Photographs have long been one of our most favorite souvenirs from our Walt Disney World trips, and Memory Maker has always been an easy way to ensure that we got tons of fantastic pictures to look back on after we return home.
But, with all the changes in the procedures and now that masks are here to stay (at least for the time being) are PhotoPass and Memory Maker still worth it?
Here’s some things to consider:
What are PhotoPass & Memory Maker?
PhotoPass is the name of the photo service found at Walt Disney World.
Described by Disney as a way to “capture priceless memories”, the PhotoPass service is not only popular but also very easy to use.
With a combination of PhotoPass photographers strategically stationed at fan-favorite photo spots throughout the parks and ride photos on select attractions, you’ll have lots of opportunities for photos during your visit.
And since somebody else is taking the picture, you’ll actually be able to have everyone in your photo with you, too.
Now, this is where it can get kind of confusing:
PhotoPass is free to use and you can take as many photos as you want. But, if you want to keep any of your photos, you must purchase the digital downloads or prints.
That’s where Memory Maker comes in.
If you have photos that you want to purchase you’ll have a few options to do that.
You can choose to pay for a print or digital download of each photo or you can even put the photo on a wide array of photo products like phone cases or mugs. For one or 2 photos, it is probably best to just purchase them a la carte.
But, if you want more than just a couple or if you want to keep every PhotoPass and ride photo, you’ll definitely want to consider purchasing Memory Maker.
Memory Maker is just one of the many photo products you can purchase. But, this one gets you digital access to every single photo taken by a PhotoPass photographer plus all of your ride photos.
How are PhotoPass and Memory Maker different now?
Before we dive deeper into whether or not they are still worth it, let’s start with a handy list comparing what things are the same and what things are different.
The good news is that lots of things with PhotoPass and Memory Maker are the same:
- PhotoPass photographers are still stationed in the parks.
- When you’re on rides, if you have a MagicBand, Disney will automatically add your ride photos and, on select rides, ride videos to your My Disney Experience account.
- Photographers use either your MagicBand or a PhotoPass card that you’ve linked to your My Disney Experience account.
- Magic Shots are still available.
- Annual Passholders still receive PhotoPass photos and ride photos and videos at no additional cost.
But, there are some things that are different:
- You must wear a mask in all your photos.
- The Portrait Studios are not currently open.
- PhotoPass photographers can no longer take photos with your personal device.
- There are fewer opportunities for PhotoPass photos.
- As much as possible, physical distancing will be enforced.
Are PhotoPass & Memory Maker still worth it?
This is a tough one, because it truly depends on your situation.
We still love the idea of groups having the opportunity to capture at least a photo or two with everyone in the picture – and if you use a PhotoPass photographer you’ll be able to easily do that.
And of course, if you’re getting the pictures for no additional cost (because you’re an Annual Passholder), it probably makes sense to snag at least a couple pics in the parks.
Here are some more things to consider:
The current Disney policy is that masks must be worn in the parks unless eating and drinking while stationary.
And since there are no PhotoPass photographers at any of the restaurants, you will not get any PhotoPass photos of you without your mask on.
Honestly, one of the most frequent times we see people breaking the mask rules is when they are sneaking photos or selfies with their own camera or phone (and please don’t be one of these people!).
Typically if a Cast Member sees this, they will approach the guests to ask them to put their masks back on.
But PhotoPass photographers go a step further. Disney PhotoPass photographers will not take any photos of you unless you are wearing a mask.
It is for your safety, and theirs.
What about on attractions and ride photos?
You have to keep your mask on while riding the attractions, too. And if you take your mask off on an attraction with a ride photo, that photo will be deleted.
You don’t get to break the rules and then be rewarded with a picture of it.
No mask, no photo.
If you’re paying full-price for Memory Maker you’ll find that the cost, which is $199.00, is definitely not cheap.
There are sometimes discounts available, with the most popular one being the $30 advanced purchase discount, which brings the total down to $169.00.
The downside to this discount is that if you select this option, you must wait 3 days to activate your Memory Maker. So you can’t take a bunch of photos before you decide to buy it.
But if you plan ahead and purchase it before your trip you’ll see a nice bit of savings.
There are sometimes other discounts available, but those can change frequently. Be sure to double check available discounts before purchasing.
Disney can only use their camera
Back before all the changes, one of our favorite tips to pass along to future Disney World visitors was to encourage them to ask PhotoPass photographers to take pictures with both the Disney camera and the guest’s personal camera or phone.
This was a great idea for several reasons, including doubling your chances of getting at least 1 good picture.
But new precautions and procedures have been put into place and now PhotoPass photographers are only allowed to take photos with their own camera.
Is that a deal breaker? Probably not. But it is something to consider.
Fewer PhotoPass photo opportunities
You can still find lots of PhotoPass photographers in the parks, but the truth is there are fewer than before.
You won’t have the opportunity for photos with characters because there are no character meet and greet opportunities.
And, even though some of the character meals have reopened, there’s no photo opportunities there, either.
You also wont find the free-to-use portrait studios open, either. UPDATE: the PhotoPass Studio in Disney Springs has reopened.
Curious where to find the photographers in the parks?
You can use the My Disney Experience app as a start, but keep in mind that depending on the day of the week or even the time of day, you may see more or less PhotoPass photographers out and about than what is indicated on the map.
PhotoPass tips and tricks
Strike a Pose
All the regular poses are still popular, but if you get creative you can also minimize the whole mask in the photo thing.
For example, you can get some adorable shots of you facing away from the camera (for example you facing Cinderella Castle).
You can also use some of your own props (like a foldable handheld fan) to hide your mask, if you want.
Or, if you’re like us, just embrace and normalize the whole mask wearing experience.
Glam it up
There are so many options for cute and adorable masks these days. And if you are the kind of person that likes DisneyBounding or you just want to match your mask to your outfit of the day, do it.
You can get some cute pics that way!
Don’t forget to ask for Magic Shots
Magic Shots are still a thing…even with masks! Don’t be afraid to ask your PhotoPass photographer if they can take them.
One thing we have noticed is that there seems to be more of a delay than ever in receiving your photos – especially your ride photos.
That is partly due to the fact that Disney is reviewing photos to ensure that there is proper mask compliance in them.
It can be nerve wracking if you’re waiting for a picture to appear, but just know that you may have to wait a bit longer than you’re used to.
If a photo never shows up, Disney has a easy-to-use online form for those situations. You’ll need to tell them the date, location, and time, and they typically do an excellent job of tracking down anything that is missing.
You may already be getting the pics for free
If you are an Annual Passholder, you may be getting all your pics for free.
Most Annual Passholders receive PhotoPass downloads and ride photos and videos at no extra charge. That’s a huge saving (and a nice incentive to snag photos during your visit).
Maximize your purchase
If you decide to purchase Memory Maker, we highly recommend you maximize that purchase by getting as many shots as possible. And, as we mentioned above with fewer opportunities you may have to get more creative.
Try to grab photos at different times of the day or in different combinations (if you’re traveling with a group).
And, most importantly, if you did purchase Memory Maker, don’t forget to download your photos! If you catch it in time (before your 45 days are up) you can pay $19.95 for an additional 15 days worth of access. But, the safest thing to do is to just get them downloaded as soon as you get back home.