The first thing to remember
Having your family photo taken by a Disney World Photopass photographer is a complimentary service.
You don’t pay the photographer to take the photo. You just have to pay later to download the image or receive a print. (Creative but questionable use of the “print screen” button to save low quality versions of the images is no longer much of an option in any case, since Disney has now placed large watermarks across all images.) So you’re looking at $15 a pop for either a single download or $17 for prints of each file (2 4×6 prints or one 5×7) plus $4.25 shipping and tax. Ouch. The download is obviously a better deal, as you’ll then have the file to share with family and friends and can get an inexpensive print made locally. (Disney will probably get out of the photo printing business altogether before long. The Disney World gift shops already offer far fewer photo frames and photo albums than they did in years past.)
Getting back to the “complimentary service” aspect of Photopass
You can have your cake and eat it, too. You don’t have to pay a thing to have your photos taken – or to walk away with your own digital files of the shots – because the photographers will cheerfully take photos with your personal camera. For some people, this is the best option. But there are a few other considerations – things you’ll miss out on by not purchasing Memory Maker.
Why would I pay big bucks for something I can get free?
It depends on how much you like photos and what kind of trip you’re planning. If you just want a few photos for the memories; if your next trip will be a short one; if you’re not visiting Disney characters; or if you find yourself touring the parks with a group of people you’re not crazy about and would rather let the painful memories fade, then go the free route.
But if you’re park touring with your favorite people or for a special occasion; if you plan to visit a lot of characters; if you really love your photos; if you share a lot of them on social media or with the grandparents; if you love to pour over old photos; if you scrapbook …
Consider a few reasons to spend the big bucks.
- If you pay for the package, you’ll probably maximize its use. If you invest in Memory Maker, you and the members of your group will be more motivated to stop and take family photos, rather than rushing from park entrance to the first ride. Pausing is a good thing. After the trip, you may be very glad you stopped for the photos (which heat and pressing crowds may have discouraged you from doing otherwise).
- If the photographer in the family is typically not in any photos, here is your remedy. With Photopass, the kids will have pictorial memories of both parents in the parks instead of having no way to remember, when they look back later, if mom (or dad) was still rocking that ponytail in 2016.
- The Photopass photographer may have a better camera than you, and she probably does have a better lens. He or she also knows their photo ops – how to compensate for shadow and glare, etc. In the real world, the skills of a professional photographer with professional equipment cost an arm and a leg – here in your Laughing Place you can get them for a song.
- Posed arrival portraits taken at character meals (Chef Mickey’s, Akershus, etc. etc.) are included. Ride photos (Rock-n-Roller, Splash, Space, etc. etc.) are included. Your ride photo will automatically be added to your MDE as the system reads your MagicBand as you pass through. (It’s still a good idea to tap the Mickey head under your ride photo at the exit as an insurance policy.) New features are slowly being added. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin now has magic shot elements added to the ride photo. A number of the rides include a “show video” – featuring you! You can see yourself banking the turn (in slow mo) on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and watch yourself drop on Tower of Terror.
- You don’t have to enjoy watching your family’s character greetings through the lens of your camera. Leave the photography to Photopass so that you can meet Minnie or Mickey yourself. Where you find a Disney character, you’ll generally find a Photopass photographer.
- Photo intensive experiences like Trials of the Temple, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and visits to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Pirates League are all included. This could represent a substantial number of photos of your child, and they’ll probably be super cute. You may be stuck with downloading a bunch of individual photos and spending almost as much as you would have for Memory Maker (in which case you could have gotten every photo from the trip).
- Magic for miles! There are many “magic shots” in each park – in which Disney characters or elements are digitally added to the photo after it’s taken. You can get home to discover Pascal was on your arm or Jiminy Cricket floating down from the sky beside you. A growing number of the magic shots are now animated, with Tinker Bell, for instance, zipping over your head, sprinkling pixie dust.
What’s the difference between Photopass and Memory Maker?
- “Photopass” refers to the photographers and the service they provide in the parks.
- “Memory Maker” is the package you can purchase to obtain all the photos (and video) taken during your trip.
How does it work?
Typically, the Photopass photog will tap your MagicBand to link your photos to your MDE, but you can also be given a Photopass card (if you’re not wearing your MagicBand, for instance). If you end up with a Photopass card, be sure to take a photo of the code number on the back of it ASAP so that you will still be able to access your photos, even if you lose the card before you get home. If your child participates in Jedi Trials of the Temple (the former “Jedi Training” session), you’ll be given a Photopass card at the end. It might be worth stopping at the Darkroom Photopass center back near the park entrance to pick out just the photos of your child to be added to your account, otherwise your Memory Maker will be flooded with a couple hundred images of strangers if you link the Photopass card itself. (They now hold two training sessions conjointly, on an upper and lower stage – so there are a lot of kids participating!)
Interestingly, Disney appears to have hit the breaking point with pricing on Memory Maker. Evidently when it reached $199, guests stopped buying. It’s since come down to $169. You can save $20 and prepay $149, but there’s a three day waiting period between the purchase and the activation. Disney is very strict about the three day “freeze” imposed on purchase of Memory Maker. If you don’t decide that you want to purchase Memory Maker until you get to the park, don’t think you can buy it at the discounted price and still get the first three days of your trip. If you select the discounted price after you get to Disney, photos you have taken in the first three days will cost you (a lot) extra to download. Once activated, Memory Maker is good for 30 days of photography. You have 45 days from the date each photo was taken to download.
Annual Passholders (Platinum and Platinum Plus) receive the free Photopass downloads in their MDE. And the photos remain for a year rather than the 30 days which Memory Maker buys you. If you’re a Florida resident, it’s only $150 extra for a Gold Pass to score the free Photopass downloads all year (as well as free parking).
Keep in mind that photos of Friends and Family will show up on your Memory Maker for free download (DVD no longer available) – but that doesn’t mean that they can sign in and download for free from their own MDEs. You’ll have to download yourself (from the account from which Memory Maker was purchased), then you are free to share. Be sure that all the members of your traveling party show up on your MDE (via friend invitations issued and accepted) before your trip so that all photos of them will be included in Memory Maker, whether you were with them or not at the time the photo was taken. (In which case they will be delighted to split the cost of Memory Maker with you, right?)
Downloading can be a bit time consuming. Disney can only fit about 30 photos in each ZIP file, so you may end up with a lot of folders.
If you get home and find that there are photo missing (or magic elements didn’t get added), contact Photopass by phone or email for help. While they’re sticklers for rules, they’re also sticklers for customer service!