It's the Happiest Place on Earth. It was also our first trip together and our first time seeing each other after over three months of long distance. It had to be commemorated! So I brought my Canon T5i (which has since been upgraded to a 6D Mark II) and we spent our early magic hour taking pictures in the park. We also went to DCA for golden hour that evening.
It was summer, so even during our extra hour it was full of people. But by choosing spots that were just a few feet off the beaten path, we were able to get beautiful photos with iconic Disney locations in the background - and hardly any other people. We're counting down our top 5 spots to take stunning photos in Disneyland and DCA, and sharing tips and tricks that will help you get the perfect shot.
#5 - The Mint Julep Bar
The Mint Julep bar is a great place to stop after your morning magic hour ends - you can fuel up on beignets and get some cute candid shots before embarking on the rest of your day. People typically get breakfast either before their magic hour or before they enter the park for regular hours, so the Mint Julep Bar is pretty much deserted until mid to late morning. The overhangs and umbrellas prevent the sun from glaring too much and blowing out the lighter colors, and the powdered-sugar-laden results are adorable!
#4 - The Gardens on Either Side of Sleeping Beauty's Castle
If you want a twist on the typical castle photo, check out the garden paths on either side of the front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle. There's a wishing well, archways, and gorgeous flowers. Later in the day there are often character meet-and-greets here, so be sure to stop by early in the morning.
#3 - The Side of Thunder Mountain Railroad
Thunder Mountain is a classic ride - but it doubles as a fantastic photo op! Get those rocky red mountains in the back of your photos on the path from Fantasyland to Frontierland (the one that cuts over just to the left of the castle) and avoid having anyone else photobomb you. The area to the right of the ride - between the FastPass area and the Rancho Del Zocalo Restaurant - also has beautiful rocks and flowers in the spring and summer, but make sure you go early to avoid the foot traffic going from Frontierland to New Orleans Square.
#2 - DCA's Waterfront/CA Screamin'
In the hour before sunset, we headed to California Adventure to get some golden hour photos in front of California Screamin' (now known as the Incredicoaster) and the Mickey Mouse ferris wheel. We stood at the very edge of the water, where the front row of World of Color would be. There were already some ropes up marking off World of Color areas, but we were able to go down and take pictures nonetheless. We ran into some trouble with the ferris wheel - the lights for World of Color were up, and got in the way. We stuck with California Screamin' after that and got some gorgeous photos.
#1 - The Castle's Quarter Angles
You have to have a picture in front of the castle, right? But no matter how hard you try, there will always be people in the background. Try looking at things from a slightly different angle... a quarter angle, actually! There are side paths on either side of the castle (the ones with the arches and gardens, remember?) that begin with small clearings just off to the sides of the main In Front Of The Castle Area™. You'll still get the front of the castle, but your faces will block any tourists walking through the Castle and it'll be like you're the only ones in the park!
But be aware: park guests trying to rush their kids to Fantasyland first thing in the morning won't always be aware of what you're doing. We had our fair share of families paying no attention that walked directly in front of our camera as we were taking a picture instead of waiting just a second or two. Smile and be patient, and take advantage of the moments between families to get beautiful photos that will be your laptop or phone background for years to come!
One more thing: you're going to want clouds for this, or you'll have to deal with some *interesting* shadows that the sun casts across your face. We actually began here, but had to come back to this spot at the end of our shoot because the clouds weren't coming in until later that morning. We still had to work with some weird sunlight and a blown-out sky, but we think it turned out just fine!
BONUS PHOTO OP: Outdoor Rides!
To get a true candid, take photos on your DSLR selfie-style while you're on a ride! Make sure you have a camera strap tightly wound around your arm, so it doesn't drop. The camera strap is important - it's very dangerous to take in-ride pictures on your camera without one, as well as on a phone that can be jostled from your hand in a particularly bumpy moment. You can also pick different rides depending on your courage level - Dumbo or the Astro Orbiters are fairly easy, and the Teacups are fun to shoot especially if you're spinning... but we went full-out and took ours on Thunder Mountain Railroad! We do not recommend attempting photos (flash or otherwise) on indoor rides. We all know you want a killer photo from Space Mountain - but leave that to the in-ride cameras.
Where are your favorite spots to take pictures in the Disney parks?? DM us on Instagram or let us know in the comments!