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MousePlanet Mailbag for June 30, 2005

We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. Although we cannot publish them all, the following may be of interest to our readers.

In today's Mailbag, we share the deluge of notes staff photographer Frank Anzalone got for his new series on photography tips. Did you miss the articles? Read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Brett from Canada writes:

I absolutely loved your article on photos! I love it so much, I read it three times to make sure I do it right. Iím leaving in just a few days to disneyland (from canada) with friends and was wondering if you could send me tips on how to take that perfect photo with a group of people?

Hi Brett – my tip for group family shots is to get in close. Do not worry about getting the full body; go more for facial expressions. Sometimes, the typical shot has lots of people around so go to the sides of the castle (instead of dead-on front) and place the family with the castle in the background; that will be easier to take without distraction, too. Enjoy your trip, send me a sample or two and let me know how you did.

Wendy writes:

Thank you Frank for your wonderful tips on taking photos. I never knew that such great pictures could come out of the disposable cameras. One tip I offer: Make sure you stand still. We've got a lot of pictures that come out blurry because the kids or husband was walking as they were taking the picture (duh). – I love using my 35mm camera vs. my digital camera. Sure there are advantages of the digital (being able to delete is the top one) but there's something special about using a regular camera.

Steve from Wisconsin writes:

Very nicely done. This topic is one of the highest priorities on my trips (love to snap away), and you reinforced the basics of good picture-taking. Even though my family has visited the world eight times, I look forward to our trip to put your ideas into practice; to redo some of the classic poses and locations that we haven't done in years. Your suggestion to use fill flash on the outdoor rides is so basic but soooo overlooked. (Don't forget to remind us to not use flash on indoor/dark rides.)

I really look forward to the rest of your articles, especially nightime/fireworks pictures. Thank god for digital or I wouldn't get any nightime shots. Click… Click… Click… Click…

Chris writes:

I'm glad to see your new series. I have found very little information for photographing Disney World/Land beyond the most general things. I am an advanced amateur and find Disney World to be the best place to photograph; so much variation between the different lands, resorts and parks. It's far different from shooting squirrels in the neighborhood park.

So I'm looking forward to your series and hope it gets more detailed and specific (not necessarily more technical) as it goes along. I saw alot of people at Disney World in January carrying $1,000 digital cameras and we could all use more advice in using them in Disney World/Land better.

Dawn writes:

Thanks Frank. I have been an avid amateur photograph for over 20 years, but I learned some interesting tips from you. I am off to the 50th celebration at Disneyland, so I will be putting your suggestions to use.

Hi Dawn – Thanks for the kind words regarding my photo tips article. When you are at the Disneyland 50th… Just look at all the color of the morning and late afternoon light… It's fun.

Matthew writes:

Frank, what a great unvisited topic on any board I have ever seen.

Two tips you failed to mention have always gotten me "wows" from people wanting to see my vacation pictures from Walt Disney World.

I travel to many parks across the country, mainly in my section of the world in the Ozarks and central U.S.

#1 When taking a picture of the castle in specific example, yes, do always split the water/point of interest and sky. However do not make the mistake of assuming the crouching pose if necessary. Explanation: If you put your hands thru the fence between you and the water or even lean across the wall a bit pointing you camera at an upward angle, you would have not chopped the top off the castle but still been able to have water, and sky into your result; also this will at times assist in the illusion of greater height. Being a Walt Disney World veteran I am well-versed in the theme park trips. Never chop off even the smallest part of a main point of interest, if possible. Always remember if you have a fair digital camera of 3.2 megapixels or more, you can take that pic home and crop it into a postcard landscape a bit enlarged to show the vastness and beauty of the lands; even from the hub showing them overlap at points in the sky only adds to the fact that there is so much to see.

#2 Relax your companion or family. Talk as you act as if you are adjusting the camera, do not hesitate to ask them to put things on the ground at you or their feet (out of site) and talk to them in a friendly manner. You will cause them to relax and when you achieve the real smile or crazy look (sometimes even more fun) you are looking for, without warning, snap the shot. If you have a digital camera at home, try this out; it will be free and practice before the big event you will be surprised at the results.

#3 Digital preferred, no flash night time pictures. Using a fencepost, a bench whatever you can find if you don't have a tripod, use your remote usually provided with your camera and set up the pic with zoom (never digital zoom; it doesn't work, so shut it off) and walk away from the camera and press the button. If you are in an area with little [pedestrian traffic] you can achieve what only you have seen in post cards. Make sure you experiment with this before you leave home. Also as a side note, because you may sometimes use a fencepost of a small landing and have no hands-on protection to [prevent] your camera [from] falling, think about bringing a small neck lanyard or keychain. You can use this with your cameras strap and loop and clip so if someone does accidentally touch your unattended camera, the clip will catch its fall and save your day.

You must remember that when you are trying to achieve this professional goal that a tripod of hard surface with absolute stillness is required, you may think you have a steady hand but in these situations, your camera doesn't.

Matthew adds:

I think during the discussion of trying to not cut off the top of the castle, I failed to mention the fact the camera should be at an upward angle. Also I wanted to mention double looping the camera strap thru your hand if you were to drop during these moves. The other thing not mentioned but definitely needs mentioning that the sun should never be in the shot as it will black out what you really desire. As a side note, for most professional pictures, (I have been published in a few magazines myself) the best pictures are taken either in the golden early morning hours or just prior to dusk as the light enriches colors but does not wash them out.

Kathy writes:

Wow. I thought I was a pretty sophisticated digital-camera-using photographer —but I'm downright embarrassed at how many of my Disney pics look like your "don't" shots. Your few simple tips are going to make my family photos 100% better. Thank you so much—and can you speed it up with the next installment? I want to read it before I return to Disneyland.

Heather writes:

Thanks to Frank for such a great article on photo tips. I can't wait for the rest of the series to be published.

I personally take pretty good shots myself, and then happily share them with my friends. However, my friends tend to take pics the "typical" way (like in your examples). And I am usually disappointed with what I receive in return. So I tend to be the main shutterbug, and as a result I get left out of most of the shots. I would really love to have more (usable) shots of me with my friends.

Luckily my friends are also avid readers of MousePlanet and I will make sure they follow the publication of this wonderful series.

Hi Heather – thanks for the kind words. I know what you mean about not getting into the pictures. When I was at the 50th Disneyland press event, we just had some fun between photographers, exchanging cameras so we could all have our shot for 'mom'. Don't be shy to ask a cast member to shoot the entire group.

Gina writes:

Thanks for writing about taking photos at Disneyland. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment. You're providing me with the kinds of specific tips I can really use.

Do you have any suggestions for videotaping at Disneyland? We haven't used our video camera there very much because we don't want to get too caught up in filming and miss out on the fun. We're thinking of coming up with a list of places we would like to capture but we're not too confident that we'll end up with a real representation of our vacation.

Hi Gina – Video… Well, best I can say is, try to hold as steady as possible and do not pan or zoom too fast, as these are the most common mistakes.

Anthony writes:

What a great article about taking pictures. I used to manage Wolf and Ritz Camera locations and I always gave customers tips on how to get the best photos. Your examples are great, and showing what most people do wrong is a huge help. I currently manage a Circuit City and my passion remains with cameras, always giving tips and new ideas so customers get the best shots.

I have visited Disney World many times and will again in just three weeks. On a trip there in 2002 of just my 8-year-old son and myself, we took about 600 pictures over nine days using two SLRs and a point-and-shoot. This time we are just taking my 7-megapixel point-and-shoot digital.

I'm sure in your series you have much to cover. My two biggest tips have always been to get to the same level of your subject (like on one knee when taking those kids-and-characters pictures) and take the picture of what's happening around you (like your child waiting in line for the buzz ride while he/she looks at the entrance or whatever).

Thanks for helping people get great pictures.

Michelle Culver writes:

I thank you profusely for the tips you have already provided. In just that first article I have learned so much. (Especially that breaking scenery into thirds. What a great idea.) I understand you are going to be touching on taking "people pics" this next time, however would you be so kind as to also touch on taking large group photos? We have a family reunion coming up for father's day at Disneyland (my husband has five other brothers and sisters) and I want to make sure that these precious memories are captured correctly.

So thank you again and in advance as your articles could not have come at a better time. Have a magical day.

Hi Michelle – As far as large group shots, Do not worry about getting the entire head to toe of each person. Get in close, waist up works, too. With many people, you want to get as close as you can to see the facial expressions. Tell them, "You're family. Get close together."

So have fun and let me know how it turns out.

Karla writes:

I have a hard time with nice night shots. Do I need a real expensive camera to get them better? I tried to get the Paradise Pier pictures like some I have seen, and none of them ever look as good. I would love some good tips on night pics. Thanks much.

Hi Karla – As far as night shots, I am going to do a photo tip article on just that and parades and such in the near future. In the meantime, if you have a digital camera, for those shots, set the camera's (film) sensitivity as high as you can. The shots are a little grainier, but better than fuzzy (in my opinion). Put the camera on a trash can or lean against a light pole to steady the shot.

Ramon writes:

Hello there. Great tips. I have 2 requests and one question.

Request #1: Need tips on fireworks

request #2: Need tips for darkrides

Question #1: I believe it was your photos that were shown on this site a few months ago. You offered some as wallpapers. They were excellent. In that segment you or MousePlanet mentioned that there would be more photos/wallpapers from you in the future. Did I miss these updates or have they not been posted yet?

Hi Ramon – As far as dark rides and fireworks, I am doing an article specifically on that soon. In the meantime, if you have a camera that you can adjust the sensitivity of the 'film' (for digital), set it to 'high' for those shots, and make sure to set it back to normal when you do your regular shots. When I take firework shots, I shoot lots of frames. You just never know what will turn out. I like to shoot (with a tripod or monopod) and trigger the shutter just before I think the firework will explode. This will expose the castle for a little longer and hopefully I get a good picture.

Cathy writes:

I really enjoyed your article. You had great and easily executed tips. It was an excellent idea to use a disposable camera for all your shots to prove that good picture-taking does not rely on quality of camera. One thing that I am definitely going to remember is having one's subject closer and shooting vertically. I noticed that although the range behind the subject was smaller, the main points of interest (such as the castle) appeared larger and clearer and mostly what was missing was crowds of unknown people to the right and left. This surprised me. Thanks for your tips and I am looking forward to your next article.

Daisy writes:

I just wanted to send a big thank you for the great photo tips. I've been an avid scrapbooker for 8 years but not necessarily a great photographer. I also used to be a cast member ('89-'01) and I always to had a camera at work. I got some good photos and not-so-good ones. The photo trips were helpful and I can't wait to use them when I go to the park tomorrow. I also shared the photo tips with my 8-year-old daughter, since she has her own camera now. I think it will give her the confidence to take the right photos so she won't be disappointed with the results.

Mike writes:

Thanks for the great ideas. It was good to be reminded about some of the simple tricks to photos.

I am currently using a Nikon CoolPix 5700. I like the camera a lot, but I want to move up to a camera with changeable lenses. Do you have any recommendations?

Hi Mike – As far as moving up, I am very much a Nikon guy, although there are many options out there. Take a serious look at the Nikon D70. I saw quite a few of those used by the media there, and they are decently reasonable in price.

I use a Nikon D100.

Tonya writes:

First of all I must say your pictures are fantastic. I read your photo tips and look forward to your next installment.

I am a Disneyland fanatic and visit quite often, however, I have never been able to get pictures like you are able to do. I loved the pictures of Sleeping Beauty's Castle, the Sword in the Stone, and I believe the Snow White Wishing Well. I plan on trying your tips on my next trip, and was also wondering if you had a list of favorite photo spots for "different" Disneyland photos. I would like to decorate with photos similar to the ones you listed, but of other attractions as well. I'm just not creative enough to "see" those in a photo.

I would be grateful for any other tips, or advice. You are a fantastic photographer, and I can't wait to see what else you post.

P.S. Your 50th photos are absolutely wonderful.

Hi Tonya – I am working on a photo article dedicated to the park; this initial article was more introductory. The park article will hopefully point out some neat and unique spots for those special Disneyland pictures. You just have to always look. Look. Look. Sometimes, the people I am with there say I am distracted when I walk through the park, but all I am doing is just looking at things from all the angles I can as I walk.

Jeanine writes:

Awesome tips, Frank. It's amazing how a few simple changes can create a wonderful photo memory. And easier to do from a wheelchair than the typical straining to get a good shot. Looking forward to your next installment.

Alice writes:

Thank you so much for sharing your great picture-takings tips. I loved the way your pictures came out. I will definitely put these tips to use when I go to Disneyland or Disney World again. Maybe my family and I will see you there.

Hi Alice – thanks for the kind words. Enjoy your next photo shoot at Disney.

If you ever see me there at the parks, get my attention and I'll take your picture (this actually already happened, the day after the article ran… This family asked me to shoot a picture of them). It would be my pleasure.

Kristina writes:

Thank you so much for putting our picture in your column, I was pleasantly surprised that you put our pic in there, and you even spelled my name correctly. I hope all is well with you, I unfortunately haven't been to the park since that visit, you see I had surgery on May 16 and have been recuperating at home. Again, just wanted to say thanks for the shout out, and happy clicking.

Hi Kristina

You know, I was so tickeled that you came up to me that day. After all the craziness of shooting the 50th dedication event, it was very nice to meet you all.

We'll be keeping good thoughts for your recovery from the surgery, and hope for a speedy return to the park. Hope to see you again soon.

Michael writes:

I love your photo tips but do you have any tips for a lone vistor like myself. I would love to have pictures of the world in motion but kinda of hard to take your own picture while riding or yourself with backgrounds. I really don't want to have to end up taking pics of complete strangers just to enjoy seeing Walt Disney World happiness thanks for any tips you might have.

Hi Michael – Cast members at the parks are usually very willing to take your camera and take a picture for you (with a character or just in front of some nice background). Don't be shy, just ask them (sometimes, if you see two cast members, ask one to take the picture and the other to be in it with you, like with a balloon person for more Disney flavor. I have also noticed sometimes that if you are in a popular spot like the hub at the Partners statue, that there might be some other people there too that might want a picture of the both of them. Offer to take a picture for them, and then, in return. I am sure they will do the favor for you, too.

Also, you might try a camera with a self-timer. My wife and I do this all the time (I love the challenge of finding a nice surface, like the top of a rock or trash can). You have to push the button and run. The only problem here is, in a crowded area, many times someone will not see the camera and walk right in the middle between you and the camera just as it trips the shutter.

Anyway, best thing is to take lots of images of the park, and don't be shy to hand your camera off to someone for a photo of you.

Georgios writes:

I'm from Germany. My girlfriend and I are going to visit Disneyland Resort for the first time in September. We have been several times in Disneyland Resort Paris before. Just saw your photo tips on MousePlanet and I have to say although I already consider a lot of the tips you mentioned it was very interesting to read your article and to find out something new. I hope we are going to have a great time in California and get a lot of great pictures.

Hi Georgios – Nice to meet a fellow Disney fan from Germany (and your English is very good).

I wish you the best time at Disneyland. Take your time, explore, and take lots of pictures. September is a beautiful time of year at Disneyland. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you out, any other questions you might have about visiting the park.

Kathy Blanchard writes:

I just found your hints on taking pictures thanks to Ask Jeeves. Your instructions are wonderful and easy to follow. I can't wait for your instructions on getting the fireworks and night shots on film I have been trying to do that for years. I have gone to Disneyland so many times since 1974 that my hubby nicknamed me "the Disneyland park unofficial tour guide." I took everyone who came to visit us in California to the park. We are now Alaska residents but still spend a few months in California every year (in the winter, of course). I am really looking forward to visiting the park when we return this winter. Thank you for teaching us how to make fantastic memories on film.

Hi Kathy – Thank you for the kind words. I am working on the 'fireworks and night shots' photo tip article, not sure when it will publish though (I will be in Disneyland next month shooting so I would guess the article might appear in early August).

Vicki Smith writes:

Frank, is there a way that I could get an electronic copy of the photo tips #1? I missed it, but I read your photo tips #2 and I was really interested. I love to take pictures of my family and use them in my scrapbooks, I even took a college course on basic photography, but I still find it challenging to know what makes a great shot compared to just a good shot. I could really see the differences in the example photos that went along with your tips and was sorry that I missed the first one. I will bookmark your page on my computer of the photo tips #2 and make it available offline, so I can keep glancing back at it after it gets replaced with photo tips #3. Thanks so much for the great tips. We are going to Walt Disney World this year and I can't wait to make use of your ideas.

Hi Vicki – Here is the link for the first installment of tips. I hope to have photo tips #3 by the end of July. Keep watching MousePlanet for it.

Eric writes:

Just a note to say thank you for your tips. I've always been interested in photography and have dabbled in it for fun. Using disposable and my father's old 1970s Canon 35mm. I took some of your tips from the first article. One interesting experiment I did was using a black-and-white disposable camera at Disneyland a couple of weeks ago. Seeing Disneyland in black and white was so much fun… So many different textures and shades, and being my first time with a black and white it was challenging. Looking forward to your next article and hope to meet you one day at Disneyland.

P.S. I'm shoping for a digital camers (35mm body) I know nothing. Any recommendations? Features that are a must-have?

Hi Eric – Thanks for the kind words.

I have lots of pictures (from years back) of Disneyland in black and white, it is interesting to shoot that way (you might even try adding a sepia tone to the print for a "vintage" look).

As far as cameras go, I am very much a Nikon guy, even though I understand Canon is awesome, too. If you are looking for a body for those Canon lenses you have for that 1970s camera, that won't be compatible.

My suggestion is to seriously look at the Nikon D70 or D100 (OK, I do not work for Nikon or have stock in the company. But that brand has served me well for near four decades).

Thoughts, questions, or comments for Frank? Contact him here. General comments or questions for MousePlanet? Contact our Mailbag editor here.


Do you have specific questions about an upcoming trip to Disneyland, Walt Disney World or another park, or do you need help with your trip planning? While you can contact one of the columnists, we encourage you to join our special MousePlanet community on our MousePad discussion board. There, you will find like-minded Disney park fans who can try to help answer your questions.


Did you read something interesting (good or bad) on MousePlanet, or here in the Mailbag? We'd love to hear from you! Send your comments to the Mailbag here.

We welcome your questions and comments, but keep in mind that all questions submitted to MousePlanet become property of this Web site. Letters of interest to the readership may be published, and may include your full name unless you specifically request that your last name not be published. They may be edited for length or style and in consideration of a family readership. Questions may also be quoted on other parts of the site as well.



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