Photographing at Night in Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

I recently read an article about photography tips for busy tourist attractions. I think Walt Disney World qualifies as such a place. The first tip was to get up early to avoid the crowds. I have to agree this works for many tourist areas in the world but Disney parks are not accessible in the early morning. The exceptions being if you get an early dining reservation for a character breakfast in the Magic Kingdom or Epcot before they are open to guests.

For the most part, the best way to not get other guests in your photos is to stay after hours. This works especially well on Extra Magic Hour nights as many people leave before the park closes.

After Illuminations, people stream out of the World Showcase area and is a favorite time for photographers to enjoy people free time with the pavilions. Such was the case when I set up a tripod in France just fifteen minutes after the fireworks show ended.

France pavilion at night in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

France pavilion at night in Epcot’s World Showcase.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 30s, f/14, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length, tripod.

While attending Extra Magic Hours in the Magic Kingdom, I noticed the Hall of Presidents was still open around midnight. The lobby was empty and the Cast Members did not mind me setting up a tripod to take some photographs. A few guests would come through once in a while. For the most part, the place was empty.

Hall of Presidents foyer in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Hall of Presidents foyer in Liberty Square.
Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/60s, f/8, ISO 5600, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length, tripod.

I know for many people, staying late is not an option. I will be back next week with more ideas.

Scott's "Photographic Innoventions" blog focuses on intermediate to advanced photography concepts and techniques relevant for Point and Shoot and Digital SLR cameras.

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3 Replies to “Photographing at Night in Walt Disney World”

  1. Thanks for the interesting blog, Scott.

    I was not aware that tripods were allowed inside the parks. I’m glad to hear differently.

    Dan

    Scott replies: Yes they are though some Cast Members have been known to be unaware of it. Just use common sense so as not to endanger other people with it. Don’t forget about using lockers to store them during the day instead of carrying it around.

  2. Good photos and great tips. I’ve noticed a lot of folks suggest the stay late option for WDW photos. It seems they always focus on the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, rather than Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. DO you know if there is a reason why? I imagine AK might have fewer brightly lit scenes for night shots, but Hollywood Studios seems like it would be a natural, yet I rarely see it mentioned. I ask because I will be traveling down very soon and for the first time might have a chance to devote a night or two to photography. Thanks.

    Scott replies: The Studios are a wonderful place for night photography with all the neon signs and nicely lighted streets and attractions. Check out the blog stream by selecting the Disney’s Hollywood Studios category. I have a few night photos there.

    Animal Kingdom is harder as it closes earlier than the rest of the parks and often is not open after sunset. Search in flickr as there are many examples of night time photography there.

  3. Great nighttime picture! My family always sleeps in a bit and stays till closing time at the parks when we are fortunate enough to get to WDW. Love the parks at night!

    Scott replies: The parks are even more magical at night. Next time, stay past closing and wander around. Cast Members usually do not push people out until an hour after.