Lessons Learned From An Unplanned Self Portrait

disney world, magic kingdom, self portrait, merry-go-round, disney rides, hoses, carousel, minnie ears


So, my husband bought me Disney passes last month for my 30th birthday.  He knew I’d been wanting to get some good photos of our little ones at Magic Kingdom before they weren’t so little anymore… I’ll warn you now, expectation WAY EXCEEDED reality on this one! Haha.

I had asked around in some professional photography forums and was given great advice from so many amazing women for how to capture these moments.

“Get there early,” they said.

“Pack light and just bring one lens,” they said.

“It’ll be great,” they said.

Remember, I’m a portrait photographer… I try my best to stay away from crowds for good photos, but who are we kidding? This is Disney! And better yet, these are my kids!!! HA! But, we went to the park with the plan of taking just a few photos that could tell a short and sweet story of our day. Popcorn on Main Street, a few in front of Cinderella’s Castle, a couple on the Merry-Go-Round, and a few near Dumbo’s Circus! Simple and easy, and then we would stow away the camera and enjoy the rest of our day with no pictures!

I had dressed the kids in coordinating outfits that would photograph well. We even woke up super early to get to the park as soon as it opened… along with everyone else!

We walked into The Confectionery on Main Street… swarming. Cut to: the voice in my head, “2018 is for getting out of your comfort zone… push through this! You can do this.” So I snapped a few photos of the kids – total creative block as I was zero inspired by the surroundings.

I thought maybe we could head to the Merry-Go-Round next… Wowzers! Holy long line man! I put my camera away and decided to try again later.

But later never really came… I saw the smiles on my kids faces, and the joy they were feeling, and it just made me so happy. At that moment I knew, there were no pictures in the world that could top the feeling of being present and in these moments with my kids!

I mean it’s tough… as a professional photographer, I am constantly taking pictures of other families and documenting those memories for them.  At times I feel guilty for not doing the same for my own family… but, this was when I realized just how valuable a photographer is.  And I told my husband that no matter how many pictures I took of my kids at the park, they just wouldn’t be the same if I wasn’t in the frame with them, enjoying that experience with them! Completely unplugged.

Our last ride before the firework show was the Merry-Go-Round. It was dark out, but I figured I’d give the camera one last shot… nada.  Crowds, distractions, and bad light; talk about stepping out of my comfort zone. When the ride ended I felt a bit defeated. It was as though the time had gotten away from me, and it kinda did.  I was behind the camera on that last ride of the night. I was thinking in shutter speeds, compositions and ISO settings rather than enjoying those moments to the fullest.

I got off the horse and looked up to see my reflection staring back at me. I saw the disappointment… “just put the camera away,” the voice said.

“One last shot.”

And that is how this unplanned self portrait happened.

Taking photos of your kids at Magic Kingdom is like trying to take a photo while standing in a stampede of wild horses! So next time you’re at Disney, unplug and choose JOY! Be present, and if you want those pictures of you and your kiddos, leave it to the park photographers or bring a photographer of your own. I promise, you won’t regret it.