Ever return home from vacation and browse through your photos only to find that YOU are in hardly any of the photos? Disney helps the whole family get in the picture with its Disney PhotoPass service and Memory Maker digital photo downloads.
First, we’ll cover the basics about what Disney PhotoPass and Memory Maker are (and the sometimes confusing difference between them). Then, we go beyond the basics and consider whether pre-purchasing Memory Maker or stopping for Disney PhotoPass photos at all is right for your family.
[The Basics] Disney Memory Maker and PhotoPass
What Is Disney PhotoPass?
Disney PhotoPass is Disney World’s photo service for taking guest (that’s you!) pictures.
While you must pay for photo prints or downloads, the Disney PhotoPass photography *service* is free. When your photo is taken, the photographer will read your MagicBand or ticket with a handheld scanner. This will link the photos to your My Disney Experience account so that you can view your photos online. Photos can take up to a day to appear in your account, but will usually appear within an hour or two.
Disney PhotoPass photographers can be found all around Disney World including the four park icons and other notable areas in the parks, character meetings, some character dining restaurants, special events, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and more. Disney PhotoPass photographers are easy to identify with their white vests … and large digital SLR cameras!
Browse the PhotoPass selection on the map in the My Disney Experience app for all Disney PhotoPass photographer locations. There are also PhotoPass portrait studios at Disney Springs and the Magic Kingdom for indoor photos with various backgrounds.
Disney PhotoPass photos can also be Magic Shots with added characters in the images that you will see once the photos appear in My Disney Experience. Some photographers may offer Magic Shots, but be sure to specifically ask for “magic” if you are interested in this type of photo.
Disney PhotoPass photographers additionally will use your camera. After they take photos with their camera, feel free to hand them your phone or camera and they will happily take photos with your device as well, though this excludes Magic Shots.
Additionally, about a dozen Disney World rides have on-ride photos that will be included in your My Disney Experience PhotoPass gallery. Several of these photo-enabled rides including Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Slinky Dog Dash, and Haunted Mansion require MagicBands. For other rides, such as Test Track, Space Mountain, and Expedition Everest, you will choose your photo from a viewing area at the ride exit using your MagicBand or ticket so that it gets assigned to your account.
Personally, I’m not a fan of Magic Shots!
What is Disney Memory Maker?
Memory Maker is the digital image download package that you may purchase for unlimited downloads of your Disney PhotoPass photos.
Memory Maker cost is $199 and is available at a discounted price of $169 when purchased at least 3 days before your first photo is taken. Memory Maker is included with annual passes. Your Memory Maker purchase is non-refundable.
You may include Memory Maker when you purchase your Disney ticket package or add it later from the Disney World website.
Can I Order Disney PhotoPass prints or downloads without purchasing Memory Maker?
Yes! Other ways to purchase your Disney PhotoPass photos via My Disney Experience are individual digital downloads (currently $17 each), prints in several sizes (starting at $2 for two 4×6 prints), and photo products including mugs, photo books, ornaments, and cards.
[Beyond The Basics] Is Disney Memory Maker Worth It?
Whether or not to purchase Memory Maker is another Disney World trip planning decision that’s really a personal choice and the answer is different for everyone. I’ll step you through some considerations so you can decide if the Memory Maker advance purchase is right for you.
How long is your trip? Memory Maker has the potential to be a better value for longer trips since the cost is the same regardless of the number of trip days.
Do you plan on meeting lots of characters? Character meetings are a quick way to quickly fill your Disney PhotoPass gallery with lots of great shots.
Do you want lots of full family photos and may be willing to stand in line to get them? Again, if you want everyone in the shot, stopping for Disney PhotoPass photographers is a great idea.
If you answered “no” to all of these questions and don’t consider the $30 price difference between the full Memory Maker cost and its discounted advance price to be a game changer, just wait until you return home from your trip to see what photos actually get taken. This leads me to the next topic…
Can I buy Disney Memory Maker after my trip?
Yes! Memory Maker can be purchased at the full price when you return home. Just be sure to log into your My Disney Experience account to view your photos and complete the purchase before the 45-day expiration window has ended.
If you’re unsure about purchasing Memory Maker in advance and are already suffering from trip planning decision fatigue, this is one choice you can easily postpone. Simply purchase Memory Maker at the full price after your trip if you end up with lots of photos you want to keep. Then, after seeing the photos you’d actually be getting with your Memory Maker purchase, you can decide if the price is actually worth it for you.
During your trip, you may find that most Disney PhotoPass photographers have lines when you don’t feel like waiting. Maybe you don’t ride many of the rides that are PhotoPass-enabled. Maybe the photo quality just isn’t that great. All of these aspects will be unknown before your trip, so consider waiting until afterward to make your Memory Maker purchase decision.
Not all Disney PhotoPass photos are winners!
How Many Photos Can I Expect in Disney Memory Maker?
Your break-even point when comparing the advance purchase price of Disney Memory Maker to individually-purchased digital downloads is 10. Will you get more than 10 photos on your trip?
That depends on the length of your trip, how many Disney PhotoPass-enabed rides you will enjoy, the number of characters you will meet, and how often you’ll stop for other photos to be taken.
On our 7-day 2020 Disney World trip, we had 85 PhotoPass photos in our My Disney Experience account. In total, we stopped for photos with a Disney PhotoPass photographer 11 times and averaged 6 photos from each location (ranging from 2 to 9 photos). There were a few specific locations we wanted, but we otherwise didn’t seek out PhotoPass photographers often as it wasn’t a priority to get more than 2 or 3 good family shots from the trip. We also got photos taken on 12 rides.
Of the 85 total photos, several were near-duplicates, someone’s eyes were shut, and a few were out of focus or poorly exposed, so we ended up with 59 keepers.
That’s 59 Disney PhotoPass photos for 7-day trip when we weren’t trying to maximize the Memory Maker value. If family photos are a priority or you meet more characters (we met less than a half dozen), you could easily have more than 100 PhotoPass photos from your trip.
Where I see the most value in Memory Maker and where your number of photos will grow quickly is character meetings. Disney PhotoPass photographers will take photos of the informal interactions when meeting characters as well as posed photos. When you give your camera to a photographer during character meetings, they’ll only take the posed shot at the end. Some of my favorite PhotoPass photos are the informal shots before then when the kids are interacting with the characters with genuine smiles and I was able to stand back and record the entire interaction on video because Disney’s PhotoPass photographer was getting both informal and posed shots of it all.
Cinderella Castle PhotoPass Tip
Everyone wants a picture of the family in front of Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle, right? Disney places a half dozen PhotoPass photographers down Main Street USA to accommodate this demand and still, most have lines a few families long during most of the day.
Find a Disney PhotoPass photographer as close to the castle as possible. Don’t stop for the first photographer you see on Main Street USA. The castle is barely visible in photos taken from Main Street USA and your heads will likely block most of it! I’ve seen so many family “castle photos” from this location where the castle is barely visible. If you’re going to take the time to wait in line for a PhotoPass castle photographer, make it count! Get the photo up in the hub directly in front of the castle so that it’s large and memorable in your photo!
The difference between being right in front of the castle in the morning (large castle with no sunglasses or squinted eyes) versus deeper into the hub in the middle of the day (harsh shadows, sunglasses, and where’s the castle??).
Why Should I Skip Disney PhotoPass photography and Memory Maker?
The two overwhelming negatives of PhotoPass are waiting in line and poor photo quality. However, both of these are usually avoidable so don’t ignore Disney PhotoPass photographers completely for these reasons alone.
Yes, you may find several families standing in line for many Disney PhotoPass photographers. When you’re already waiting in line for park entry, security, attractions, and food, standing in yet another line can be annoying at best. However, if you arrive early for the popular shots (like before park opening for your Magic Kingdom castle photo) or just be cognizant of PhotoPass photographers as you walk around the parks, you’ll find plenty with little to no wait.
It may be tough to get a photo in front of the Millenium Falcon in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios, but we found a PhotoPass photographer bored and chatting with guests one night in the First Order area and got a few quick photos. Photos in front of Spaceship Earth are popular at Epcot, but the photographer on the bridge between France and the UK had no wait. Maybe Magic Kingdom castle photographers will always have long lines, but you can certainly get photos in other areas without wasting time!
It’s unlikely that you *won’t* end up with a few PhotoPass photos that are out of focus or poorly exposed. While you personally can’t fix focus issues, be aware of lighting when you spot a photo location. Is it a sunny afternoon and are the guests getting their picture taken squinting with scrunched faces? Are there trees nearby producing dappled lighting? Before getting in line to wait, quickly review the scene and skip it if nature is already working against you.
When my family is at the parks, we’ll typically stop for a PhotoPass photo if lighting is indirect and not harsh early or late in the day (avoiding those high-sun blown out photos with harsh face shadows) and the photographer has no wait. I mean, why not, right?
PhotoPass is offered at special events like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and for special occasions like the anniversary of Peter Pan.
*What Disney World Rides Have PhotoPass?
Your photo will be taken on select Disney World rides.
At some rides, the recent photos will be displayed in the attraction exit area and you’ll tap your MagicBand or ticket on the corresponding touchpoint to assign your photo to your My Disney Experience account.
Other rides use the MagicBand’s RFID technology to automatically add your photo to your account so you MUST have a MagicBand to get your photos from those rides. They are marked with *MB in the list below:
- Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin – Magic Kingdom
- Dinosaur *MB – Animal Kingdom
- Expedition Everest – Animal Kingdom
- Frozen Ever After *MB – Epcot
- Haunted Mansion *MB – Magic Kingdom
- Pirates of the Caribbean *MB – Magic Kingdom
- Rock ‘n Roller Coaster – Hollywood Studios
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train *MB – Magic Kingdom
- Slinky Dog Dash *MB – Hollywood Studios
- Space Mountain – Magic Kingdom
- Splash Mountain – Magic Kingdom
- Test Track – Epcot
- Tower of Terror – Hollywood Studios
Like photos taken by Disney PhotoPass photographers, ride photos will be included in your My Disney Experience account for individual purchase and will be included in Memory Maker.
Quality of ride photos certainly varies depending on the ride, time of day, and your location in the ride vehicle. Indoor roller coasters like Rock ‘n Roller Coaster and Expedition Everest almost always produce great photos because the indoor lighting is controlled and each vehicle only holds 4 people so your face is always visible. You may have less luck with Slinky Dog Dash at night or sitting anywhere in the back half of the boats on Frozen Ever After and Pirates of the Caribbean. I have yet to get a Frozen Ever After photo where all four members of my family are visible!
What If My Disney PhotoPass Photos are Missing?
PhotoPass photos won’t show up in My Disney Experience immediately or even in chronological order. I’ve had some photos show up within minutes while others take hours. Give photos at least 24 hours to appear before requesting a lost photo.
Still, it’s not uncommon to be missing photos from your My Disney Experience account after several days or to have photos of a different family instead, especially from rides relying on the MagicBand’s RFID reading. Tracking down missing photos is easy and usually successful.
Use the lost photo request form in the PhotoPass section of My Disney Experience. It will ask basic information like date, time, location, and a description of the people in the photo. The missing photos will usually be found in just 24-48 hours.
Will you be purchasing Disney Memory Maker on your next trip?