Ultimate Disney Parks Photography Guide


Looking for the best camera (point and shoot or DSLR), lens, or other photography gear and equipment to buy for use at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and beyond? Want tutorials to take better photos in and outside of the parks? This photography buying guide offers helpful “real world” ratings and reviews on photography equipment from an actual photographer (take a look at my photo galleries to see my work), plus links to some of my articles offering tips for better photos. Although my specialty is landscape and travel photography, the gear reviewed can be used in a whole range of photographic scenarios. If you’re not interested in learning about photography, but just want to find Disney photos to download or print, click here.

Before considering any camera and photography equipment upgrades, it is a great idea to learn about photography. Use online resources (Google can find a tutorial on anything!), but if you want to learn the basics or read something more thorough, we recommend books (read our book reviews). The book we always recommend starting with is Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. Seriously, get it. All of the expensive equipment in the world won’t help you if you haven’t learned the basics, and that book is the best way to learn the basics. A book is a lot cheaper than a new lens, and if you’re a beginner, that book will improve your photography more than a new lens.

No camera “takes good pictures.” Some cameras can help an adept photographer more than others, but if the person taking the photos doesn’t do things right, photos taken with a $2,000 camera can look worse than photos taken with a camera phone. Likewise, many experienced photographers can take better photos with an iPhone than inexperienced photographers can with expensive DSLRs on Auto Mode.

The point being, it’s important to learn the fundamentals of photography in addition to buying shiny, new toys. This guide will start by providing resources for learning more about photography (the most important step) and then reviews and information concerning buying more tools to improve your photography. (more…)

What’s In My Camera Bag – 2015 Edition

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Wondering what’s in my camera bag? I previously shared the camera, lenses, tripod, and other photography equipment I carry, in response to questions I receive about what camera I use, how I carry my gear into the Disney Parks, and other assorted questions.

That was nearly a year ago, and some things have changed since then. I realized this when going to find the link to send in response to an email over the holiday weekend, and figured it might additionally be useful for those of you doing Christmas shopping for the photographers in your family. (Or if you’re doing my favorite kind of gift giving: for yourself! ;))

Although I own a lot more camera gear than what is on this list, these are the items I typically carry in my camera bag on a normal day in the parks. Unless I’m borrowing a new toy, trying to travel light, or just looking to do something different this stuff is all in my camera bag. Yes, all of it. I’m a gear sherpa. The photo above shows my camera bag packed as it would be for a normal day, weighing north of 25 pounds.

I’m guessing most sane people won’t want to carry all of this while running around the parks, but it underscores another point (and responds to another couple of questions), yes, you can bring this much photography equipment into the Disney Parks and yes, you can take this much photography onto every attraction at Walt Disney World besides Sum of All Thrills. (It’s a bit of an awkward fit on Space Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but it does fit.) You are not required to use lockers on any other attractions at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, but if you’re heading to the Universal parks, too, be aware that you will have to use lockers at most attractions there, and that this bag is too large to fit in the normal lockers outside of each attraction, but it will fit in the lockers at the front of the park.

With that said, here’s what I generally carry in my camera bag… (more…)

Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens Review

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This review features real world sample photos from the Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 fisheye (which is also sold under Samyang, Bower, Pro-Optic brands), my thoughts on the lens, and side-by-side comparison images to the Zenitar 16mm and Rokinon 8mm fisheye lenses. This is the new full frame fisheye built by Samyang Optics, and while it is technically a budget fisheye lens, its ~$500 price point puts it nearly in line with regular third party brands. The question for this review is thus whether this glass can command the premium price. Given the stellar performance of the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye, I was optimistic that it could…or I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place.

Before we get to the substance of the review, a little background is in order. I think this is the first review to be posted of the new Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 fisheye, so I’m guessing some of you reading this might be “regular” photographers, and not the normal audience of crazy Disney enthusiasts who frequent this site. As such, you might be wondering why there is a review for a fisheye lens on a Disney fan site and why you should trust my opinion.

The review is here because Disney Parks photography is one of my favorite hobbies; my family will tell you that under no circumstances should you trust my judgment. However, I have tested or owned every major fisheye lens for Nikon mount cameras in recent memory, and I have reviews on this site (click each name to open the review in a new tab) of the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye, Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 fisheye, and Sigma 15mm f/2.8 fisheye. I’ve also used but have not (yet) reviewed the Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8G Fisheye Lens, the Sigma 10mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens, the Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye Lens, and the Nikon 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens. None of this precludes me from having awful opinions about fisheye lenses, but at least now you know I have some experience with them. Suffice to say, I love shooting with fisheyes. (more…)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens Review

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The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM lens is the latest Sigma “Art” line, and it doesn’t disappoint. This review covers the strengths and weaknesses of the lens, with sample photos that I’ve shot with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens on my Nikon D810, plus a summary of why I won’t be purchasing the lens despite its very impressive performance. To put it succinctly, this lens is almost identical to the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 in terms of design and performance, except it offers a 50mm focal length. Since that lens was virtual perfection, this is most certainly a good thing.

It’s important to note from the outset that the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens is designed for full frame cameras. To be sure, it works with crop sensor cameras, but it’s going to be overkill for them. Crop sensor shooters looking for an effective field of view roughly equivalent to this should instead check out the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Art (read my review of that lens), which is the rough equivalent to this lens on a crop sensor body in terms of view. Another lens to consider as an alternative would be the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, although that lens is not a prime like this one.

The build of the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens shouldn’t surprise anyone who has touched one of the other Art lenses. It continues the brand reinvention with a sleek look and beautiful industrial design. There’s considerable heft to it, and its brushed aluminum construction just feels good in the hands. Everything from its large build to its lens hood to even the cap just reeks of high quality. It’s really not just a matter of excellent build quality, this lens truly feels and looks nice. This might actually be concerning to those of you used to the 50mm f/1.8 lenses that weigh practically nothing and take up little space in your camera bags. This weighs much more and will take up a good amount of space.

As with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, focus locks quickly and accurately, with no front or back focus issues. I did feel like there were times when the focus was locking on something in the frame other than what I intended (and I always select my focus point), but this happened seldom, and I can’t definitively attribute it to the lens. (more…)

Scenes from Disney Parks: “Regular” Disney World

It’s time for more of my Disney photos in this installment of “Scenes from Disney Parks”! This time, we’re heading to Walt Disney World, with a set of new photos of the parks looking “normal.” I almost opted to dig into the archives and edit some new Christmas photos, but I know not everyone is excited for Christmas as I am, so I’ll spare you that…for at least another week! ;)

I’ve been photography at Walt Disney World has been a hobby of mine for 6 years now, and I’m still amazed at how I keep finding new subjects to photograph and new ways to compose familiar subjects. This is not meant to boast–I’ve been to plenty of non-Disney locations and found myself lacking any variety in my photos outside of the weather after only a handful of visits. It’s more a testament to how photogenic, thoughtfully designed, and inspirational the parks are in terms of photography.

Some people might roll their eyes and think another Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth, etc., photo?!, but I feel like there’s an infinite number of ways to come up with interesting and unique photos of these oft-photographed subjects. The Disney theme parks really are a photographer’s playground, and taking good photos in the parks is sort of like shooting fish in a barrel. Not only is it great hobby, but I feel like it’s a great way to absorb and appreciate more of the detail in the parks (I know there were a lot of things I missed prior to getting serious about photography). So, if you’ve ever thought about taking up photography, and you’re a Disney fan, I’d highly encourage you to give it a try. Sorry for the random-ish odd thoughts there, but it was just something that struck me while going through photos from this particular trip, and I figured I’d share here…

As for these photos, after each photo I’ll share some technical stuff like which lens I used for the photo. All photos in this post were captured with my Nikon D810 DSLR–check out my full Nikon D810 Review for more details about the camera. I also have more sample photos from the D810 here. You can click on each photo to view it larger in my gallery and to see EXIF data on it. Hopefully other photographers find this useful.

If you’re a casual reader not interested in photo jargon, hopefully you still enjoy this new set of photos from Walt Disney World!



This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. For a while, I’ve been trying to capture a new photo that effectively conveyed the solitude of the Hub when the Magic Kingdom is empty, but not just by taking another generic shot of the empty hub. I think I finally got that here, with the low angle and the lines of the bricks leading to Cinderella Castle. I used the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens (read my review of this lens) because originally this was going to be @ f/1.4 to make the bricks out of focus foreground bokeh, but that photo was too distracting that way. There was no real reason why I stuck with that lens for this version of the photo other than laziness, I guess. (more…)