During my escapades through the Lines Chat, there are often discussions about whether various Disney offerings are “worth it.” One such offering that is asked about quite a bit is Disney’s PhotoPass. My goal with this post is to give a full, clinical, unbiased breakdown of the entire system and its results (well, I’ll try with the ‘unbiased’ part…and the “full” and “clinical” parts too).
PhotoPass is a service offered at Walt Disney World where Disney’s photographers “capture the magic for you” (Disney’s words). If you’ve been to Disney World recently you have no doubt noticed the plethora of photographers standing on all the main arteries and at most character greetings in the parks. These photographers are part of the PhotoPass system, and using the system is actually very easy. What you do is simply get your picture taken. You are then given a card that can be scanned by any Disney photographer, and that card is then used to recall your pictures via the Internet or at one of the PhotoPass ordering stations scattered around the resort.
There are definitely benefits to PhotoPass, which is the reason that so many people use it, which is the reason Disney still does it (as with all things: if it didn’t make money, it wouldn’t be there). For one, someone else is taking the picture, meaning your whole family can be in it (if that’s something you’re interested in…my family is undecided). The photographers are also professionals with professional equipment (my fellow blogger Tom Bricker’s head just exploded, but I’ll get into the professional thing later).
Another benefit is that PhotoPass photographers can be found in many, many locations. They are around all major “weenies” (Walt’s word, meaning a hot dog luring a real dog…not what you’re thinking) such as Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth, the Tree of Life, and Graumann’s Chinese Theater (or, I guess, the hat). You will also see them at most character greeting locations as well as at other in-park locations.
Other PhotoPass benefits are discovered when you see your pictures online. You can do special things like add borders and signatures. The photographer can also set you up with certain special shots; the most popular being with Tinker Bell. What they do is pose someone in your group with her hands out as if she is holding a small fairy. Later, when you see the picture, it turns out that Tink herself was in your hand all along (the moral is: don’t clap, or it’s bye bye Tink).
The Less Good
Unfortunately there are also a few things that are not so great about PhotoPass:–primarily the price. The pictures are $14.95 for two 4×6 prints or one 5×7…ouch. The best value offered is the CD, which will contain all of your pictures plus some bonus stock footage for $149. If you preorder the CD before your trip you can get it for $99, but that’s still not exactly a bargain since it doesn’t include the print charge. It does at least give you digital copies so you can print them out from other sources such as Snapfish or Walmart. Ultimitely the value of the CD depends on how many PhotoPass pictures you take. If you and your family only take one periodically, as mine did, it will not be worth it. If you take a few hundred the value will change…although you may have also just spent your entire vacation in front of a camera.
There are a few other nitpicky things that I personally don’t like about PhotoPass. These things will not bother everyone, but they bother me, and since I’m writing this I get to talk about them (so there). First, I find the photographers themselves to be hit-or-miss personality-wise. I’ve had some pose us like we’re on a photo shoot (Blue Steel!), and some snap one picture, scan the card, and grumble their way to someone else.
Another thing that grinds my gears is also related to the photographers, and that is their ability as photographers. I am far from a professional as many of my pictures will prove, but I understand the basics such as “take the picture so there is something nice behind the subject.” This rule was broken in the picture with my daughter holding Tinker Bell. For a reason I have yet to discover, the PhotoPass photographer moved her onto the sidewalk rather than get the castle behind her. That in itself is forgivable; after all, I love the facades on Main Street. What I was baffled by when I saw the picture was that the photographer took it from above her meaning that the background is entirely sidewalk. Still a very sweet picture, but it could have been much better.
My last whiny point about PhotoPass is the quality. I carry in the parks a Panasonic Lumix point and shoot camera, and it is a very nice point and shoot. It should not match the quality of a professional setup, yet I find that it comes very close for a much cheaper price. At the bottom of this post I have some comparisons.
Good for some, but not for me. I fully understand those who want to go camera-less and let Disney do the work for them; I cannot do that. My preference is to take the pictures myself, or at least with my camera. But what about the group shots you say? Here’s a tip: the PhotoPass photographers will also take a picture with your camera while they are taking theirs. Overall, for me, the PhotoPass was too expensive, and the quality did not match the price. If you are the type of person who uses a cell phone as a camera or carries no camera at all, the convenience may sell you on it. If you enjoy taking pictures yourself, I suggest you continue to do that.
Here are the comparison photos. The PhotoPass pictures are unedited except for resizing. My photos are slightly cropped, but nothing else. These photos were chosen because of the direct comparison they offer; they are not necessarily my best pictures.
Thanks for reading!