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Family Portrait Sessions at Walt Disney World; what to expect from a Disney photo shoot

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Did you know that Walt Disney World offers professional photos? I don’t mean the Photopass photographers that roam the parks taking your picture; I mean a family portrait session with professional photographers who will take a series of high-quality photos for you in one of the many beautiful Walt Disney World locations – including a Magic Kingdom photo shoot!

In the past three years, we have experienced four of these sessions and each time guests approached us to ask what we were doing, so I thought I’d write a quick post with all the information you need about a Disney family portrait session. I’ll include a few photos of our Disney photo shoots as well so you can see what the finished product looks like.

Family Portrait Sessions at Walt Disney World

What is a Disney family portrait session?

The family portrait sessions are scheduled at one of the Walt Disney World Resorts or one of the Walt Disney World Theme Parks. They are shot by a professional photographer who is an outside contractor (so not a Disney Cast Member, as the Photopass photographers are).

This typically means you get photographers who are well-trained and knowledgeable in their craft. Accompanying the photographer will be a Disney Cast Member who will be able to assist with posing you and your family, picking out the best locations for that time of day, and generally helping the photographer out.

We’ve found both the photographers and the Cast Members to be fantastic. They understand that you only have a certain amount of time for the shoot, and they try to take as many photos in as many different locations as possible. Most importantly, we’ve found them to be great with kids.

Having a professional photo shoot with kids can be challenging; they don’t care how much money you’ve just spent or that they’re wearing their best clothes or that you just want ONE shot of them smiling at the camera! You can make requests in your sessions (just the parents, just the kids, etc) and they will do their very best to accommodate you.

What packages are available and how much do they cost?

There are three options for your session: the Magic Kingdom Family Portrait Session ($1700), the Enhanced  Portrait Session ($399) and the Mini Portrait Session ($191.70). The main difference is obviously the price – the Magic Kingdom photo shoot is kind of crazy expensive, whereas the other two sessions are a little more affordable. The Magic Kingdom Family Portrait Session and the Enhanced Portrait Session include the exact same things, just in different locations.

With the Magic Kingdom Family Session, you obviously take the photos at various locations throughout the Magic Kingdom, and the photo shoot lasts for 1-hour. This option is only offered at 7.30AM before the park opens, is limited to two sessions per day, and is based on availability.

In order to have photos taken at any of the parks, you need to provide your own admission – in other words, you need a park ticket to get in, and it will count as a days admission, so plan to either stay at the parks or come back later to avoid wasting a whole days admission on a 1-hour shoot!

Although this is something that will probably always be outside our budget, I must admit that a Magic Kingdom photo shoot sounds like the most amazing thing, and I would love to give it a try one day – I mean, who wouldn’t love a portrait session with a Cinderella’s Castle backdrop!

The Enhanced Portrait Session is also a 1-hour shoot, and is offered at any of the other three theme parks (Animal Kingdom, Epcot or Hollywood Studios) or any of the Disney Resorts. Again, this is based on availability, so have a few locations in mind when making the reservation so you have a back-up if your favorite location is not currently being offered.

Both the Magic Kingdom Family Portrait Session and the Enhanced Portrait Session include editing and enhancements of the photos, a disc with the images taken (with a copyright release – this is important as this allows you to do whatever you want with the photos!), and a website with the images taken.

The disc will arrive somewhere between 4-6 weeks after the session, but the website is usually available 2-3 weeks from the session, so you can see the pictures a bit sooner.

It is important to note that the images on the website will be low resolution, so not be of a quality you will want in order to print them out. These images are just intended as a preview, or to share with friends on Facebook or via email. Wait for your disc to arrive in the mail to print any of the pictures out!

The Mini Portrait Session is slightly different. The session only lasts for 20 minutes, and you only have the photographer accompanying you, not the Cast Member. It is also only offered at five of the Walt Disney World Resorts (Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, or Disney’s Polynesian Resort) so there is no option to have this shoot in one of the theme parks.

The other big difference is that you don’t receive a disc with the pictures on; instead you receive a flash drive with the images on, and due to the lower resolution of these photos, they can only be printed up 8×10. So don’t choose this session if you’re planning on printing one of these pictures in a bigger format, as the resolution just won’t be good enough.

In my opinion, the Mini Portrait Session is just not long enough to get a good amount of photos if you have a large family. It can take time to move from location to location, to get everything set up, to get everybody posed, etc. I think you’d find you felt rushed, and the pressure would be on to make every photo perfect.

I do think this is a good option if you have young children though. Both of our sessions were the Enhanced Portrait Sessions, so they were 1-hour long. By the end of the hour, out kids were DONE. Harrison was refusing to look at the camera and pleading to go in the pool, and Grayson had been through three different outfits and a diaper change.

It’s a long time to ask kids to hang around and have their photos taken, and the photos at the end of the shoot are noticeably worse than those at the beginning! The 20-minute session would probably have been perfect for them.

Which is the best location?

This is really going to be up to you. It will depend on the kind of photos you are looking for, the kind of images your family tends to prefer, and also what your plans are for the rest of the day.

If you plan to spend the day at Animal Kingdom, it would be a good idea to have the shoot done there; that way, you can just bring a change of clothes (if what you’re wearing is a little too formal for a day at the parks) and once the session is complete, you’re free to explore the parks.

Similarly, you might want to choose the resort that you’re staying as the location for the session. This makes it easy to run up to the room and change once the session is complete – or mid-session if disaster occurs with a little one, and they need a new outfit! You also don’t have to worry about making it to a different place with everyone’s nice outfits in tact!

We’ve chose Disney’s Grand Floridian, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Beach Club Resort as the locations for our shoots.

For the one at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, we wanted something with a tropical feel; lots of greenery and sand, with a slightly more casual, informal feel. For the one at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, we knew we wanted the images to be more formal. Our choice of the Beach Club was based on wanting some summery looking photos as a family.

These locations worked perfectly for us, and the photographers did a great job of moving us to a few different locations around the resorts to get a good variety of pictures.

Ultimately, the choice on location will be up to you and the type of pictures you are looking for. Just remember that not every location is available all the time, and you might need to have a second and a third choice in mind when you make the reservation.

What should you wear, and what should you bring with you?

Again, this is up to you. The only rule Disney puts in place is that no bridal attire is allowed – so no showing up in a wedding dress! I would suggest something you will be comfortable in, especially if you’re opting for the hour long session, or the shoot is in the middle of summer when it can be upward of 90 degrees outside.

The last thing you want is to look uncomfortable and sweaty! Pinterest has some great ideas for matching family outfits for photo sessions that look put together but not overdone.

As far as what to bring, that is again up to you. If you have babies or young children, you might be traveling with a small toy store to keep them entertained! A favorite teddy bear or a bucket and spade for a beach shoot might produce a smile, but bear in mind that they might end up in the photos if the little ones then refuse to let go of them!

A toy that lights up or makes a noise would be a great idea to try to get a baby’s attention to encourage them to look at the camera.

If you’re traveling with little ones, it’s also a good idea to bring a small snack in case they get hungry halfway though – hungry kids are a lot less willing to smile for the camera! Of course, a change of clothes for little kids is essential – the younger they are, the more you might need!

Grayson was 6-months old at our Grand Floridian photo shoot and went through three outfit changes during the session – he didn’t even make it out of the car in his first outfit!

What is the cancellation policy?

Full payment is required at the time of booking the session, but you have up to 181 days before the scheduled date to get a full refund if you need to cancel. After that, the amount of the refund decreases down to just a 15% refund if the session is cancelled 3 days before the scheduled date.

You are able to request a new date, time, or location once the session has been booked, but any changes will be subject to availability. If for any reason the session has to be cancelled by Disney, a full refund will be given.

So how do the pictures turn out? 

Below I’ve included a small selection of the images we received from our four shoots. Note: None of the images I’ve included here have been edited in any way by me, this is exactly how we received them from Disney.

Of course once you receive your photos, you will be free to edit them as you wish (as my editing skills have progressed I’ve edited a few of the photos here and there) but I think most people will find the quality of the images is pretty great as they are.

We had a great time at the sessions and are really pleased with the photos we received. This is definitely something I would recommend to families if you have the time to fit this into your Disney trip.

disney family portrait session
disney family portrait session
disney family portrait session

For more information or to schedule a portrait session, call 407-934-4004 or visit www.disneyfineartphotography.com  

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