Walt Disney World sells Memory Maker and Capture Your Moment, both of which are PhotoPass photography packages. In this post, we’ll review whether they’re worth the money, the quality you can expect from PhotoPass images, and also the differences between Walt Disney World and Disneyland. (Updated February 5, 2020.)
For some guests, no review is necessary. Memory Maker might be included in your Walt Disney World vacation package, or you might have it for “free” with an Annual Pass. Given this, we’ll also offer some tips in this post for getting the most mileage out of Memory Maker, and using PhotoPass to your full advantage. But for starters, we should probably cover some basics.
Memory Maker includes a digital download of all photos taken by PhotoPass photographers, plus on-ride and character dining photos taken at select locations at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. For a number of reasons, there’s a lot of confusion about Memory Maker and PhotoPass, and we thought we’d try to clear some of that up…
At Walt Disney World, the easiest way to distinguish Memory Maker and PhotoPass is by thinking of Memory Maker as the package you purchase that gives you access to your photos, and PhotoPass is the service that Disney offers with Cast Members taking your photo around the park. PhotoPass is a free service available to everyone, including those who purchase Memory Maker.
At Walt Disney World, Memory Maker is the digital download product. Things get confused a little bit because there are other PhotoPass-branded products (including single-photo downloads for $15, coffee cups, etc.) available for purchase, but the main thing to remember is PhotoPass=service, Memory Maker=product.
Memory Maker & PhotoPass+ at WDW
Let’s start with the products. Memory Maker costs $169 at Walt Disney World when purchased in advance, or $199 if bought during your vacation. For some of the higher tiers of Annual Passes, digital downloads of all PhotoPass images are included at no additional charge.
The big draw of PhotoPass and Memory Maker packages is that they also include select on-ride photos and character dining. These ride photos included in the new package at Walt Disney World are: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, and Dinosaur. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train offers both on-ride photos and on-ride video (see our video in this post). PhotoPass is also available at select character dining locations.
Pre-ordered vacation packages online can be upgraded to Memory Maker or PhotoPass+ upon arrival at Walt Disney World, but we recommend pre-ordering due to the difficulty we’ve heard some people have encountered in doing this. Memory Maker is integrated into your MagicBands, but you can also use your ticket media. So long as you’re all together in My Disney Experience, every photo scanned into any of your MagicBands will appear in the party account.
Capture Your Moment at Walt Disney World
Capture Your Moment is a new PhotoPass service starting February 10, 2020. This lets you book time with a Disney PhotoPass photographer for a personalized photo session during regular park hours at Magic Kingdom in 20 minute increments.
As of its launch, Capture Your Moment photo session locations are only in Magic Kingdom, and each will offer an iconic view of Cinderella Castle in the backdrop. At the start of your session, the PhotoPass photographer will share available photo shoot locations and discuss photo options before escorting you to your location.
Each Capture Your Moment session is $50. If you book two Capture Your Moment sessions back-to-back for $100, you can spend up to 40 minutes with your photographer capturing photos in at least two different photo locations. Call 407-939-7758 to book a Capture Your Moment session. This is only bookable over the phone–not on a walk-up basis.
Prints and digital downloads are not included with the price of a Capture Your Moment session. In order to receive your photos from the photo shoot, you’ll need one of the Memory Maker packages, or an Annual Pass that’s eligible for free PhotoPass downloads.
There is definitely guest demand for such a “private photo shoot” service, but it’s worth pointing out that essentially the same thing can be accomplished for free by visiting multiple locations. The critical distinction between a real portraiture session and this is that you are still reliant upon regular PhotoPass photographers, rather than a true professional with an eye for photography.
PhotoPass at Disneyland
At Disneyland, PhotoPass is still the service, but currently the product is called PhotoPass+ One Week and costs $78. There are also other products that can be purchased under the PhotoPass brand, but the main product that offers inclusive digital downloads is PhotoPass+ One Week, and as the name suggests, it’s offered for downloads of a full week worth of photos for your entire family.
In fact, in almost all use cases, MaxPass is the better option than PhotoPass+ One Week. We are huge advocates of MaxPass, and unless you do not want that benefit and have a large party and are visiting Disneyland for over 5 days, you’re probably better off just sticking with MaxPass.
On-ride photos at Disneyland Resort are: Radiator Springs Racers, California Screamin’, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, and Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! Character dining locations included in PhotoPass+ at Disneyland are: Ariel’s Grotto, Goofy’s Kitchen, Disney’s PCH Grill, and Plaza Inn (breakfast).
Whether these PhotoPass services are worth the cost depends on a number of factors, namely, how many photos you’ll take with it and what you think of PhotoPass in the first place. Given that, we’ll start with our review of the PhotoPass service and conclude with a review of Memory Maker.
We have never purchased regular PhotoPass because the value for us simply is not there; now that it’s included in our Annual Pass, we’ve used it a decent amount for the convenience, but still wouldn’t pay for it in most cases. Disney touts PhotoPass as a great way to get professional photos with the whole family in the shot.
Based upon this pitch, it’s pretty clear that there are two components to PhotoPass/Memory Maker: product (the photos available for digital download) and service (having someone else to take the photos for you so the whole family can get into the shot). Some people don’t realize this, but only the product costs money. The service is free, as all PhotoPass photographers will capture photos for you for free with your camera.
Reviewed with this in mind, I think PhotoPass is a nice service, but the products under its brand aren’t all that great. The “professional” PhotoPass photographers are not skilled professional photographers. Most of the professional photographers employed in PhotoPass positions are only professionals in the sense that it is their job to take photos.
They have no specialized expertise or experience in photography–they were just given some quick on the job training in using the PhotoPass equipment. Consequently, many PhotoPass Cast Members have trouble using cameras that are handed off to them (except iPhones–they all are fluent in iPhoneography).
That’s just the start of the problems. With PhotoPass, sometimes you’ll get photos that are out-of-focus, poorly composed, or not properly exposed. This isn’t a problem most of the time, but can be an issue.
I don’t want this to sound like I’m piling on PhotoPass Cast Members. I’m not. As Cast Members, they’re usually delightful to us just like most Cast Members are. As photographers, I don’t feel that many of them are up to snuff. I realize I’m painting with broad strokes here.
Some PhotoPass photographers are excellent. So, if you’re a good PhotoPass photographer, please don’t take offense. However, most aren’t any better at photography than the average tourist in the parks. So don’t purchase Memory Maker or PhotoPass+ One Week because you think it’s a great way to get professional-quality photos from the parks. It’s not.
All of that said, as a service, PhotoPass is wonderful. This is because all of the photographers will take photos of you with your camera for free. We use this free service all the time, and while the photos don’t always turn out well, it’s nice to have Cast Members conveniently located in front of icons to take photos of us.
Given the fact that PhotoPass will take photos of you with your own camera, I have always had a really hard time recommending Memory Maker or PhotoPass+ One Week to anyone on a tight budget. Granted, there are benefits if your camera isn’t very nice and there’s also something to be said for convenience.
However, I think most guests would be better suited by purchasing a nice point & shoot camera like the Sony RX100 (my favorite point and shoot camera), having PhotoPass photographers use that to take their photos, also using it to take their own photos, and then purchasing photobooks through reputable online photobook services with all of their vacation photos. Doing that, you’d come out ahead monetarily after only a couple of trips.
Plus, you’d have a wonderful camera at the end of the day, which is an excellent pocket-sized camera that’s easy to carry around Walt Disney World and Disneyland that is capable of almost as good of photos as the PhotoPass cameras. Plus, by purchasing a nice little point and shoot like that, you are able to take your own nice photos in other circumstances!
Memory Maker Review
Memory Maker offers several benefits. By virtue of the camera used being a semi-professional DSLR, there’s a good chance the photos they take will be nicer than photos you take with your own camera; but you could easily achieve comparable results if you had a DSLR.
You also have the benefit of being able to add borders and other graphic elements to the photos if that’s your thing, and at both Walt Disney World, there are some “special” photos that only PhotoPass photographers can take, such as guests holding Simba or Tinkerbell, or Stitch coming out of the pavement.
If you’re going to Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon water parks at Walt Disney World, Memory Maker also has more value because these photographers are positioned in a lot of fun locations where you probably couldn’t get your own photos (like in the wave pools and at the end of attractions like Crush N Gusher). These photos can be a lot of fun, and definitely make PhotoPass a much better value.
Beyond that, the product becomes a better value if you have a larger party or (at Walt Disney World) are taking a longer trip. If you’re going on a two week long family reunion and 10 of you will be using PhotoPass photographers to capture thousands of photos from the special trip, the per photo cost of Memory Maker is so low that it’s more likely to be worth it for you. By contrast, if you’re only getting 10 or so photos per trip with PhotoPass, you’re paying $10+ per photo, which is more difficult to justify.
Memory Maker might be easier to justify for special trips from which you want as many memories as possible. If it’s your “Disneymoon” or a your son or daughter’s first trip to Walt Disney World, some of the photos taken by PhotoPass might be priceless. Obviously everyone’s circumstances are different in this regard, so weigh your circumstances accordingly when determining whether you should purchase Memory Maker.
Perhaps the single biggest benefit is the on-ride photos. Disney normally sells these for $15 a pop, which I think is a bit excessive, but people buy them. We love making funny (well, we think they’re funny, you can be the judge of that…) faces for these on-ride photos, and although we have never purchased an on-ride photo, we love them. There have been cases where we’ve come really close to buying these photos, but the price always dissuades us. So for us, this was where the real value of Memory Maker can be found.
During the course of one 5-day trip to Walt Disney World, we got 17 on-ride photos. On a longer trip, we could’ve gotten even more. If these were the only photos of value we got from PhotoPass+, they would have cost a little over $4 each. Of course, we would not have purchased all of these photos if we were paying for them separately, but it’s still a much better value than buying the photos individually at the attractions if you’re into on-ride photos.
Plus, we did get other photos, and the convenience of not having to hand off my camera to the PhotoPass photographers was a nice luxury (but not something for which I’d pay much of a premium). Having PhotoPass Cast Members around at night was also nice.
Then there’s the video on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which is one of several innovative and fresh things Walt Disney World is doing with PhotoPass. It’s pretty neat and fun to show family and friends or share via social media. I think this is the way of the future, and Disney will likely try to incorporate on-ride video like this into as many future attractions as possible.
Overall, I have a difficult time recommending Memory Maker at Walt Disney World to everyone for every trip. If you’ve never purchased on-ride photos but like the idea of them, consider trying it for a longer trip (or if you’re a local, purchase it and use one card for 14 days and go on those attractions a lot), and go nuts getting as many of those photos as you can, plus other photos. After that trip, you might just stick to using PhotoPass as a service to get photos taken with your own camera.
I think it mostly makes sense for long or special occasion trips. If you are taking a week or longer vacation with a lot of family members, it might be worth getting Memory Maker so that you can get character dining photos and, more importantly, on-ride photos. If you get an on-ride photo from most of the attractions (or multiple photos), the per photo cost of Memory Maker is pretty insignificant.
Thus, the longer your trip and the more people in your traveling party, the better of a value Memory Maker is. In most cases, I think there are far better ways to spend finite vacation dollars than on Memory Maker, but everyone values aspects of their Disney vacations differently, and it might be a great value to you depending upon your circumstances!
Do you agree or disagree? Like PhotoPass or hate it? Have you tried Memory Maker or PhotoPass+ One Week? Are you considering trying one of them? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!