Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Photography: Disney Memory Maker Review

I love photos. Yes, I do.  I love taking photos and I love having photos.

My parents celebrated their 40th anniversary by taking all their grandchildren and children to Disney World for a week in early October.  I know, I'm only writing this months later, I'm a busy mama.  And, I know, we're pretty lucky.  It was a magical trip.  We all live in different states and countries, so it's pretty special when all the little cousins can get together.  Actually, this was their first time all together.  So that was pretty extraordinary!

While I love taking photos, I'm not a huge fan of carrying my DSLR around and clunking my kids in the head with it when I should be enjoying the moment with them.  Plus, I wanted to enjoy the rides and not worry about a big camera.  I instead sprung for the Disney Memory Maker advanced purchase before our trip.  It was a gift to the extended family.  I paid $169 (advance price) and we all got to enjoy the photos that were taken by the PhotoPass photographers and the photos that were taken on rides. 

I'm going to give you what I think are the pros and cons of the Memory Maker.  Then I'll show you some of the Memory Maker photos and some of our own photos from our little cheap digital camera.  I will only try to show members of my immediate family, I'm not going to show my extended family. Though, we did get a great shot of all 13 of us at Animal Kingdom.

For reference, we had 225 photos (plus a few videos) taken on rides or by Disney photographers that I downloaded.  So, it was worth it!

PROS of Memory Maker or why you would want to get it:
  • You're traveling with a big group.  Get it as a gift or split the cost.
  • You're going for more than one day. 
  • You don't want to carry a big camera around with you.
  • You want photos or videos from the rides.
  • You want lots of photos with characters.
  • You're not too concerned about the quality of the photos.
CONS of Memory Maker or why you wouldn't want to get it:
  • It's out of your budget.
  • You're only going for one day. 
  • You want to carry your big camera or fancy camera with you.  Or you will hand your own camera over to the PhotoPass Photographers.  (They will take a photo for you with your camera.)
  • You don't care about having photos from rides.
  • You're fine with a couple character photos and handing your camera over.
  • You want high quality photos.
I gave everybody instructions to hit photographers whenever they could.  We all had MagicBands, so the photographer just had to scan one band and then the photographs would show up in my Disney account.  I worked with Disney (by calling them) to make sure that everyone in our party was linked to my account so that I could see all the photos that were taken.

When you first enter the Magic Kingdom there are huge lines for the photographers at the entrance so that people can have their photo taken with the castle.  We just kept on walking because there are photographers about every 20 feet all the way up the Main Street.  The lines get less long as you get closer to the castle. I cannot believe how crowded that place is!  My immediate family only tended to hit photographers if there wasn't a line.  My kids are old enough that the rides were the most important thing on their list (and food!), they weren't too concerned about getting photos with characters.  We did get some when we lucked out and I'll get to those.  My oldest nephew got some amazing photos with Mickey (his favorite) and I'm glad that his family is able to enjoy those.

We used our MagicBands to have the photographers register our photos.  After a ride with photos, we located the photos on the viewing screens and scanned our bands.  If you don't have a band, you'll get a PhotoPass card to scan if you purchase MemoryMaker.  We were able to view the photos everyday.  Some photos showed up fairly fast and others took a day.  When our trip was over I was able to download all the photos and give them to my family.  The photos do expire, but we were all eager to see them so I downloaded them immediately after our trip.

That's a whole lot of writing without showing photos, sorry about that.  Let's get to the photos and my random comments.  Judge for yourselves...but please keep unkind comments to yourself.  I'm showing the photos just to give you a glimpse of what was captured and what the quality was.  We're not one of those families that they would choose to put on a brochure.  No makeup, sunscreen greasy faces, and we were sweaty!  It's humid in Florida!  Plus, we tend to have hats and sunglasses on when we're outdoors.  And we only coordinated outfits on the day that we all wore matching shirts.  I'm a pretty laidback and low maintenance mom. 

First up, ride photos.  I'm sorry to the humans that I do not know in these photos, I couldn't ask your permission to post since I don't know you.  You're all cute!  I especially love the girls picking their noses on Splash Mountain. Epic photo take! That was our first ride on it and my kids were nervous, we didn't know where the camera was that first time.  I love the expression on our kids' faces!

Chewy went to visit Tinkerbelle with her girl cousin.  They are adorable together.  The photographer captured shots of the girls coming in and seeing Tinkerbelle for the first time.  Chewy was able to get an autograph and get photos with Tinkerbelle.  (Seriously, fairy wings off to the cast member that played Tinkerbelle, she was amazing!)

We were first in line for Dug and Russell in Animal Kingdom.  I don't envy having to be in those costumes during a hot and humid day.  We had wanted to get a photo of the grandparents with all the grandkids, so we lined them up for that.  Unfortunately, the photographer only captured close ups of the kids.  While those photos were cute, we didn't get one photo with the grandparents and grandkids.  Luckily, my brother had snapped one on his cellphone!  The photographer did manage to capture my family as a whole.  My sister was able to get her family with Mickey and Minnie.  Her oldest son was adorable with Mickey and I'm glad they have those photos!

We never asked for magic photos, they just did  them for us.  In places, where the lines weren't long for photos, the photographers spent more time getting magic photos and arranging all of us for photos.  The Magic Photos include additions of characters.  You're also able to edit your photos from your Disney account and add characters and sayings.  These ones were all made for us.

Not sure about this.  If you do a character breakfast, I think you get photos with the characters. We just did a family breakfast at Be Our Guest.  We never saw a character or a photographer, but we did enjoy the breakfast.  You need to book reservations way ahead or use WDW Tablefinder to get a table.  (That's what I did and it's worth it.)

There are so many options and places to get photos.  Just don't expect high quality.  There will be people in the background of your photos.  Some aren't white balanced, especially the night ones.  The ones at night tend to be blurry.  None of our glowing Epcot photos turned out, even though we were holding very still and the camera was on a tripod.  Some photographers take a variety of photos, while others don't.  Some are action shots and some are posed.  These will give you a sense of what you may get if you order Memory Maker.  (Let's hope yours are better!)

Overall, I'm happy with what I paid for.  We got lots of photos and even some videos.  Plus, I didn't have to worry about my camera.  I would have loved to learn more about the photo taking process at Disney.  I'm pretty sure most of the photographers aren't professionals.  They all used Nikon cameras, though I didn't look at which one they had.  You can see the quality of the photos vary.  I only downsized the photos to put on here, I didn't sharpen them.  I'm wondering if the cast members have to take a photo class to be a Disney PhotoPass photographer?  Some photographers seemed to enjoy their job and for others, it was just a job.  I'm sure at times it's a hot and sweaty job with the humidity.  Some of them have to stand out in the hot sun and I sympathize with that.

I did carry a small digital camera that fit in my pocket.  I'll show some photographs that I captured in collages, only for comparison with the Disney PhotoPass ones.  When we would leave an air conditioned building and I would pull my camera out, the lens would fog up.  I got quite a few "foggy" photos of the kids with their cousins!  To be honest, I really didn't go crazy with taking photos and I don't regret it at all.

That's all for now!  Have you used the Memory Maker or are you thinking of using it?

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