A visit to Walt Disney World will be sprinkled with many magical and memorable moments, especially if this is a first visit for a child. For them, it is a place of enchantment and wonderment, a feast for their senses, and where they can meet some of their favorite characters. To little ones that believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, Mickey Mouse and Cinderella are not just people either in a costume or just dressed up, but the REAL Mickey Mouse and Cinderella. If you are like the vast majority of visitors, you will have your camera and be ready to capture these moments. To assist you in your quest to capture the magic, Disney has developed a service for this – PhotoPass.
PhotoPass is a complimentary service open to everyone wherein Disney photographers will take your picture and give you either a PhotoPass card tied to the pictures or scan your MagicBand to tie the pictures to your “My Disney Experience” account. If you don’t have a MagicBand, additional pictures can be tied to the same card by the photographer scanning it, or different cards can be obtained from the photographer. Once you create an account at www.disneyphotopass.com, you enter the codes from all of your cards to view your photos. You can then look through the assorted products that are offered and choose items you want to purchase.
For those that would likely be interested in obtaining more than just several photos, Disney offers an enhancement to PhotoPass called Memory Maker. Memory Maker is a photo package that includes digital copies of all the photos taken by PhotoPass photographers as well as attraction photos. Disney tends to use the terms PhotoPass and Memory Maker interchangeably, so it can be confusing at times. Just remember that PhotoPass is the name for the service and individual photos, while Memory Maker is the name of the photo package containing all of your PhotoPass pictures.
If you first find out about the Memory Maker option when you are at the park, you will not be able to optimize your use of the service and you will also miss out on a discount. With a little bit of planning and research (which you must be doing or you would not be reading this), you can determine ahead of your visit if the Memory Maker entitlement is something that will be of value to you. The goal of this post is to help you with that determination and to optimize your Memory Maker experience if you choose to take advantage of the service. Prior to a visit, it can be difficult trying to find out more about the service, the pros and cons, and whether it would be worth the expense. After all, you likely have a camera and feel that you could take pictures of your family and friends standing with a character just as easily as a PhotoPass photographer. So, why spend the money for something you can do for free?
1. Utilizing PhotoPass photographers, the entire party can be in the picture instead of missing the person who usually takes the pictures.
2. PhotoPass photographers are located throughout Disney World, especially around prime locations, spots with photogenic backgrounds, and at many character greetings. Two interactive attractions, Enchanted Tales with Belle and Star Wars Jedi Training Academy, are also staffed with a PhotoPass photographer. Note: At these attractions, you will be given a PhotoPass card tied to the attraction’s pictures even if you have a MagicBand.
3. A PhotoPass exclusive is Magic Shots, where the photographer will pose you as needed and then digitally add a character (like Tinker Bell or Stitch) or balloons to the picture. An enhancement to this for Memory Maker is Animated Magic Shots, where a short animation occurs overlaid on your still photo. For example, at Epcot a still photo of my family has Olaf walk across the bottom of the photo and wave his arm.
4. Memory Maker is a digital-only entitlement, so any of the pictures you want from your account will need to be downloaded over the Internet. You can download pictures multiple times and either select them individually or select all of the photos in your account. The photos are put together in .zip files that you then download from the website. A limited number of photos are collected in each .zip file, so there can be quite a few .zip files if you have a large number of photos in your account.
5. For those people who are familiar with or used the predecessor to Memory Maker, PhotoPass+, there are two main differences. The Photo CD is no longer included, but you can purchase a Memory Maker archive disc with all of your account’s photos for $29.95 plus shipping. The second change is that complimentary physical print packages from certain dining locations (i.e. Chef Mickey’s) are no longer included.
6. If you plan ahead, you can save $30 on the Memory Maker enhancement. Purchasing it at least three days prior to your vacation costs $169, versus $199 if you wait until after you are at the parks.
Since I have used the service, here is a list of pros and cons that I found from my experience.
Disney PhotoPass and Memory Maker Pros
- You can quickly obtain a picture while walking through an area and passing a PhotoPass photographer.
- With someone else taking the picture, you can focus on trying to get your kids to smile or pose how you want.
- There was no problem with having the PhotoPass photographer take a picture of just the kids first, then a photo of all of us. They were very accommodating.
- You do not have to hunt for a random person to take a picture with your camera of the entire family.
- The photographers are generally positioned at optimal locations for pictures with the major backdrops and icons.
- The photographers were in the park and taking pictures prior to opening, so I did not need a tripod to have a picture taken of my family with Cinderella's Castle in the background when we had a breakfast dining reservation prior to official park opening.
- The PhotoPass photographers will take a picture with your camera too, but they take many more pictures and are extra enthusiastic using their own. Also, they generally have their camera settings correct, while yours may be off (i.e. forgetting to change your camera from an indoor setting to bright sunshine outside, not having the flash set correctly).
- Ride attractions and dining locations with photos are included in your account. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Tower of Terror have short ride video that will be added to your account.
- If you have a daughter who has a princess makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Cinderella’s Castle, visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Studio in Castle Couture (by the Cinderella Fountain near the castle). Royal portraits of your princess will be taken, with digital copies added to your account.
- Make sure to take advantage of Magic Shots and Animated Magic Shots. My three kids loved these special pictures and routinely asked the PhotoPass photographers if they could take one. They then later enjoyed seeing how the picture turned out when my wife went to our “My Disney Experience” account on her phone while we were waiting in line or for a show to start.
- Typically, if you wanted to take a photo with your camera too, the PhotoPass photographer would wait until you had taken your photo first. However, if you are taking photos at the same time, make sure that you are very close to the PhotoPass photographer. If you are off to the side, the kids will look at you and they will not be looking straight ahead in the PhotoPass pictures. I want to emphasize this because I was aware of it during our last visit, but I still found a number of photos where the kids were looking off to the side where my wife or I was standing instead of at the PhotoPass Photographer. In the accompanying photo, you can see that my two sons are looking off to the side while my daughter is the only one looking at the PhotoPass photographer.
- All photos for up to a 30-day period from first use are included. However, if you purchase Memory Maker at the discounted price, photos taken within 72 hours of the purchase time will not be included and would have to be purchased separately.
- The entitlement is tied to the Magic Bands of everyone in your “My Disney Experience” family and friends list. This works well if your party separates because any one can have a picture taken and tied to the Memory Maker account with their MagicBand. For example, while my daughter and I were seeing Anna and Elsa, my wife took our two sons to ride Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. With the MagicBands, all of the photos from both places were in the account.
- By purchasing the package in advance, you know to take advantage of any PhotoPass photographers you see.
- A copyright release that allows you to print your own photos can be downloaded from the website. I had no problems printing off my pictures at a local store and it is significantly cheaper than purchasing individual prints of the photos from Disney.
- After returning home, you will want to review your photos and add borders, character signatures, or stickers before downloading your pictures. There are a number of neat borders and overlays available to enhance your photos. The functionality of this has been enhanced because you can make multiple additions to the same photo (i.e. border, autograph, sticker). Previously, you could only make one addition to a photo. All of the photos accompanying this post had something added to it.
Disney PhotoPass and Memory Maker Cons
- The price of the package. If you purchase in advance, you can save $30, but you do not know how your photos will look and how much you will use the service. If you wait until after using the service to decide, it costs $30 more and you may have missed using it at times because you did not know if you would purchase it.
- The online photo editing tools are fairly limited and the web page response is slow at times. The other issue with the borders/overlays is that the available options can vary from day to day. For example, a number of borders, character autographs and stickers disappeared for over a week before finally reappearing.
- Photos in your account expire and are deleted 45 days from the date the photos were taken. Hence, you need to be disciplined and make time to go through your pictures shortly after returning from your trip.
- The price is the same whether you are in the parks for one day or 10, so it obviously makes more sense for longer visits.
- If you do not plan on having many photos taken, then it is pricey for just a handful of pictures. In this case, just hand the PhotoPass photographer your camera to obtain the pictures you want.
- While PhotoPass photographers are with many of the characters, they are not with all of them. Surprisingly, there were no photographers present with any of the three character meals we attended (Garden Grill, Chef Mickey's and Cinderella's Royal Table). So, you'll need to carry around and make sure you have your own camera available for such times.
- PhotoPass photographers are not always available at the different locations they are supposed to be at. For example, the photographer had not arrived yet when the kids visited with Daisy Duck at Hollywood Studios.
- The quality of the pictures can vary from one photographer to another. However, you can always use your own camera. Also, if you had instead handed your camera to a random person, there is no guarantee as to how they will frame and take the picture. At least the PhotoPass photographers would take a number of shots each time so hopefully at least one of them turns out well. Having multiple shots are nice to choose from, especially if someone blinks or frowns in one of the pictures.
- Even though your PhotoPass card or MagicBand is scanned by the photographer, it is possible for pictures from that photographer to be lost. You might be able to reclaim the photos if you can remember when and where the missing photos were taken. However, this means you need to go through the pictures immediately after returning and try to determine if any photos are missing. After spending a number of days in the parks and stopping countless times for photos, remembering missing photos can be a challenge. Also, you have to submit a missing photo claim form within 30 days of the date of the photo. The PhotoPass cast members were able to locate a missing set of photos from my visit, but there is no guarantee that missing photos will be found. If there is something that you really want to make sure you have a picture of, be certain to have the PhotoPass photographer use your camera too.
- With the MagicBands, ride attraction photos are to be added to your account automatically. However, the ride cameras may not be working (this happened to us on Space Mountain) or the photo is just lost and never appears in the account (this happened with Test Track).
Disney PhotoPass and Memory Maker Summary
I would highly recommend this service for people who are visiting for multiple days and plan to see a lot of characters, especially if they have little ones and this is their first visit. My family visited for eight days and we had a 7-, 9- and 10-year-old who met many of the characters. We ended up having more than 1,200 photos from our visit, prior to additional ones that were added to the account as I edited the pictures. Also, when comparing the photos I took with my camera versus the PhotoPass shots, the PhotoPass pictures were typically better and clearer. For an eight-day visit, the cost ended up being just over $21 a day.
If you are only interested in obtaining digital copies of your ride photos, there is an option called Disney Attractions+ which can be purchased at the parks. When exiting a ride with photos, stop by the Attraction’s Photo Sales Center and purchase it for $49.95. This option includes all attraction photos during a 14-day window.
For more information on Memory Maker and PhotoPass, visit the Walt Disney World Resort’s home page. At the bottom of the page, under the “My Disney Experience” heading, you will find links to Memory Maker and PhotoPass. If you purchase Memory Maker, make sure to link it to your “My Disney Experience” account so that it will be tied to the Magic Bands and your family and friends list.
If you’re thinking about a trip to Disney World, make sure to check out the other news, tips and information we post to the blog throughout the week. If you’re ready to plan your trip, we recommend you start with our planning pages.
Vern and his wife are the parents of two boys and a girl that all love Disney’s animated movies and shorts. He lives in Ohio and is employed as a mechanical engineer, which helps to explain his excessive attention to detail, organization and planning. His oldest son enjoys watching the animated shorts from the Disney Treasures series, his youngest son has the middle name “Donald” and he likes telling people that he was named after Donald Duck, and his daughter loves the Disney Princesses, especially Rapunzel and recently Elsa. Have a guest post you would like to share with us? Review our guidelines.