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Wide-Angle & Night Photography at Disney World: Tips & Ideas

Rose is a full-time freelance writer who also loves exploring with her camera.

Learn how to take great pictures on your next trip to Disney World.

Learn how to take great pictures on your next trip to Disney World.

Level Up Your Vacation Photos

Vacations are an ideal opportunity to take gorgeous pictures in brand new locations. A trip to Walt Disney World is no exception. Whether you're a serious photographer or you're simply a parent looking for advice on taking better pictures of your kids while traveling, there are a number of simple tactics that will help you take your vacation pictures to the next level.

Shooting Wide Angle at Disney World

Arguably many vacation destinations make great places to shoot wide angle. These shots allow you to capture the essence of a scene in a way that you can't with close-up shots.

For example, part of the experience of being at the Magic Kingdom is that it's crowded. You have a hard time getting more than a couple of feet of space to yourself at any given time. Instead of fighting the crowds and trying to get a lot of clean, tight shots, embrace the crowds and include them in your photos.

Maybe you're watching a parade, and there are tons of families on both sides of the street. Instead of focusing solely on the parade floats and zooming in close on them to capture every tiny detail, make a point to include some of the spectators in your photos. These pictures will give you a better overall feel of the parade.

How to Take Pictures During the Rides

Another important element of wide-angle photography at Disney World is taking pictures during the rides. Many rides have narrow corridors with tight corners. A wide focal length or range of wide focal lengths will give you a better chance of capturing these rides successfully. As most rides move fairly quickly, you don't have time to worry about zooming in and capturing every detail crisply. You're better off taking a few wider shots and then putting the camera down to enjoy the rest of the ride.

Night Photography at Disney World Theme Parks

While you don't have to visit Disney World at night, for many people, the nightly shows are one of the highlights. A fireworks show or parade is the perfect way to end a full day of rides, shows, shopping, and food. Of course, you want to capture these nightly events the best that you can. There are tons of articles out there with basic night photography tips for photographers of all levels. I highly recommend reading a few articles about night photography before your trip so that you're equipped with go-to tips.

Do You Need a Tripod?

One of the top tips for night photography is to use a tripod. Using a tripod minimizes the risk of blurring in low light levels.

While it would be great to use a tripod at Disney for the nightly parades, fireworks, and other shows, it isn't a good idea, due to the large crowds. You'll struggle to find a place to set up a tripod safely, particularly at the Magic Kingdom. Leave it at home for this trip and focus on other key night photography tips, such as composition, choosing an optimal shooting spot, and using the correct camera settings.

Choosing a DSLR Lens for Wide-Angle and Night Photography

If you plan on taking pictures with your smartphone or point-and-shoot camera only, you don't need to worry about choosing a lens. If you're traveling to Disney World with your DSLR, you'll have to consider which lenses to take with you. There are a few important factors to take into consideration.

Important Factors

  • Wide angle focal length: Wide angle gives you more flexibility in tight, crowded spaces, including rides.
  • Low light capability: This gives you more options at night and in dimly lit settings, again including rides.
  • Weight: As a DSLR user, you know that many camera bodies and lenses are heavy. Adding a 3.5-pound lens to a 1.5-pound camera body means that you're carrying around 5 pounds of camera. Choosing a 1.5- or 2-pound lens significantly lowers the total weight. You may decide that it's worth sacrificing a little image quality to save yourself hours and hours of lugging heavy gear.
  • Camera strap: Don't forget to bring a good camera strap. I can't tell you how many people I saw walking around the theme parks with a standard-issue neck strap that leaves your neck aching after just an hour or two. Even worse, I saw some people quit using the strap altogether and leave the camera perched on top of a stroller. You want to carry your expensive gear comfortably. Spend a little more to get a professional strap like a Black Rapid or Joby. Whether or not you're a professional photographer, you'll be glad to have it.

Why I Chose the Sigma 18–35 mm f/1.8 for My Disney World Trip

My husband and I traveled to Orlando in January 2015. For the trip, I chose to rent the Sigma 18–35 mm f/1.8 from Borrow Lenses. I knew that I wanted a wide-angle lens with great low light capability. The Sigma 18-35 fit both of these criteria. It's also in my price range, which means that the rental fees were relatively low, and if I'm interested in buying it, I can afford it within the next couple of years.

I was very impressed with this lens. I can really see why Sigma has gained a reputation for producing high-quality lenses in recent years. The 18–35 has a solid build with sturdy construction and internal zooming. It doesn't have Image Stabilization (IS), but I had virtually no issues with blurry images, even at night and on dark rides. I'm not going to rush out and buy this lens any time soon because I don't have a lot of use for it in my day-to-day photography routine at home. However, I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a wide-angle lens with low light capability for under $1,000.

Renting DSLR Camera Lenses

Additional Tips for Great Disney World Photos

  • Think about whether or not you want to include crowds in your images. As I mentioned before, Disney parks are often quite crowded, especially Magic Kingdom. The heavy foot traffic, long lines, and big crowds are part of the experience, and it can be fun to capture some of that in your images. For example, think about taking pictures of people queuing up for rides or gathering with phones and cameras in hand for a parade or fireworks display.
  • Look for unique perspectives. There are tons of images of the Disney theme parks that look exactly the same. While there's nothing wrong with having your own straight-on shot of the Cinderella Castle or Spaceship Earth, think about what you can bring to the equation that will set it apart from the crowd. Look for unusual angles or compositions and embrace opportunities to shoot at golden hour with soft light.
  • Make sure to take pictures of your family and friends. As you look back on vacation pictures years later, you want to remember who was there. Don't forget to take at least a few pictures of the people in your travel group. Include context so that you know where you took the pictures, such as posing at your favorite restaurant in the Epcot World Showcase or right after you get off of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
  • Use your pictures to tell a story. One neat thing that you can do with vacation pictures is make an album. There is something about having a physical album that just isn't the same looking as digital pictures on a computer. Instead of simply snapping random photos, think about how you'll be able to use your images to tell a story of your trip in a photo book.

© 2015 Rose Clearfield


poetryman6969 on June 17, 2015:

I think I like the ceiling photo the best.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on February 16, 2015:

Thanks, Glimmer Twin Fan! Disney World is a blast, with or without a camera in hand.

Claudia Porter on February 16, 2015:

Well now I'm ready to hit the road to Disney World with (or without) my camera. Nice hub with great tips and I really liked the world showcase photo.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on February 05, 2015:

Thanks, magicalvacation! I agree!

Josh Avery on February 05, 2015:

Love the pictures-- plenty of detail in the pictures which is what WDW is all about! °o°

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on February 04, 2015:

I'm so glad to hear it, MsDora! Thanks!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 04, 2015:

Very helpful--from positioning to the idea of renting lenses. Beautiful demonstrations! This article is a keeper. Thank you.