Before I got pregnant one of my favorite things to do at Disney was to stay until the parks closed. It was always fun to be the couple that closed out the parks, even when security was hounding us to leave so that everyone could go home (yea, we were those people). Now I’m lucky if I make it past 10pm.
A lot of people may wonder what the point is in staying late, and I have to tell you that there is something so incredibly magical about being the last ones out. The park is all yours. It’s awesome. And if you are a photographer, it is the perfect time to pull out that camera of yours to capture some beautiful photos of an empty (or nearly empty) park.
Getting photos of an empty park is actually quite easy, and a lot of fun to do! You’ve just got to be either a morning or evening person, because whichever one you are there are options for you!
[Tweet “To get empty park photos at #disney it takes patience, practice, and a little bit of luck!”]
Use a long exposure
If you’ve ever done any type of night photography at all you’ll know that you need a tripod with a long exposure to capture well-balanced (lightwise) photos. You’re pictures are going to look blurry if handheld due to the shakiness of your hands and if you use a flash you’ll lose whatever is in the background. So a tripod paired with a long exposure is a must.
The great thing about the long exposure is that if there are still people walking towards the exit as you’re taking a photo, your camera can edit them out (this only works well if they walk right out of your shot!) and you’ll get the picture you want! However, if they end up stopping while you’re taking the shot they’ll look like ghosts after the image is done processing. I’ve been both lucky and unlucky in this regard, and while I prefer peopleless photos sometimes the ghost-like movement adds some visual interest!
Book an early morning breakfast reservation
Chris and I have never done this personally (we are not morning people!) but I know a lot of photographers love doing this with their kids! If you can grab a reservation at the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom right when the park opens you can get in fifteen minutes before your reservation time and get some great peopleless pictures of Cinderella’s Castle! I’m so looking forward to doing this character breakfast with baby boy when he’s a bit older so we can get some great shots of our little man in front of the castle!
Stay about an hour after the park officially closes
Now, this is honestly not set in stone because it all depends on the amount of people shopping in the stores as the parks close and how anxious security is to get you out of the park. Chris and I have had a lot of success at staying late at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but the security guards were not as friendly or patient at Hollywood Studios. The later you can stay means fewer people, and if you want those coveted empty park photos, you may just have to wait it out! Chris likes to get some type of food right before the park closes (Dole Whip is a great choice!) and he’ll sit around as I snap away. He’s pretty patient with me and for that I am always grateful.
Find a quiet spot
Sometimes all you need is a spot off the beaten path and you’ll get a fantastic picture with little to no people in them! I find that when walking up the paths on the side of the castle you can maneuver yourself into certain positions and just get the castle in the shot. It’s fantastic! I usually try to head to these spots later in the day when people are either eating or there is a show or parade going on and find myself pretty much alone. And since Disney moved their smoking areas you no longer have to worry about inhaling second-hand smoke when trying to get your desired picture!
I’m sad that we haven’t been able to stay after close the past few times we’ve been to Disney, because it truly is my favorite time to be at the park. It’s quiet, peaceful, and really beautiful! I miss being able to do this!
Have you ever stayed after the parks close or booked an early dining reservation? And are you a fan of taking peopleless Disney pictures or do you just like looking at them?
If you’re following me on Instagram (and even if you’re not!), I’ve set up a fun Disney hashtag so we can all share our favorite Disney memories from the parks. If you want to join in, use the hashtag #cwdisneylove. I can’t wait to see what parts of Disney you love!