Picture-Perfect with Disney’s PhotoPass

by Kristin B. Ford
AllEars® Staff Writer

Feature Article

This article appeared in the July 18, 2017 Issue #930 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.

Disney's PhotoPass Magic Shot

Walt Disney World guests and photo fans, mark your calendars! The resort will be hosting its second annual Disney PhotoPass Day on Aug. 19. This celebration features one-day-only character experiences, event-exclusive animated Magic Shots, and special photo locations at all four theme parks.

The return of this picture-focused celebration got me thinking about Disney's PhotoPass service and how it has changed over the years. Disney Parks want to help guests remember their vacations fondly, so they have professional photographers readily available throughout their properties. Using the service is simple, but there are many options for purchasing the photos, so let's take a look at what you need to know.

Memory Maker at Walt Disney World

First, Walt Disney World and Disneyland PhotoPass photographers take guests' photos for free. You do not pay anything at the time the photos are taken, so why not take advantage of that? (Unless, maybe, you are pressed for time.) Plus, PhotoPass photographers are happy to take their photos and then also take the same shot with a guest's camera or smart phone. The cost comes when you decide to purchase the photos or products made with the professional photos from Disney's PhotoPass. (Note that Walt Disney World guests who have the Gold, Platinum or Platinum annual passes receive complimentary downloads of all Disney PhotoPass photos linked to their My Disney Experience accounts. Disneyland Signature and Signature Plus Passport holders also receive complimentary downloads of Disney PhotoPass photos.)

The Memory Maker package at Walt Disney World is $199, but guests who purchase it online at least three days in advance of their arrival at the resort will save $30. There is no limit on the number of professional photos included in your package, although they must be taken within a 14-day period. The price includes photos taken in the park, with characters and even on some attractions and dining locations. You also receive Magic Shots (more on that later), animated images and ride videos. Given that individual photos cost about $15, opting for the photo package makes sense for many families. Plus, if you are linked to friends and family on My Disney Experience, their photos will be included in your package, so you have the option to share the cost. As a bonus, PhotoPass also often gifts accounts with professional stock photos of the resort.

As for those special images I mentioned, Disney photographers love to help guests create "Magic Shots." For one of these photos, a guest is asked to pose in a particular way for the shot. Later, when the image appears online, there will be an addition of a character or prop added to the photo. If Magic Shots aren't something you think you'd like, remember that taking the photo is free. You might be surprised by the end result! Plus, the photographer will take shots with standard poses in each location, too, so you're not sacrificing anything.

Getting started

** First, you'll need a free My Disney Experience account. This is the account used to manage all your reservations, FastPasses, and everything for your vacation, so chances are you already have set this up.

** If you're signed in to My Disney Experience when you purchase Memory Maker, it can be accessed by visiting Disney PhotoPass. If you're not signed in, you'll first need to claim your Memory Maker by adding it to My Disney Experience.

** Once you have arrived at Walt Disney World, stop and take lots of photos! After each location, be sure the photographer scans your MagicBand so that the photos will be saved to your My Disney Experience account. If you do not have a MagicBand, you will be given a PhotoPass card with a 16-digit code that you can enter manually and those photos will appear in your My Disney Experience account.

** You have 45 days from the date each photo is taken to download it as part of your Memory Maker package. After that, the photos expire. You can download each photo more than once, and you might want to do this if you choose to edit a photo and add Disney stickers and borders. (I always download an unedited version along with any changes I make. Just be sure to save the edited photo as a new photo and you'll have both in My Disney Experience.)

Memory Maker One Day — Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World also offers Memory Maker One Day, which is just what it says — one day's worth of photos, beginning at 6 a.m. ET on the day you select. Memory Maker One Day is $59 and can only be purchased through the My Disney Experience app. (Click on the three bars at the top left of the screen and then choose "PhotoPass," not "Memory Maker." Tap a photo and your choices will appear.)

This choice is popular for those participating in runDisney events or attending special events, such as Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, without spending other time in the parks. Photos taken during parties and similar events in the parks can be acquired the same way as other photos — by the photographer scanning a MagicBand or the guest manually entering a 16-digit number from a PhotoPass card.

RunDisney photos are compiled by race and bib numbers. You will need to input special codes to see photos. For example, photos from the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend were categorized this way: 2017-WDWK-IDSx-xxxx, 2017-WDWW-K5Kx-xxxx, 2017-WDWW-10Kx-xxxx, 2017-WDWH-ALFx-xxxx, or 2017-WDWM-ARAx-xxxx. Runners enter their bib numbers in place of the X's; if the bib number is smaller than five digits, place 0's in front of it. It can take up to 24 hours for the photos to appear in your account.

Disney PhotoPass+ — Disneyland

Disneyland offers two packages for buying groups of photos. Disney PhotoPass+ One Week is just what it says: All the photos, attraction photos and videos, dining photos and Magic Shots captured in a week at Disneyland property. This option costs $78. Or guests can choose Disney PhotoPass+ One Day for $39. Both can be purchased online. To redeem your purchase, choose a photo in your account and select "Activate." This can be done on the Disneyland mobile app or web site.

Because Disneyland does not use MagicBands, guests using PhotoPass have to collect photos on PhotoPass cards and enter the 16-digit codes to see them online.

Unlike the Walt Disney World package, there is no option to pre-purchase at a discount. You can still collect PhotoPass photos for free and decide at any point during the day in the parks — or at home for 45 days after the photo was claimed — to make the purchase.

Missing Photos

With the vast number of photos that the Disney PhotoPass photographers handle, it's inevitable that there will be some missing photos. You might be surprised how infrequently that happens, though, and when it does, the PhotoPass department is efficient and often successful at recovering pictures in most situations.

First, understand that it can take up to 24 hours for photos to appear in your online account. They usually appear much more quickly — often within the hour. When you're in the parks, it's always a good idea to check My Disney Experience before you leave. That way if your cherished photos are missing, you still have the opportunity to retake them or you can have a cast member start the search.

Each park (plus Disney Springs) has a PhotoPass center near the entrance where guests can view and purchase photos. These locations are clearly marked on park maps and staffed by cast members who can show you your photos on larger screens than your mobile devices and also help locate missing photos. If you do not want to wait in the lines, which can be long at the end of the night, you can contact the PhotoPass department by filling out a form online or even by calling 407-560-4300 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

In each case you will be asked to give as many details as you can about the photo: where it was taken, approximate time, who is in the photo, what they were wearing, etc. I have used all three methods of asking PhotoPass cast members to search for missing photos and I can only remember them not being able to find one photo in last the decade and that was because of a glitch with runDisney photos. Still, when possible, I try to also take photos with my cell phone camera as backups.

Portrait Studios

In addition to all the images taken with iconic backgrounds at Walt Disney World, Disney PhotoPass photographers also can create portraits with traditional studio backdrops and props. There are two studios at Walt Disney World that were presumably set up for little princesses exiting the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique locations so that parents can capture images of the finished makeovers. We did that with my daughter after one of her magical transformations. The PhotoPass studios are located adjacent to Guest Relations in the Marketplace at Disney Springs and in Castle Couture behind Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom.

However, these studios are open to all guests, so anyone can walk up and have photos taken and added to My Disney Experience. They feature traditional backdrops in neutral colors. Perhaps you want a formal photo of your group or a headshot for professional reasons? You might find it worth taking advantage of the studios and including these shots in your Memory Maker package instead of paying for them later at home.

If you are looking for more customized photos, Disney Fine Art Photography & Video at Walt Disney World books sessions. This is the same group that does on-property wedding photography, but it also can be reserved for family pictures, senior photos, quinceanera photos, or other occasions.

The group offers three photo packages. The Mini Portrait Session lasts 20 minutes and guests choose the location for the photo shoot at one of five Walt Disney World hotels: Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Boardwalk, Beach Club, Art of Animation or Animal Kingdom Lodge. Afterward, you will immediately receive your images on a flash drive with a copyright release. The Mini Portrait Session costs $180 plus tax.

The Mini Magic Kingdom Portrait Session is a 15-minute casual photo session with professional photographer and assistant with Cinderella castle as your backdrop. This Limited Time Offer is available through Dec. 22, 2017. Sessions take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. Digital images are sent via a link to the guest's email within 24 hours. The Mini Magic Kingdom Portrait Session costs $195 plus tax.

The Enhanced Portrait Session is a one-hour booking with a choice of locations throughout Walt Disney World (the above hotels plus Epcot, Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios). This package not only includes the professional photographer but also an assistant, who helps with the poses and lighting equipment. Afterward, your portrait retouching and artistic enhancement are included. Because of that additional work, it takes about 4 to 6 weeks for a private website to be created for you to view, share and order your photos. In addition, you receive a 6-inch by 6-inch book of your photos with your family name. The Enhanced Portrait Session costs $399 plus tax.


** Don't forget to download your photos before they expire! Multi-day packages no longer include a CD, so it's up to you to save images you have paid for.

** If that expiration date sneaks up on you and you need more time to edit and download your photos, Disneyland guests can purchase a 15-day extension for $19.95.

** You can purchase individual photo downloads if you do not want an entire package.

** Walt Disney World passholders also can purchase an archive disc of their photos for $29.95.

** Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World sell gallery discs of stock photos for $29.95.

** You can follow Disney PhotoPass Service on Facebook and Twitter for updates and fun photos.

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Disney's PhotoPass at Walt Disney World

Disney's PhotoPass at Disneyland

2016 PhotoPass Day at Walt Disney World

PhotoPass Locations in the Parks

Disney Fine Art Photography & Video

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Kristin Ford is a freelance writer who lives in Orlando. She wrote about The Walt Disney Co. during many of her 17 years as a journalist at the Orlando Sentinel, before joining the AllEars.Net staff. Kristin writes about Disney news from a parent's perspective, covering Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Channel, Disney Publishing and Disney Interactive and more. You can follow her adventures through the parks with her husband and two children on her A Mom and The Magic blog and on Twitter and Instagram @Kristin_B_Ford.


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.