Despite lacking grandeur, Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland might be the most photogenic of all the Disney castles. This is not just because it has its own quaint charm and nice landscaping all around it, but also because you can get very close to Sleeping Beauty Castle and still fit it into a landscape photo. By contrast, Cinderella Castle’s height makes these intimate photos difficult, if not impossible.
However, with Sleeping Beauty Castle’s height also comes some distinct disadvantages. For one, there isn’t much of a breathtaking view of the Castle as soon as you step onto Main Street. For another, photographing Sleeping Beauty Castle from Disneyland’s other lands (besides Main Street, USA and Fantasyland) can prove pretty difficult. Still, the advantages and disadvantages are pretty much a wash, and the end result is a castle that is arguably just as photogenic as Cinderella Castle. Although, I will admit that it took me numerous visits to Disneyland to warm up to their “toy castle” after growing up with Cinderella Castle–I’m sure some Disneyland fans who grew up with Sleeping Beauty Castle and go to Florida for the first time find it comically oversized and less welcoming.
Here are a few of my suggestions for the top 10 interesting ways to photograph Sleeping Beauty Castle beyond just the standard straight-on view from The Hub. Unlike my list of the Best Cinderella Castle Photo Spots, this isn’t a grand tour of Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom. You could probably hit all 10 of these spots within 10 minutes!
End of Main Street – Just because Sleeping Beauty Castle doesn’t tower in the distance when you first enter Main Street, USA doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t photograph it from the end of Main Street. You just probably shouldn’t photograph it with a wide angle lens–unless you don’t mind busting out a magnifying glass to see it! Instead, arm yourself with a telephoto lens and go up to the top of the Train Station. You’ll probably want to stand a bit off-center to zoom past the trees on Main Street, but thanks to perspective compression, you can end up with a cool shot that makes the trees deep in the park look like they’re part of a forest right behind Sleeping Beauty Castle!
Compass Rose – The Compass Rose is probably Disneyland’s most popular “inadvertent” photo spot. A lot of people stand here to take photos, but most people are missing the treasure right in front of them. This becomes a unique location by aiming your camera down at the ground just a bit and including that Compass Rose in the frame instead of cutting it out. Focusing on the ground here can be difficult, especially when Disneyland is crowded, but it’s actually not as difficult as you might think. Early mornings and late nights are the easiest time, but this area is also roped off for fireworks, so if you can make your way up to the rope before the show, you can grab a quick empty shot of the Compass Rose and Sleeping Beauty Castle!
As Background Bokeh – Okay, so this one isn’t really a specific location so much as it is a style. With so many little statues around The Hub and in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, there are ample opportunities to focus on another subject and let Sleeping Beauty Castle take on the role of “interesting background.” I especially like doing this at night, when the lights illuminating the Castle make it very identifiable even when it’s completely out of focus.
Snow White Grotto – One of my favorite quiet spots (also having a wooden bridge) disappeared with the opening of Fantasy Faire, but luckily, this spot still exists. I especially like incorporating this wooden bridge with the hearts into the frame. I think it (for lack of a better term) gives Disneyland some heart, showing its roots as a humble little park based upon artisanship and detail.
Between the Animals – There are also a couple of these animals on the other side just before Snow White Grotto, but I prefer this side better because the Matterhorn is also in the frame when you photograph from this perspective. There are a number of different ways to photograph this scene. You can get low and focus on the flowers (which are beautiful roses in the spring) or go higher, as I did here, and focus on the reflection of Sleeping Beauty Castle. You can make one of these animals a more dominant part of the foreground, or zoom in a bit and juxtapose the Castle and the peak of the Matterhorn as contrasting peaks.
West Pathway – This spot is only about 20 feet away from the previous spot, but sometimes, 20 feet can make a world of difference. In this case, it’s not really a world of difference, but it is a noticeable difference. Here, instead of capturing a beautiful open view with plenty of foreground flowers, you’re capturing a peek at the side of Sleeping Beauty Castle through some trees with rocks in the foreground. During the daytime, these rocks are a popular hangout spot for ducks and turtles–real wildlife in the frame can really spice up any castle photo!
Fantasy Faire – Although Fantasy Faire eliminated one of my favorite quiet corners of the park and my favorite winding path from which to photograph Sleeping Beauty Castle, it added a lot, too (more than it took). I’ve only taken photos in here one night thus far, but I already like the possibilities. I think framing a shot with the Figaro sleeping in the foreground and Sleeping Beauty Castle behind him is an interesting photo here. Certainly embodies the tranquility of nighttime in Disneyland!
The Bridge – I know what you might be thinking: “this is super obvious.” I don’t think it is. I usually stop to see people take photos in The Hub in front of Partners, or right in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, just passed the Compass Rose. Going a bit further and stopping at the first seating area on the right side of the bridge to the Castle will give you this view, which is a tight shot even with an ultra wide angle lens, that actually makes Sleeping Beauty Castle look towering (or at least more towering than it normally looks.
Inside the Castle – Sleeping Beauty Castle is beautiful on the inside, and I love capturing the texture of its walls and the many details inside. I prefer it from this angle looking back down Main Street with these paintings visible, but turning around and shooting towards King Arthur’s Carrousel is another good option.
Just Inside Fantasyland – Thanks to Herb Ryman turning the top of the model for Sleeping Beauty Castle around backwards, part of the back of Sleeping Beauty Castle is actually the “front,” at least if going off of its inspiration, Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. Regardless of what is front and what is back, Sleeping Beauty Castle is pretty from all angles. I especially like to photograph Sleeping Beauty Castle from the views immediately inside Fantasyland. The further you go into Fantasyland, the more trees, merchandise carts, and other obstructions you have to deal with, so I like to stay as close to the Castle as possible. If your lens isn’t wide enough to capture the whole thing, put a focal point (like a light fixture) in one third of your frame and grab converging lines of the top of the Castle.
Overall, even if there aren’t as many park-wide (or even out-of-park) ways to photograph Sleeping Beauty Castle as there are Cinderella Castle, there are still a lot of great, fresh ways to photograph Sleeping Beauty Castle. While some may not be incredibly unique, they are at least different than the norm. As far as the norm…there’s nothing wrong with that, either! The first photo in this post is a “standard” Sleeping Beauty Castle photo, yet it’s one of my favorites. Iconic photo spots are iconic for a reason–so don’t be reluctant to capture your own photos from these spots!
If you’re interested in improving your Disney photography, check out a few of my top photography blog posts:
Photography Buying Guide: Way More Than You Ever Needed to Know…
Best Books for Improving Your Photography
5 Indispensable Tips for Better Vacation Photos
Where is your favorite spot to photograph Sleeping Beauty Castle? Do you go for the “signature” shots of the Sleeping Beauty Castle from The Hub, or do you try to get creative? Share your thoughts in the comments!