by Guest Contributor Shalonda Chaddock
After 9 months of planning this trip and keeping it a secret from our girls the moment finally arrived, we were packing for the trip of a lifetime…ummm, okay, I mean we were packing for our first trip to Disney World!!! You see, while I am a photographer, I am also a mom and there I was, having this internal struggle with balancing both while enjoying a trip of this magnitude. You, know, the “I cant wait to blog/facebook/instagram this, so it has to be perfect” versus the “wow I’m so happy we just did that, I know I’ll remember it forever” struggle?! Yeah, see, you have it too, right?! Well, I knew I had to check the “balance box” before I even left, because as perfect as I wanted this trip to be, I knew I wanted to enjoy it right along side my family.
Tips for enjoying your moments and making magical memories:
1. Take the “big guy” but know when to put it away
This was not only our family’s first trip to Disney but also our first real family vacation, like plane ride and all, so I was really unsure if I would be able to handle my “big girl” camera and the chaos of the unexpected. However, as you know I am a big proponent of shooting for yourself, so I did a little of BOTH. We had park hopper passes, which helped because I didn’t feel the stress of having to take my camera every single day. I ended up taking my camera about 4 full days of our 7-day trip. I decided each night based on our plans if I was taking the camera or not, I did not wait until we were running out of the room to catch the monorail… I’m not good with snap decisions ha. But the point here, is your family is so lucky to be enjoying a trip like this, you should enjoy it too, so remember to put the “big girl” camera away at some point and do just that.
2. Light as a feather
Before we left Texas I went back and forth between renting a 24-70mm or taking one or even a combo of my lenses. Here is what I knew, I wanted to be able to get good pics of the castle, of the girls, and not have a sore shoulder. In the end I took my 35L (for those castle pics and tight spaces) and my 50L (for good bokeh, and close-ups of the girls magical expressions). HOWEVER, I did not take them both out every day, again I chose which lens to take the night before. This was because I didn’t want to be juggling lenses, camera, kids and the 65 million things you buy while you are there each day. What worked best for our family was for me to make a sweet little soft spot in one of my girls’ empty pottery barn backpacks with towels and the removable cushions in my camera bag. This allowed me to comfortably carry my camera in the bag or to shoot without my hands being full.
3. Embrace the crowds, shoot wide open, and if all else fails shoot the castle
We went during a not-so-crazy time, the crowds were not bad at all, however if that’s not the case for you the early morning hours and late evening hours seem to be the least crowded times to shoot. However, sometimes you just have to embrace the fact that you will have tons of people in the background of your shots and you will most likely be in the background of someone else’s shot. As for the bokeh, use it to your advantage to minimize the chaos around you but this also to allow you to shoot at night. Disney, even Epcot is truly magical once the sun goes down. And in a nutshell, you can NEVER have enough images of that beautiful castle so shoot away; it’s a willing subject.
4. Shoot like a mom NOT a photographer
I’d say about 90% of the images I took are not technically perfect and incredibly composed shots, but guess what?! WHO CARES! Yep, they are nothing more than snapshots of my family being crazy-happy, eating their third mickey ice cream on a stick, while skipping through the most magical place on earth. But those other 10%, yeah those were the ones that shattered my heart into a million pieces and make me a little teary every time I see them. Don’t worry you WILL get those moments, you WILL make the most magical memories, just be sure to enjoy them rather than watch them pass by.
About the author: The face behind Chubby Cheek Photography. Shalonda lives in Houston, TX with the love of her life, aka daddy cheeks, and her two gorgeous girls, cheeks #1 and cheeks #2. Despite her engineering degree from Texas A&M she started Chubby Cheek Photography 4 years ago and hasn’t looked back. Her love for creating and the carefree way children “see” life is truly the heart of her work and inspiration.