Is Disney PhotoPass Worth the Money?

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Disney, Park Wise

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Published on April 04, 2013 at 3:59 am with 36 Comments

If you’ve been to a Disney Park recently, you’ve no doubt seen happy cast members posted at various locations throughout the park with large cameras in hand.  These are your friendly PhotoPass photographers, and they’ll gladly snap a picture or two (or a dozen!), scan them onto your PhotoPass card, and you can peruse them at PhotoPass kiosks or on your own computer via a free Disney PhotoPass account on the official site.

While this portion of the service is complimentary, there are a plethora of items to purchase once you begin looking at your photos.  From prints to calendars to mugs and more, the possibilities of photo-clad products are varied. You can buy prints one at a time or even a PhotoPass CD, which allows guests to obtain all PhotoPass vacation photos on on CD(s) along with the rights to have them printed wherever they wish. The best value for us has been Disney’s PhotoPass CD,  which is what we’ll be focusing on today.

Now that you have a general idea of PhotoPass, let’s decide if it’s right for you.

The Budget Issue

While Disneyland’s PhotoPass CD is a more affordable option at $69.95, the Disney World price tag of $169.95 can make your decision a little more difficult.  However, currently the PhotoPass CD can be pre-ordered for Walt Disney World at a discounted price of $119.95.  Even with the discount, there can be a bit of sticker shock, especially if you carry your own camera and know you’ll have plenty of pictures.  Then again, when splurging on your Disney vacation, this cost may just be a drop in the bucket.

Get Park Wise:Traveling with a group?  There’s no limit to the amount of photos or cards that can be added to a PhotoPass account.  Join forces with your fellow travelers, and split the cost.

Ÿ√ If you’re not traveling with a group, there is a group on Facebook that organizes PhotoPass shares where strangers traveling during the same time can join one account and divide the price.  This is not sanctioned by Disney nor is it truly monitored, so this is definitely an at-your-own-risk venture.

Will You Use It?

PhotoPass photographers are typically stationed at very picturesque areas in the parks.  You’ll find them in front of castles, giant golf balls, humongous hats, etc.  They’re often spotted near main attractions, or at least main attractions that are visually appealing from the outside.  In addition, they’re often snapping away at character meet and greets throughout the parks.  Occasionally, they can even be found at the resort hotels.


Chances are you’ll want some photographic memories of these locations and experiences.  However, even if you’re not planning to purchase a PhotoPass CD, the photographers will also take pictures with your personal camera, phone, tablet and whatever else you may have.  I really do love PhotoPass photos at character spots, though, because often the photographer starts taking photos even before you can ask them to use your camera.  Your little one’s huge grin as Mickey motions for her to join him, or your laugh as Goofy bows to you are just a couple of the moments they can capture that you may not be able to get.

Get Park Wise: If you do decide to use Disney PhotoPass, tell the photographer that you’ve pre-purchased the CD.  They’ll usually take extra shots, especially if no one else is waiting.

Dining and Attractions

In 2012, PhotoPass introduced two new members to their family in PhotoPass+ and Attractions+.  PhotoPass+ allows guests to add any dining photos (taken prior to your meal at select locations) and on-ride photos (taken at select attractions) to your PhotoPass account.  Attractions+ allows you to add just the attraction photos.

If you typically purchase these photos, the cost of PhotoPass+ or Attractions+ quickly pays for itself.  For example, a photo package taken at a dining location can average $30-35.  With PhotoPass+ you’ll get the physical photo package and have it added to your account.  Typical ride photos start at around $15.  If you’re not interested in these options, it’s probably not worth the price to upgrade.

Mouse-ellaneous Magic

The PhotoPass site encourages guests to embellish and edit their PhotoPass photos.  Borders, character autographs, special event logos and more can be added to any photos taken at the parks and resorts and will be included on the CD.

Another fun aspect of using PhotoPass is the ability of photographers to do “magic shots.”  These are fun graphics added to your photos automatically.  You can hold Tinker Bell in the palm of your hand, be carried away by Mickey balloons or cradle baby Simba.  Ask any PhotoPass photographer if they do any magic shots when you stop for the obvious picture.  Photographers with cameras on tripods typically cannot while photographers with cameras in hand typically can.

Of course, if you’re not a photo geek like I am, you can probably do just as well without these.  ;)

So, there’s a basic idea of the main facets of PhotoPass and the most requested information from my guests regarding the service.  Personally, I’m a PhotoPass fan and use it on every trip.  What about you? Is PhotoPass worth the price?

About Jessica Ma'ilo

Jessica is a special education teacher by day and blogger and Fairy Godmother Travel agent by evening. When not supervising play dates or sleepovers, she can be found creating, sewing or singing. She loves hitting the Disney Parks, and she and her family escape to the World and Land as often as they can. She can be contacted at [email protected], and you can also check out her family blog, Magic, Memories, Mayhem.

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  • we24eva

    I think this service was a great choice for us. We have an autistic 8 year old son and it is not easy for my wife and I to both be in pictures with him at the same time. The photographers were very understanding and patient to get just the right picture.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      That’s great! I think that Disney in general is a fantastic place for lots of special needs families. I have countless students whose parents tout Disney as their favorite vacation destination purely for the time and attention taken to accommodate individuals and families when needed.

  • PeaJay18

    We did for our honeymoon trip and it was well worth it to have pictures with both of us in.

    Of course, the photographers will take a pic with your own camera but the added bonus of unlimited pictures and the ability to edit, add borders, signatures etc made it a great option for a special trip.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      I bet you made good use out of the “Just Married” borders. ;)

  • brem

    We used PhotoPass+ on our trip to DL in October. We were in the park for 9 days and ended up with 500+ photos of which there were about 100 ride photos. Definitely worth the expense and a great value. Photographers are always helpful and have great ideas for different shots, such as standing in front of Flo’s with everyones hands raised in the shape of a V.

    One hidden benefit is that you do not need to have the actual PhotoPass+ card with you for ride photos, all you need is the number. Therefore if everyone in your group has the number they can add ride photos to the account without the main person being present.

    A fun aspect that I added to our PhotoPass a few years ago was when I am alone, I have photopass photographer take pictures of me alone with characters. This adds tremendous fun when reviewing the photos for the first time since my wife and kids know nothing about them. And yes, I do act the fool in those photos.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      We always love a playful photographer! Makes the pictures lots of fun.
      Let me add that there are conflicting reports about whether or not the number suffices in place of the physical card. Some have been able to provide the number only, while other CMs require the physical card.

      • brem

        I should have clarified. You can use the PP number at attractions for ride photos. I have never tried to use the number with the regular photographers.

        With the regular photographers, you can just carry around an extra PP Card and combine them all at the camera shop (either DL or DCA) prior to ending your trip. This also works for your AP if you have one.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      No, you’re good! I got what you were saying. I was also referring to the same thing. I’ve had several clients who’ve tried that based on suggestions from the general Disney online presence. I’d say the success rate was about 50%. Some CMs will do it, some won’t. I will say most had better luck with a phone pic of the entire back of the card.

  • Skimbob

    I think it is way overpriced at WDW for me personally since I will usually have only a handful of pictures taken. I am disappointed that they do not offer passholder discounts for larger packages at DL. I paid $69 for a cd that had less than a total of 20 pictures and that included the ones they give you extra. I paid $150 at WDW for photos after the 1/2 marathon there and the 1/2 marathon the following weekend at DL and once again I only had a handful of pictures.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      AP discounts would be fantastic!! We always get tons of pictures and tend to travel with friends (and split the cost), but I can see where paying the price alone coupled with not having many shots can definitely lower the value.

  • Susan Hughes

    Disney has one major flaw with it’s Photopass program…they DON’T hire photographers. That is a proven fact I know first hand. Photography knowledge and experience is irrelevant to the position. It’s a sales job, first and foremost. So they hire people who they feel can talk the guests into having their photo taken.
    And that’s where the problem lies. Convincing a guest to have Photopass take their photo isn’t so hard. But when they review those images in relation to the pics they took with their own camera, the sale is lost.
    The Photopass photographers are forced to shoot with exposure settings that can’t be changed. In essence, that expensive camera is nothing more than a point and shoot. And lack of photography experience shows when the composition of the image is terrible.
    Disney needs to hire, at the very least, Cast Members with some knowledge and interest in digital photography. But even a serious hobbyist wouldn’t want to be reduced to a mere point and shoot job…especially for low wages.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      While I do agree that there are some not-so-great photographers on board with PhotoPass, I don’t think your opinion is true across the board. We’ve had some FANTASTIC photographers, and I know for a fact that there are several professional and retired photographers on staff at Disney World. That said, I agree that prior knowledge of cameras and photography should be required when Disney is charging for the resulting product of their actions.

      I also have never been approached by PhotoPass photographers or tried to be “talked into” having our photo taken. I’ve specifically noticed this because at our local amusement park, the photographers are aggressive!! Haha! I believe they work on commission per photo and sale while I don’t believe the same holds true at Disney.

      • Susan Hughes

        Disney Photopass Photographers don’t work on commission. They’re hourly. But they are tracked as to how many photos they take and which of their photos were sold. So there is that pressure to SELL, SELL, SELL! Which is why a sales or guest relations background is more important than a photography background.
        Case in point. A friend of mine, with an extensive photography background, interviewed for the Photopass position. But what Disney does is conduct a “double” interview. So she was being interviewed with another girl who had ZERO photography experience. When the interviewer asked this girl what kind of camera she had, she said, “I’m not really sure. Some kind of tiny camera.”
        But in the end, my friend DIDN’T get the job, but the other girl did. That more than anything else tells you what the priorities are with the Photopass Department.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Hmmm, interesting theory. I must have gotten the bottom couple hundred photogs of the PhotoPass class over the years when it comes to selling because I’ve never been pitched. Not once! Not even at the PhotoPass desks where the money can actually change hands. I’ll have to poke around the Disney geek community and see if I’m the odd man out. Photogs sell-sell-selling has never been on my radar.
      Thanks for your thoughts!

  • mikedoyleblogger

    My DBF and I loved using PhotoPass+, the “pre-paid everything (photos, CD, shipping)” version–at DLR in March. I think it all depends on how you use it. We sought out PP photographers in both parks, let them pose us, asked them what “special effects” they had in their cameras, and generally played along in the fun. We also rode a lot of rides, and made sure we used our PP card to capture all our ride photos. In five days of park-hopping, we came home with around 100 photos. For $69, the service and peace of mind were definitely worth it.

    If you’re timid, don’t seek out the photographers, don’t ride many “photo” attractions, and/or don’t do character dining, I can see how someone could think the service wasn’t worth the money. But all of DLR–and WDW!—is like that. If you go in Grumpy, you don’t always come out Happy, so to speak. So the right attitude helps a lot with PhotoPass+.

    All of that said, I can see the more expensive version at WDW being harder to financially justify, unless you’re on property for an entire week. Frankly, I think the WDW version is overpriced.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      I have to agree with you all around! Some days we’re on the hunt for photogs, other days not so much, and it shows in what we have in our account at the end of the trip.

      I do think the WDW cost is a bit high, but we typically purchased about half of our dining photo packages and at least a couple ride photos per trip, so we found value there. Again, we’re often at Disney with or at the same time as friends, so that does cut down the overall price for us, too.

  • StevenW

    Frankly, I am a photographer that like my own photographs than the Photopass photographers’. Often, I asked them to use my camera. The results are comparable. I can take the time to edit it with effects of my own, but it isn’t always worth the effort.

    I admit some photos are best with the Photopass. The results depend on the camera and the knowledge you apply in taking photographs. Thus, I use the widest shot possible to get the background and I always use the flash to ensure the faces are properly lighted.

    In December, I went on an overseas vacation. I taken tons of photos. After I came home, I realized that many photos were quite good from using my new techniques. You can do it as well. However, if you’re a novice, you can use their service, but just make sure you take full advantage.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      I’m a shutterbug at Disney (well, everywhere else, too!), and I can get a little snobby at times when a photograph has little to no composition thought. However, I just give in when I want to join the fam for big group shots. ;)
      I agree that if you want to make the purchase worth it, make sure you’re using it to its maximum benefit.

  • DannyeF

    We are going to DLR in June and we have pre-ordered Photopass+. I am very much looking forward to it for a couple of reasons: first, my dad and his sweetie (a first-time Disneylander!) can go off by themselves and still be in every photo together. And second, I can stand in line with my kids waiting to see a character and not have to worry about having my own camera out and ready. We can just chat and relax. I have never purchased the regular Photopass pictures because they were expensive, but with meal & ride photos on here and everything at one low pre-order price, it’s awesome.
    Of course, that’s DLR–it’s a lot more expensive at WDW.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Have fun!! We’re also hitting DLR this summer, and I’m probably a little too excited about the lower priced PhotoPass. ;)

  • mrogerson6083

    We were in Disneyland in February and took many photopass pictures. On the last day we lost the card. We were upset and sad that we lost a whole pile of pictures with many characters.

    We started a new one and went to get 1 family photo printed on Mainstreet.

    My wife mentioned to the castmember that we lost the card. He asked what character we met, what time and where. He brought up a list of pictures and we were able to find ours. He was then able to get the card number and then VOILA, we had all our picture.

    We were so grateful.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      PhotoPass is VERY good about this! I had a client (who forgot my suggestion to take photos of that back of her PhotoPass cards) lost her PhotoPass+ lanyard and card. She called me at 7:00 A.M. in a panic because it was their last day. I sent her to the PhotoPass desk at the park they were visiting that day, and they were able to find everything on the card. Glad it worked out for you, too!

  • jjmaneja

    I agree that the prices can be on the hefty side, especially considering that you can easily take it with your own camera and make your own prints at home or at a store that does prints for you. But I like the photopass because 1) They may capture a photo at a much better quality than I can obtain with my own point and shoot (especially those night photos), 2) I can look through the photos online (and maybe find one that I really like, but didn’t want to spend time looking at in the park) and 3) While the quality or resolution isn’t the best, you can easily do a print screen and get all those online photos (painstakingly, of course).

    I’ll still always do it, but the only pictures that I have bought in the past year have been ride photos, and I love the new photopass attractions option at Disneyland.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      I usually have a lot of duplicates because I often have photographers use my camera, too, but I agree with your first point. I love those pictures I didn’t get and didn’t know the photographers captured, either. I also love adding the ride shots since those are definitely something you can’t get with your own camera.

  • LoveStallion

    Just ask someone to take a photo… It’s not like these photos from cast members are of incredibly high quality. Everyone brings their camera with them on a trip like this, so why shell out more money to Disney when you can just talk to a perfect stranger and have them take a photo?

    And this way you also don’t have awful Disney overlays on the photos; just nice, clean photos.

    I’ll maybe give you a free pass on night photos, but I can’t imagine the Disney people are standing there, set up with a tripod, ready to do a long exposure so that you can capture your dreams in all their glory.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      So, you’re not a PhotoPass fan? Hahaha!!

      I think it’s great that Disney offers the option to “gussy up” your PhotoPass photos because all people have different tastes. Clearly I don’t find the embellishments awful. I like a simple photo, as well, but I don’t think our PhotoPass pictures are awful at all with borders and graphics added. The edits and embellishments are optional with PhotoPass, just in case anyone isn’t familiar with the service. Just because a PhotoPass photographer takes the pictures doesn’t mean they automatically come plastered with Disney graphics.

      Also, for anyone who hasn’t utilized PhotoPass, photographers are set up with tripods and utilize longer exposures when daylight begins to dim. From the family whose ADHD child is occasionally a blur in nighttime shots. ;)

      And, again, we love ride photos. You can’t just hand off your camera for those, otherwise I’d be doing that, too.

      • LoveStallion

        I’ll give it to you on ride photos. Those are, obviously, not really possible by the general public. It’s rare, though, that I’ve wanted a ride photo so badly that I’ve purchased one. The exception being when my entire family took Mentos with us on Splash Mountain and recreated the final shot of old Mentos ads on the drop.

        For the rest, I will not be deterred from my quest to just snap a picture of the photo on the LCD display. :)

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Obviously I’ll need photographic proof of this Mentos shot, or I call shenanigans!! And I have been known to snap a cell phone pic of the “just ok” ride shots, but I always purchased the ones where the kids look terrified (or where you can’t even see their faces because they’re buried in my side). And I definitely had to have the picture of my 70-something grandmother’s first (and only to date) ride on Expedition Everest. Of course, with PhotoPass+, I just get ‘em all!

  • sandiegomousefan

    We were happy but caveat emptor. Over the President’s day week at WDW we ONLY saw 1 photopass photographer NOT at an iconic location (castle, Tree of life, Spaceship earth, hat) or character meet and greet. We would have LOVED to get some photos in various other spots. We came back with a nice collection of photos (and I loved not haviing to hand camera off) but it would have been nice to get them.

    Also PS – no photopass coverage at a few of the meals (for example Crystal Palace) so be aware.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Wow! That’s surprising for a holiday weekend. And I always wondered why they didn’t set up a photo op at Crystal Palace.

  • JM Disneyland

    Not worth the money, however I’m not against using it. I can easily re-create the watermark/template to use in my own high resolution photographs.

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Thanks for your comment!

  • dazyhill

    I was very grateful for the PhotoPass system last June when I attended one of the Cars Land Cast Previews. Personal photography was barred but the PhotoPass crew was out in force and my friend and I got a great CM who took our pictures all over Cars Land. It is nice to have photos of that day which was truly special and the $69 or so for the CD was worth it.
    Every time I think the price of theme park photos are pricey, i think back to what I paid at the Cabo Dolphins venue in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This is a place where one can swim with dolphins and it’s great but they do not allow cameras in the swim area. The price I paid for six pictures on a photo CD was $199. Yeah. Plus another $20 for a printed picture that I wanted to show to everybody right away. What could I do? It was either pay up or have no photos.
    PhotoPass is also great if you travel to the parks solo and don’t have anyone to take your picture with the characters. I love my photo with Woody and Jessie!

    • http://magicmemoriesmayhem.com Jessica Ma’ilo

      Wow! That definitely makes PhotoPass look like a better value.

  • johnarodz67

    Photo Pass is extremely convenient. The photographers are usually very friendly, and will take as many different poses as you want. Great for getting pictures of the entire family at one time and they know where to have people stand and the proper flash to use. When you get home you are able to bring up all your photos and “play” with the cropping and Disney borders on their site. You can order as many as you need or want. It’s a little pricey, but you get quality photos of hopefully a great time you just had. I would recommend waiting on purchasing a photo plan until after the trip, that way you’re not stuck buying a fixed amount of photos you may not need.