shout-out.
We happened to dress in an Americana theme for our day at Disneyland, which fit perfectly with the Americana style of Cars Land. So if you’re keen to take photos here, maybe wear your jean jacket and something vaguely red and white blue.
- Pro Photo Tip: Pay attention to the background when you’re framing this shot, because if you don’t angle things just right, you might end up with V-shaped antennae or a pole sticking out of your head 😉
The Gas Station Pumps at Flo’s V8 Cafe
Flo’s V8 is an Instagram dream: the pink and blue pastel colors, the vintage-inspired aesthetic … it’s just gorgeous. There are a TON of great places to take a photo here, but our favorite shot is in front of the adorable gas station pumps.
Wear something that will pop against this baby blue backdrop, like red, yellow, white … black … just about anything except baby blue would work, honestly.
The Route 66 Wall in Disney’s California Adventure
Of all the Disneyland picture ideas in Cars Land, this is by far the easiest to achieve! Unlike posing in the middle of the street, this is one shot that you’re guarenteed to nail without a zillion people in the background. And the lighting is great, too: it’s protected from that much harsh, direct overhead light for most of the day.
We took the photo above about 2 hours before sunset, when the rest of the park was all shadows, and we got this perfect golden glow peeking around the corner and shining like a halo on Jeremy’s California blonde hair. It just looks like he belongs here, you know?
The Forced Perspective Wall in California Adventure
This is a fantastic Disneyland photo idea for couples (or families, we assume). It’s also a Photo Pass spot, so you’ll likely find a willing and friendly Cast Member there to help take your picture. We changed up our post by facing away from the camera, so it looks kinda like we’re strolling hand in hand down through fabulous Old Hollywood – er, except for that roped-off bit.
Fun fact: about half of the photos we took here included a runaway toddler in the background, who was disappointed to learn that “forced perspective” does not mean “excellent escape route” once her parents caught up to her 😛
Sunset Picture of the Castle
One of the last pictures of the day is a quintessential sunset picture of the Disneyland castle. Before you jet to get in line for The Ride Formerly Known As Tower of Terror (RIP) to catch the sun setting over the entire park, snap a photo of the castle as the sun sets on another magical day.
I love including the Disney balloons in castle pictures, because they’re so bright and colorful and quintessentially Disney. But these white and gray balloons were the only ones nearby. To my surprise, it actually worked – the picture turned out great, and I like the way the sunset shines through the balloons and illuminates them in whimsical sunset colors.
… That little pop of red thanks to some random stranger’s Mickey Ears helped, too 😉 thanks, random stranger!
Your Disneyland Tickets
Don’t toss those tickets just yet! Hold onto them for another photo op. We took ours at sunset in front of our trusty 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 SE rental car for the perfect “road trip to Disneyland” photo op. We love the way our Pixar Fest tickets stood out against the candy apple red of our rental car.
You could take your ticket photo at the entrance to the park as you walk in. We didn’t take our photo until we got home. Lots of things after your trip could be used as a background for your tickets: your house, all the schwag you picked up at the parks, or even a framed copy of one of the photos you captured above. How’s that for making Disney memories?
All I want in life now is to drive straight back down to Anaheim and spend another day at Disneyland. It’s only 8 hours from here! I can make it tonight if I really want to!!! Hgngghgngngngh. Time to go into post-disney depression soothing mode. Staying in the area for more than a few days? Check out this guide to spending 4 days in Los Angeles!
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Disclaimer: On our most recent trip to Disneyland, we received complimentary media tickets. We were also provided with a comped car courtesy of Mitsubishi. We’re so appreciative of our wonderful sponsors! All content was created entirely by us, which means that our sassy jokes, weird anecdotes, and implications that Disney is cult-esque are 100% our own and absolutely not their faults.