What is PhotoPass?

Disney’s PhotoPass is basically the system that Walt Disney World and Disneyland use for their photography services.  Disney Photographers can be found at all Walt Disney theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, and Typhoon Lagoon.  They are also available at both Disneyland parks.  It is completely free to use, whether you have 1 picture taken, or 10,001 pictures taken; you pay only for the photos you purchase.  All photos are stored electronically for you to peruse at your leisure after your vacation.  PhotoPass is available for all guests, staying onsite or not.  While this sounds relatively simple, and it is, there are certain aspects of PhotoPass that every person on a Disney vacation should be aware of.

How Does PhotoPass Work?

The first time you have your photograph taken at any Disney theme park, the photographer will hand you a little card.  It will either be a plastic card the size of a credit card, or a smaller plastic card attached to a small wrist bracelet.  The credit card sized card is more common, with the wrist card only currently available at Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, or Pixie Hollow at Magic Kingdom’s Toon Town Hall of Fame meet-n-greet for the fairies. 

Each card will have a one-of-a-kind alphanumeric code 16 digits long.  Each photographer, before taking your picture, will scan the code into his or her camera attaching the photos to the card.  If you lose the code, you lose the pictures.  When you receive the card, take your own picture of the back of the card, text or email the code to yourself, write it down, or whatever you can think of to look up the code later.  It is not important to retain the card, but you cannot access the photos without the code.  Some people get a new card daily or every few days so that if the card and code are somehow destroyed/lost, you do not lose all your photos.  There is no limit to the number of cards you can obtain, a big bonus for when parties split up—each can use a different card, but keep all their photos on one account.  Note: each card can only hold up to 999 photos per card.

Pictures can be available within minutes of being taken, but can take up to 24 hours before showing up on your PhotoPass for online viewing.

Where Are the Photo Opportunities?

The simple answer is wherever there is a Disney photographer.  Disney photographers aren’t everywhere however.  They are available in the main areas of the various theme parks, where the parks landmarks can be seen in the background.  At Magic Kingdom, you’ll find them anywhere that Cinderella’s Castle is in the background, including Main Street.  At Epcot, in the front entrance where the globe can be seen.  At Disney Hollywood Studios, where the Sorcerer’s hat is seen (near the front entrance) and where Tower of Terror is in the background on Sunset Boulevard.  At Animal Kingdom, you’ll find a PhotoPass photographer where the Tree of Life would be in the background.  You can also find photographers at character meet-n-greets at all theme parks or special “photo opportunity” spots, generally marked with a plaque/stand. 

Specifically for Disney Visa Card holders is a special meet-n-greet at Epcot in the Innovations West building at Walt Disney World and Disney’s California Adventure by Monsters, Inc. at Disneyland.  There will be an assortment of the Fab Five (Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Minnie, and Pluto), usually 2 or 3.  Disney Visa Card holders even can receive one free 5 x 7 per day at the camera center from these pictures—some report any photo from their PhotoPass, but that isn’t guaranteed.

Disney photographers are also frequently at character meals and the dinner shows, but those photos can only be uploaded to your card if you purchase the photo package (included with the price of the meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table).  In addition, during Holiday times, when special decorations are present, Disney PhotoPass photographers are often present in the resort lobbies for picture taking opportunities.  Lastly, Disney photographers are frequently present near Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique locations for patrons of the boutique primarily, but anyone may use the photographers for photos. 

Special PhotoPass Opportunities

There are special things Disney Photographers can do for guests at Disney.  One of which are “magic shots” where characters or special Disney items are magically placed into photos when viewing.  This includes Tinkerbelle or Prince Naveen (from The Princess and The Frog) in your hands or near you, fights with Darth Vader or Captain Hook, Baby Simba in your arms, the ghosts from the Haunted Mansion, Stitch, Lillo, Mickey, Minnie, or Goofy (or some combination)  near you, or the addition of fairy wings or Mickey Balloons.  When you check your PhotoPass shots online, you never know what you’ll get.

While limited, don’t forget about all those candid photos taken during rides at Walt Disney World.  Two attractions currently employ the PhotoPass services—Test Track at Epcot, Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom.  When you exit Test Track, stop by and check your photo.  You can scan your PhotoPass card and have your picture loaded onto the card.  Cast members are available to hand out PhotoPass cards and help guests who might be having problems scanning their PhotoPass card.   At Space Mountain and Tower of Terror, you must first purchase a photo package (currently 3 available) and then your pictures will be loaded onto a special Space Mountain PhotoPass card that can be used the same way any other PhotoPass card is used.

Guests who participate in the American Idol Experience or Jedi Training Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will also have pictures taken of them during their performances.  Pictures taken by Disney photographers can be uploaded to your PhotoPass card at any PhotoPass service center.

PhotoPass pictures are not limited strictly to photos taken by Disney photographers. Guests may stop by the PhotoPass service centers to have pictures they have taken uploaded onto a Disney PhotoPass card.  This is called the Express Upload Service.  This is a great way to backup personal photos, or to make more room on a memory card.  There is no charge for this service. 

How to View Photos on the PhotoPass Card

There are multiple ways to view pictures on the PhotoPass card.  Note: All pictures must be claimed 30 days from the date taken/uploaded to your card.  If you are inpatient or lack computer access, you may go to any of the PhotoPass service centers and view your photos there.  This is also a good place if you want an immediate print or special product with a photo.  PhotoPass service centers are located at various places: Exposition Hall in Magic Kingdom, the Camera Center at Epcot, Cover at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Garden Gate Gifts at Animal Kingdom, County Bounty in Toontown at Magic Kingdom, guest relations at Downtown Disney and the Disney's PhotoPass kiosks located at the resorts that offer private portrait sessions (a separate service from the PhotoPass service available in the theme parks).

More commonly, pictures can be viewed online at www.disneyphotopass.com.  An account can be set up any time before or after use of a PhotoPass card; accounts never expire so guests may use their account for multiple trips.  Once a PhotoPass card code is entered into the account, pictures are claimed and the clock starts ticking before photos expire (30 days once claimed, but extensions can be purchased).  Claimed photos are not lost so at this point it does not matter if you lose the card or its code.  Once a PhotoPass card is associated with an account, it cannot be moved to another account.

Editing Photos Online

Editing photos can take a long time because there are many options; it’s best to start the process as quickly as possible.  Disney will offer some stock photos that relate to the location where pictures taken by Disney photographers.  PhotoPass also has a multitude of borders that can be added to the photos.  Every photo can be saved in various ways multiple times.  It is possible to turn a handful of PhotoPass pictures into several hundred, or even over a thousand. 

Pictures on your PhotoPass account will originally show in a 4 x 6 format, but editing and enhancements start, the pictures will move to a 5 x 7 format.  Before you start any editing, it is good to make sure the photo is in the size you will want to print it in.  It is also a good idea to edit and enhance each photo in several sizes to make sure the look desired is achieved.

Not all photos will turn out.  Disney photographers are not professional photographers!  While an interest in photography is desired when place cast members in the photographer position, it is not required.  Don’t waste time editing photos that are clearly not worth editing or enhancing.  Do be creative in editing—use the crop box to make a photo that might not seem worthwhile into a keeper.

Remember, borders are seasonal.  No matter when the photos were taken, different borders will become available or disappear.  If there is a border you like, save it as quickly as possible to your pictures.  If there is a border desired (holiday related), but it isn’t showing up, it might pop up closer to the photo deadline date so keep checking to see if it comes available before photos are lost.

Possible Problems and What to do About Them

Missing Photos: If you know pictures are missing, you are able to contact Disney with information about the photo, including where and when the photo was taken, and they can locate the photo for you and help you get it on your PhotoPass account. 

Missing Magic Shots: Sometimes it is obvious that a photo should have something more to it, like when hands are being held out or the PhotoPass photographer had you point at something.  Once you start going through your PhotoPass pictures and you notice the shots that don’t have anything extra to them, you generally have a missing Magic Shot.  Contact Disney and they can help to find your missing character or other enhancement.

More Hints, Tips And Other Things You Need To Know

All photos must be claimed within 30 days of the time the picture was taken or uploaded to the PhotoPass card.  Once photos are claimed, there is 30 days (midnight the morning of day 30) until the photos expire, or disappear forever.  Extensions can be purchased for 7 days at $4.95 or 15 days at $9.95.  More than one block can be purchased.  Don’t delay, deleted photos have next to no chance at being restored.

Since Disney photographers are not professionals, it is a good idea to use many different photographers over the course of your trip and get as many photos as possible—there is no cost to use PhotoPass services.  For example, every time you walk down Main Street ask a photographer to get your picture.  And ask for multiple poses and pictures to increase your chance of getting a photo that is worth keeping.

Don’t forget your own camera!  PhotoPass photographers, and many other Disney guests, are happy to use your camera to take pictures.   Personal photos can then be uploaded to the PhotoPass card where editing and enhancements can be made to them.  A separate personal photo CD must be purchased for $19.95 (regardless of the actual number of CDs needed/photos).

If a single PhotoPass card is desired to be put onto two different accounts, guests can stop by a Disney PhotoPass service center and have photos copied from one card to another card with its own unique PhotoPass code for uploading to a second account.  Just be sure to check that the photos remain on the original PhotoPass card before leaving the service center.

There are a wide variety of products available for purchase through PhotoPass.  The most economical is the PhotoPass CD, not to be confused with the personal CD.  The PhotoPass CD is $149.95, but can be pre-purchased before your trip (photos taken prior to the pre-purchase will NOT appear on the CD) through a preorder link at http://www.disneyphotopass.com/previsitoffer.aspx for $99.95.  All reprints can be made, Disney explicitly grants the rights, on your own at home or through a printing service such as Wal-Mart or Snapfish.  You may also make copies of the CD to give to friends and family.

Disney guests staying onsite at a Walt Disney World Resort are often sent a PhotoPass in advance of their trip.  By registering that PhotoPass, they frequently receive special discounts related to PhotoPass services, sometimes including a coupon off the pre-purchase price of a PhotoPass CD.  Additionally, onsite guests who mention celebrating a birthday are often given a special PhotoPass card that offers discounts on single prints. 

Special PhotoPass cards that offer a discount apply only to photos taken on that card, although all cards can be added to a single account.

PhotoPass has its own Facebook and Twitter presence.  Fans who follow PhotoPass through one or both of these social networking platforms are sometimes given access to special discounts, regardless if they are staying onsite, offsite or a local day guest.