A visit to Walt Disney World will be sprinkled with many magical and memorable moments, especially if it's a first visit for your children. To them, it is a place of enchantment and wonderment, a feast for the senses and where they can meet some of their favorite characters. For the little ones who believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, Mickey Mouse and Cinderella are not just people in costume, but the REAL Mickey Mouse and Cinderella. If you are like the vast majority of parents, you will want to capture these moments. To assist you in your quest to capture the magic, Disney has developed a service for this — Disney PhotoPass.
PhotoPass is a complimentary service available all around the Walt Disney World Resort, where 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 sign into your 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 of you who would like more than just several photos, Disney offers an enhancement to PhotoPass called Memory Maker. Disney Memory Maker is a photo package that includes digital copies of all the photos taken by Disney 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 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, 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 Disney Memory Maker experience. 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?
Highlights of Disney PhotoPass
- By using PhotoPass photographers, the entire party can be in the picture instead of missing the person who usually takes the pictures.
- PhotoPass photographers are located throughout Disney World, especially around prime spots 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 with your photos, even if you have a MagicBand.
- A PhotoPass exclusive is Magic Shots, where the photographer will pose you as needed and then digitally add a character (such as Tinker Bell or Stitch) or special effect (such as 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.
- Disney 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.
- 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 or USB with all of your account’s photos for $34.95 plus shipping (you must have already purchased Memory Maker). The second change is that complimentary physical print packages from certain dining locations (i.e., Chef Mickey’s) are no longer included.
- 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 of the entire family.
- The photographers are generally positioned at optimal locations for pictures with the major backdrops and icons, such as the Tree of Life or Millennium Falcon.
- 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 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.
- Ride attractions and dining locations with photos are included in your account. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Tower of Terror have short ride videos that will be added to your account.
- If your daughter has a princess makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Cinderella 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 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 want to take a photo with your camera, too, the PhotoPass photographer will wait until you take yours. 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.
- You can start taking photos as soon as you purchase Memory Maker. Once you download your first photo online or through the My Disney Experience app, you’ll then have 30 days to capture as many photos as you can. However, if you purchase Memory Maker at the discounted price, photos taken within 72 hours of the purchase time will not be included and will have to be purchased separately. (That’s why it’s best to purchase three days before your trip!)
- The entitlement is tied to the MagicBands of everyone in your My Disney Experience family and friends list. This works well if your party separates because anyone can have a picture taken and tie it to the Disney 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 Soarin'. With the MagicBands, all of the photos from both places were in the account. If you've got a big group, or are traveling with friends, as long as you are all linked in My Disney Experience, you can purchase one Memory Maker that is accessible to all.
- 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.
- Apple users can edit the photos and add stickers or borders directly through the My Disney Experience app on their iPhones or iPads. (This function is no longer available on the website, and is not available on Android devices.)
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.
- 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 Disney's 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 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. 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 Disney PhotoPass cost ended up being just over $21 a day.
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 MagicBands and your family and friends list.
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.