While it is hard to believe now after the fact, I did debate this question…for about 5 minutes. And then I knew for me, there was only one answer: YES! As a mama who absolutely loves to photograph her kids (and as a professional photographer), I just couldn’t not bring my camera on this likely twice in a lifetime only (but only once with them so little!) trip. No matter how much cell phone cameras have improved, even portrait mode can only take you so far in dark character meet and greets and moving rides! BUT I know that is NOT how a lot of other photographers (and moms!) feel, and I totally get why. It is honestly really overwhelming– the whole process of planning Disney, knowing that there will be SO MUCH going on while there, wanting to keep your camera safe, and of course, making sure you don’t MISS all the moments behind your lens. I get it!
But I am so so glad I brought mine, and know I would have highly regretted it if I didn’t. So I wanted to share my top 5 tips for brining your DSLR to Disney to make it simple, fun, and SO INCREDIBLY WORTH IT!
1). Go light on the gear! As much as I would have loved (truly honestly!) to bring 4 different lenses for all the different situations (I really wanted that 135mm for a GREAT compressed pic of my kids in front of Cinderella’s Castle!) that I might find myself in, I did my best to simplify! I ended up bringing 2, which felt perfect. If you are NOT a photographer who loves to talk gear, skip to #2 now- I’m going to get technical for a minute! I chose my 24-70 2.8, and my 50mm 1.2, and I think those were the right choices. I knew I needed something WIDER for the tight spaces the kids meet characters in sometimes and for a ride photo or 2 (you will see them below), so I chose the 24-70 for that…I would have loved the aperture options of my 35mm but thought I would want the extra width, and I think that was the correct choice for sure. And then I knew I needed my FAVORITE lens, my 50 portrait lens, and I am so glad I brought it though I will admit, I used it much less than the 24-70. I think maybe a 24-70 and a 35 would work too because you could zoom to 70mm when you wanted more compression than either lens typically offers when shooting wide, but have the 35mm for a wider aperture, so I might consider that next time! If you are only bringing 1 lens, a 24-70 is the one in my opinion!
2). Know when enough photos is enough! I didn’t bring my camera to Disney World to capture every single moment, interaction, and emotion. Let’s be honest: Disney is BIG. Your kids will experience so many big moments and big joy (and, in our case, some big tears and whining at moments too ;-). It’s a lot!). And it can be tempting to just put your camera in your hands and NEVER LET GO to make sure you don’t miss a single thing. But of course, if you do that…you will be missing a lot of actually experiencing it with your kids. So I tried to pick specific moments of character meals or specific activities we were doing to photograph instead of just keeping my camera literally in my hands ALL day. While I feel like I have gotten pretty good at being in the moment while photographing, the truth is the camera does create a little barrier and you can’t be quite as involved with it…so don’t hesitate to put it down sometimes! This leads to my next and favorite tip though…
3). For me, the biggest game changer to having my camera and using it well in Disney was that I carried it around on my favorite over the shoulder camera strap, the Joby Strap. It is a sling style strap that allows me to super comfortably wear my camera over my shoulder, swing it easily up to my face when I want to use it, and closely strap it to the small of my back or my hip when I don’t. In case that’s really hard to picture, here’s a visual of the strap– if you click on the photo, you can see it in action!
This strap allows me to keep my camera ON my body for all the parts of the day I might want to photograph, but OUT of my hands so I can enjoy and be in the moments with my kids! And to me, BOTH at home and on trips, the key to actually using my camera is to have it on me or near me so it’s really easy to pick up and use! If your camera gets put back in a camera bag under a stroller (under a diaper bag behind a princess dress stuffed in front of a poncho…amiright??), it is going to not only take a few minutes to actually get OUT to use, but it will be impossible to capture the little moments because they will be gone by the time you get it out! If you camera is on your hip quick to pick up, you can get it to your face and set the settings in under 5 seconds! So– find a strap you love, and use it! I personally do NOT recommend a neck strap for long wear, but that’s just because I find them uncomfortable! For my every day shooting, I use a hand strap just for extra safety. But when we travel? The Joby Strap is my only option.
4). Don’t forget the extras- make sure you have enough memory cards and batteries to not have to stress! I always bring 2 batteries when I travel (and of course a charger) so I don’t HAVE to charge every night and remember that battery in the AM! Instead, I swap batteries at night and start charging the empty one- but the new fully charged one is already in my camera (and bag!) ready to go!
5). Make sure you have a durable, easy, stuffable-in-the-bottom-of-a-stroller bag to store your camera in! I personally brought my camera and lenses in one of my favorite typical camera bags for sessions for the plane ride (make sure to carry it on with you and not check it!), and that worked so well! Then I swapped to a (much less cute) super practical sling shoulder bag for Disney that I felt provided more support and safety and a good water barrier on water rides! This bag also holds the camera body with a lens on it, which was important to me too. It worked so well, and was really easy and practical. I sadly cannot find the same bag anymore, but this bag is similar:
Small bonus tip: I brought my camera bag (or camera on the Job strap) with me from the stroller on most rides…but I admit, sometimes I left it in the stroller. I am well aware of how risky that was, and don’t necessarily recommend it- I’m just telling you what I did. It was very easy to find a spot for it at my side or my feet for every ride- it was never an issue. We didn’t do some of the MOST intense rides because our kids weren’t big enough, but from what we did do, I am comfortable saying it would have been fine in the bag on any ride. I also know people who brought it on the trip but left it at the resort a day or two- that wasn’t for me, but it could be an option for you!
And now I have to share just a few of my absolute favorite photos I was able to get with my DSLR while we were there…these are my constant reminder of how incredibly worth it it was to bring it!
TOTALLY WORTH IT, MY FRIENDS!!
Do you want to learn to take better pictures of your kids?!! Do you have a "fancy" camera but it isn't giving you the results you want (or even collecting dust on a shelf)? Click here for a quick E-Book with my top tips for parents!