Disney iPhoneography Tips
The robust iPhone camera, collection of apps, and accessories have all led to the rise of “iPhoneography,” a type of photography that allows anyone with an iPhone an expressive way to capture the art of their everyday lives. This beginner’s guide to iPhoneography at Walt Disney World and Disneyland provides iPhone-photographers with a list of apps, equipment, and tips that are “must owns.”
At Walt Disney World and Disneyland, iPhoneography is especially fun and popular, and these spots are great for iPhoneography for many of the same reasons they’re great for photography. They’re beautiful places and have a lot of great subjects. Disney as a subject of iPhoneography, like all iPhoneography, has exploded in popularity in the last year.
There are communities of Disney fans sharing their iPhoneography, and the common equipment and intuitive tools to capture the photos is a great equalizer that puts all fans on (mostly) the same playing field.
Why has iPhoneography exploded recently? It has a lot to do with the old adage, “the best camera is the one you have with you.” As the iPhone camera (and other phone cameras) has continued to evolve into something as good as some point and shoot cameras, and since most people have their phones with them at all times, iPhoneography has become popular. So popular, in fact, that the iPhone is the most popular camera according to Flickr upload data. All of this has combined to make iPhoneography a very popular hobby for a lot of people.
A lot has been written about iPhoneography, including blogs devoted to the topic and entire books, I feel that the most important thing to capturing good iPhone photos is to capture the moment creatively. iPhoneography is great because it’s a way for the average person to capture and share any moment without extensive training in photography and without a lot of equipment. Although there are some fun ways to enhance your iPhone photos, what I like is that it’s a quick way to share.
Here are some tips from Sarah and me, along with some of Sarah’s excellent iPhone photos from Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo Disney Resort to illustrate some of the advice and techniques. She took these photos with her iPhone 5 and 6.
I’m quite casual with my iPhoneography, whereas my wife, Sarah, is a bit more seriousness. The first step, assuming you already own an iPhone, towards great iPhoneography is having the right equipment to enable you to capture a good photo. Depending upon how serious you want to get with iPhoneography, this can mean nothing besides an iPhone, or it can mean a tripod, lenses, and bags full of other gear. She has used a number of lens attachments to get unique shots, including the Olloclip, which is a 3 in 1 lens. The downside of the Olloclip is the price.
The good news is that since Olloclip rose in popularity, several competitors have made comparable products for significantly lower prices. Although it doesn’t have a fisheye, a great option here is the Techo Lens Attachment, which costs about one-third as much as the Olloclip. Besides price, the other big plus here is that it’s compatible with multiple phones, and will likely be compatible with future releases–with Olloclip, you have to upgrade each time a new iPhone is released.
The creative possibilities these attachments open up are great. The following were all taken by Sarah using them:
Sarah also has a tripod for her iPhone. Admittedly, she doesn’t use this nearly as much as the Olloclip, mostly because it’s a lot of work…and is sort of dorky. We had a hard time choosing a good one, as there are a lot of negative reviews out there, but we finally settled on the iStabilizer iPhone Tripod. It’s $22, but it has the consistently highest reviews for an iPhone tripod. We figured that it was worth it to spend a bit extra, because a new iPhone (without a contract) costs about $700, so it wasn’t worth trusting a $5 tripod with something that expensive.
I’ve learned my lesson on trying to cut corners to save money with DSLR camera equipment and it has cost me more money in the long run. I don’t make that mistake anymore. If budget or space were an issue and I had to choose between the tripod and the olloclip lenses, I’d definitely choose the olloclip set. The tripod will be nice at night for longer exposures, but I don’t think it’s as important to achieving fun and creative shots as the olloclip. Those lenses really should open up a lot of possibilities.
Recently, we got Sarah an underwater case to use for her iPhone. We were a bit nervous with this purchase, as the stakes are high (one leak and you have an expensive paperweight), so we ultimately settled on the iPhone DiCAPac. We went with this one because DiCAPac is a popular brand for underwater camera cases for ACTUAL cameras (I have their cases for my DSLR and Sony RX-100 point and shoot camera), and they make good products. This case is advertised as working for the iPhone 3Gs, 4, and 4s, but it works just fine with the iPhone 5, too.
Here are a couple of photos from Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach that Sarah took using the DiCAPac:
Another important accessory if you’re into iPhoneography at the parks is an external battery. There are some really nice external batteries, like the Trent iFuel External Battery. This is about the 6th backup battery we’ve used for our iPhone, and we really like it. We used to cheap out with these, but the $10 ones were failing so much that it was becoming foolish to go cheap and only get a couple uses out of the battery.
There are thousands of great photography apps for the iPhone, so choosing the ones to use can be very daunting. When this article was first written, we each used several different apps. Now, the only app for photo editing I use and recommend is the free Snapseed (by Google). You really don’t need anything else. Sure, other apps can do stuff beyond what Snapseed can do, but most of it is gimmicky. Nothing is as robust as Snapseed…and did we mention that it’s free?
As for sharing, you can’t go wrong with Instagram, which is a great way to share the photo and engage socially with other iPhoneographers. Once we are done editing a photo, we post it to Instagram, which then shares the photo on our DisneyTouristBlog.com Twitter and Facebook accounts. We add hashtags like #disney, #waltdisneyworld, #epcot, etc., depending upon where the photo was taken, so others can easily find it. Others “like” the photo and comment on it, and share it with their friends. This is all a lot of fun, and is a great way to share a day in the parks with those stuck at home.
My biggest tip is to have fun. As cliche as that may sound, it’s important to remember since iPhoneography should be about self-expression and fun, rather than chasing the perfect shot in a “serious” manner. If achieving the perfect shot is your aim, you should be using a DSLR, not an iPhone. For me, iPhoneography is really fun because it’s social, expressive, and anyone can easily be an iPhoneographer without training or a lot of knowledge about photography.
Thus, my biggest tip concerns creativity. Look for new angles and different perspectives. Don’t go for the ordinary “postcard” photos you’ve seen hundreds of times of the Castle. The iPhone isn’t going to produce publicity-materials quality photos, so trying to hold your own against these types of photos just won’t work. As impressive of a camera as the iPhone has, it just isn’t on par with even the most basic DSLR. Instead, you need to think differently, looking for intriguing angles or perspectives, or shots that will lend themselves to a particular type of processing.
Since processing is such a big part of iPhoneography, you should have the finished photo in mind when you compose your shot. If you’re looking at Space Mountain, don’t just think about what might make an intriguing composition, think of what composition plus processing would produce an interesting photo. If you have a strong blue sky, consider how the juxtaposition of the clean white lines against that deep blue sky will look after being processed, and balance the sky against the Mountain. This may seem ambitious, especially if you just consider iPhoneography as a way to snap fun photos, but once you start thinking this way, it becomes second nature. Trust me, it will really improve your iPhoneography if you envision your finished photo when you compose the shot, rather than taking a photo, and randomly applying different filters to see what works.
That said, I’ll offer a cautionary note on iPhoneography: even more than regular photography, iPhoneography is suspectible to trends. This is most evident in the popular Hipstamatic app, which produces photos with a very distinct faux-vintage look. While very cool in moderation, this look does get old. Have some variety in your processing–not every image needs to look like it was taken with a pinhole camera from the 1970s! Make your photos stand out from the pack by deviating from this style. If everyone uses the same “unique” processing style, it ceases to be unique.
For Disney iPhoneography, light is incredibly important. Taking photos with the iPhone is easiest in bright, front-lit situations (meaning that the sun is squarely behind you when you take the photo). This will produce the most vivid shots without much noise. This makes it really easy on the camera. That said, it’s not the only way you should go. Shooting into the sun can be interesting, especially if you put the sun near the edge of the frame or peaking out from behind a subject; if you do this, you’re likely to have rays of sunlight streaking through your photo.
You can also use light creatively. Look for the areas of contrasting light and darkness as light hits objects and creates shadow and light play. This is best accomplished in the early morning or just before sunset, when soft light from the lower sun creates long shadows. Your shots at these times of day that involve careful uses of light will undoubtedly be more interesting and moody that photos shot in the middle of the day with the sun directly overhead. These times of day are when the light is “best” and you can really use it to your advantage. At Disney, look for shadows from tall palm trees (or metal palms in Tomorrowland!), Mouse ear balloons, or from fixtures in World Showcase (the Morocco pavilion is especially good for this) to really make your photos pop.
Another tip is to focus on the details. The “Disney Details” are great iPhoneography subjects. I already mentioned this a bit with Morocco in the World Showcase, but there are many other great details shots you can get around Walt Disney World, especially in World Showcase. Signage at Walt Disney World or Disneyland can make a great and distinctly Disney photo subject, as can merchandise in shops! Things as simple as repetitive patterns–common on the walls of buildings in Disney’s Animal Kingdom–can also make excellent photo subjects, and can be a fun “where in the (Walt Disney) World?” games with your friends via social media.
Whether you’re focusing on big picture subjects or the tiny details, process in a manner befitting of the subject. If you’re photographing the vibrant neon of Tomorrowland or the beautiful blue and yellow subs of the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, don’t choose a type of processing that washes out color. Embrace the color with a contrast-y and vibrant processing method that makes the photo pop. Sometimes, though, it can be fun and interesting to totally fly in the face of this advice: process a photo of the Main Street Electrical Parade, Wishes!, or “Remember… Dreams Come True!” in black and white. Just don’t make this exception become the norm, or it will lose its impact.
Unless you purchase a tripod and use the Slow Shutter Cam app for nighttime exposures, you’re likely going to struggle with these. The iPhone’s sensor, although it continues to improve, just isn’t made for this type of photography. If you do shoot at night without these tools, make sure to find some way to stabilize your camera. Shots will have noise, but you still might have some success.
The same goes for dark ride photography. I’ve told Sarah many times that she should just give up on dark rides because the iPhone isn’t equiped for them. Time and time again, she has proven me wrong, but she’s also had a fair number of dark ride photos that have been trashed due to motion blur. There is no solution to this because shooting a large number of shots and hoping some turn out. Personally, my advice would be to just holster the iPhone during dark rides and enjoy the attraction because the hit-to-miss ratio is not in your favor. If you do decide to take photos on dark rides, be prepared for a lot of failure!
Notwithstanding these occasional failures, you’re bound to have a lot of success with iPhoneography at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. The place is a veritable goldmine for iPhoneography, and share photos you take in the parks via social media is a lot of fun. So grab some apps and accessories, and get out there and shoot! If you take a shot of which you’re especially proud, share it on Twitter and mention @DisTouristBlog. We’ll retweet our favorite Walt Disney World and Disneyland photos!
If you’re looking for other photography equipment recommendations or photography tips in general 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
Neutral Density Filter Buying Guide
Travel Tripod Buying Guide
What iPhoneography secrets and tips do you have? Favorite apps? Favorite accessories? Favorite photo spots in the parks? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments!
I used a lot of these Tips on our last trip (got home yesterday) – and I took the best pictures I have ever taken! I really worked to focus on the details, find unique pictures, get into the pictures more, and I used the Camera + app for my iPhone as well. It was all so much fun, and I really captured some great memories from our trip! They may not be “professional” looking pictures, but I love them, and I really think some of my pictures are better than the photo pass pictures! Thanks for the tips!
Just came across this now and wanted to thank you for the great tips. I don’t have an iPhone yet but this helped solidify my decision to get one when its time to do my upgrade.
It’s a bit of extra work, but in Camera+ you can have it save the photo to the Lightbox, then save the unedited one to the Camera Roll, import it back into the Lightbox and then edit it. It also means you can do this multiple times so you can apply an effect, save and reimport and apply a second effect from the same category which normally you can’t. I love Camera+.
Another new app to try out is ClearCam. It has two modes: Quick and Advanced. Quick takes 4 quick shots, and the app analyzes which one is clearest and saves it to the Camera Roll. Advanced takes 6 shots and combines them together to create an image they say takes 5mp and turns it into “up to 14mp” on a 4s or iPhone 5. It has surprised me by even working on a subject with a bit on movement, but wouldn’t for fast shooting. Bear in my this increases the file size of your photos a fair bit too…
Finally, I too love my Olloclip for my 4s. Don’t use the Macro much, but like the others.
I have had an iphone for over a year now and to tell you the truth I have stopped taking pictures with it at night or in a low light house. They come out terrible and unusable. I get far better photos with a point and shoot than the iphone. Outside picutres or in bright light the iphone is nice, but outside of that I grab the DSLR. Also why do the apps take your original photos and if you massage them the overwrite your original picture instead of making a new file?
Delighted to find this article – heading to WDW next February, and very tempted to leave my Canon DSLR behind.
I have most of the apps mentioned, but think I will invest in an Olloclip lens and tripod.
Is there anywhere to specifically find iphone photos online? Is there a gallery dedicated to them?
Also need to look at how to capture fireworks with Slow Shutter app – any tips?
I just purchased an iPhone 4 and used it for trips to Niagara Falls and Mexico…I never even pulled out my fancy Canon camera. I love it!
Thanks for the tips. I already love the pictures I get from my iPhone and can not wait to try out some of your suggestions.
Beautiful photos…both of you! Thank you for sharing.
Found your blog recently and I have to say these are some amazing tips! Taking my first trip to WDW in Sept/Oct (with the 4s…far from my first trip!)and I cannot wait to try out these apps!
I just got back from my first-ever trip to Disneyland and I have to say-
I don’t know what I was more excited to do- photograph it with my dslr or my iPhone!
Everytime I was in line for an attraction I was editing and instagraming my pictures! Maybe you can set up an area on the site where we can all share our Instagram usernames to find other Disney instagramers?
Also- if you haven’t checked out the website Photojojo, you should-
Lots of iPhone camera accessories! I got my cell phone lens (and a
500mm cell phone lens) from them and I love them!
I’m thinking about picking up an Olloclip before my upcoming trip to Europe.
Personally, I’ve grown very fond of Snapseed for my photo editing on my phone.
Interesting, I’ll have to check that out! Let me know how you like the Olloclip.
Just ordered my Olloclip Quick-Connect Lenses. Can’t wait for it to get here!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on it when you receive it. Sarah still loves hers!
I posted this on facebook, but I though I’d post it here too.
Tom, I read this earlier. Fantastic write-up!! I have a Cannon G10 that I have taken to DLR and WDW several times. It is heavy for a point-and-shoot, but produces great results.
My iPhone 4 did a great job at DLR & WDW as a supplement to my cannon. I did the unthinkable in February though…I didn’t take a camera!!! I only used my iPhone 4s and I am pleased with the results!
Thanks for the reviews of the lenses. I’ve been considering them for quite some time now!
I’m thinking I’ll get the next iPhone when my contract ends later this year, shortly before my first trip to WDW in 21 years! So this article is real handy and I like the battery kit. Like you said for $6 it’s hard to go wrong.
I’ll also mention the Glif from Studio Neat. It’s a little thing that lets you clip your iPhone 4/4S into a regular tripod mount and it lets you put it at different angles if you want to watch a movie on a plane or something. Not too bad at $20.
My favorite app for processing photos on my phone is Photogene2. It’s pretty impressive for a phone app really – like a mini photoshop.
For a slightly vintage look, I like Cross Process a lot better than Instagram or Hipstamatic. I’ve gotten some really nice colors from that app. Thanks for the tips!
Thanks for the heads up–we’ll check it out!
If Sarah already purchased an app for her phone, you should be able to use it on yours as well! Shouldn’t need to buy it again.
Do you use individual iTunes accounts? My wife and I have a single account that way we can use apps purchased on all our devices.
My regular camera is just a little point and shoot, but I find myself leaving it at home more and more and just using my iPhone 4. I appreciate the tips and advice!
Btw, Camera+ is on sale for 99 cents right now!
For $.99, Camera+ is a steal. I think I’ll pick it up.
Having just gotten an iphone 4s, this article could not have come at a better time! Thanks for all the tips and tricks. I love the blog!
Does the lens for the iPhone make the iPhone significantly heavier or awkward to hold?
Not at all! The olloclip is very small (easily fits in your pocket) and is light. The only bad thing about it is that you’ll need to take off your phone’s case before using it. That can be a pain, but it hasn’t been a huge deal for us.
Great article, I’ll bookmark this one!
I am to new apple devices and my first purchase was the iPhone 4s. I’m becoming addicted to iPhone photography and your article will only feed my obsession.
I own Camera+, Instagram and Big Lens (allows manual blurring effects), but, I’ll have to explore some of the camera apps you’ve listed here like 360 Pano and Pro HDR (is it the Pro HDR Free or paid version?).
Thanks for the inspiration Tom.
I might consider starting with the free version of Pro HDR to see if it’s for you. Most of these apps are relatively inexpensive ($.99 to $2.99), and all review incredibly well (not just with us), but the costs can add up quickly!
I’ve been using my gorillapod for iphone4 for years and LOVE IT! It provides great angles that you can’t get from anything else. I can set it up on top of something that i wouldn’t be able to with a larger camera. Setting it on the ground exaggerates the height of everything and can be really fun. FXF by Joby is a great companion app for the gorillapod. It’s the second version of an app they’ve designed. It’s also great for time-lapse photography.
I did have to get a replacement gorillapod when mine broke. Make sure you don’t wind the legs too tightly around a pole or something because once one of the joints breaks its is impossible to fix. It really is a great product. You can put it just about anywhere.
One more thing I forgot to mention. At WDW they’ll charge your phone for free at City Hall. I’m not sure about the other parks, but I know it works @ MK. I used it twice on One More Disney Day. They even have the charger. They’ll charge your camera batteries also if you bring the charger. It’s just like a coat check. You drop it off and they give you a claim check. Then you come back and pick it up whenever you want. It was really nice to have my phone for 22 of the 24 hour day. I didn’t have to take extreme measures like turning off gps and notifications to save battery life.
Great tip! At Disneyland they have new charging lockers that are relatively inexpensive. Personally, I’d rather just have the $6 charger and not worry about leaving my expensive phone with someone else, or standing at one of the many outlets around the park. Small price to pay for the convenience!
Glad to hear you like the iPhone GorillaPod (GorillaMobile). I’ve accidentally broken a GorillaPod’s legs before, too, when using it with my DSLR. Most of the time they pop right back in, but sometimes they’re done for good!
The Trent batteries are great! We have a few of these and wouldn’t travel without them. Use them to charge iPhones, iPads, Kindles, etc.
Great tips for taking iPhone shots too!