Feature Interview: Chelsea Ladd, Disney Photographer

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UPDATE: Since this post was originally published, Chelsea has been featured by the official Walt Disney World Twitter account and received tens of thousands of likes. (See below.) She is truly an amazing photographer and captures the essence of Disney. I am so glad that WDW took notice and shared her photos with the world. If you haven’t had a chance to read her interview, please do! Check out all the amazing tips and tricks and advice she has for other Disney photographers.

If you enjoyed the first interview I did with Misti Valleroy, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner and Specialist, then you are going to love this one, too. Today, we have a very special interview with Chelsea Ladd, a Disney photographer. Her work is absolutely breathtaking and lucky for us, she specializes in Walt Disney World photos!

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I first came across Chelsea’s photos on Instagram (heighhohello). Her photos capture the essence of Disney with immediacy, and she has an incredible eye for vibrant detail. The colors pop. The rides seem to move even when they’re sitting perfectly still in the frame. You can feel yourself there at the park through her Disney photography.

That’s enough from me, though. I want you to hear from Chelsea how she does it and the motivations behind her phenomenal work. And please, go follow her on Instagram! Your feed will thank you for it.

Interview with Chelsea Ladd, Disney Photographer

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your history with photography, how long you’ve been going to the Disney parks.

My name is Chelsea, and I’m a web designer and photographer! I was first introduced to photography when I was 17 when I became a local photographer’s assistant. I instantly fell in love with the field and went on to start my own photography business. I have been visiting the Disney parks at least once or twice a year since 2nd grade! Now, that’s a long time ago! It’s such a huge part of my life, and I feel so blessed to be able to share this love with my family.

Walt Disney World

When did you first start taking photos at Disney World/Disneyland?

I started taking photos at the park as a kid! While I didn’t really know what I was doing, I still loved to capture the memories I was making with my family. I also loved taking my family’s camcorder and making videos. I got my first crop sensor DSLR when I was 18 and that’s when I really started getting serious with my photos.

What camera(s) or equipment do you use at the parks?

It depends on the day! Or the trip. I usually plan out the shots I’m looking for before deciding what I am going to bring. So some days I’ll bring my Canon 6D. This is a full frame camera by Canon that offers GREAT low light exposure, so it can get those dark ride photos.

The lenses I usually bring are my 70-200, 50mm, and 24-70. I also have a Canon G7X Mark II, which is a great vlogging camera. It too has great capabilities in the dark, so you can take it through rides or walk around at night and get some great photos and video. It’s much, much smaller and lighter than the full frame DSLR, so I’ll take this when I’m not looking for something super specific or need to give my back a break from carrying the heavy load!

Beauty and the Beast at Walt Disney World
Beauty and the Beast at Walt Disney World

And last, but CERTAINLY not least, this may come as a surprise but… my Google Pixel 3 has given me some of the best night shots I’ve ever gotten! Can you believe that? Google Pixel 3 has a feature called “night sight”, and it can give you some spectacular photos. In fact, a few of the night shots on my Instagram page were all done from my phone!

Never underestimate what you can do with the smartphones out there nowadays. If you think you can’t run a stunning Instagram or start learning photography composure and editing with just a phone, think again! I love being able to go into the parks with nothing but a phone and knowing I’ll still be able to get those picture-perfect shots!

Do you have a favorite ride or attraction to photograph? What’s the craziest thing you’ve had to do to get the perfect picture you wanted?

I love photographing Pirates. It’s one of my favorite attractions at WDW and it’s one that challenges me. I’ve ridden it so many times trying to land the perfect shot! As for the craziest thing I’ve done, probably riding rides like Haunted Mansion multiple times hoping it stops somewhere! I’ll sit there with my camera ready to go in case we get stopped along the way, because Haunted Mansion is so dark and you need that long exposure to get a good shot!

The Little Mermaid at Walt Disney World
The Little Mermaid at Walt Disney World

Where are the best photo opportunity spots for someone new to the parks or just wanting to get a good profile pic or Instagram shot?

Hmm, that’s tough because there are so many great spots. One of the first I can think of is heading beside the castle. You’ll want to find Sleepy Hollow and take that path next to the castle heading back to Fantasyland. You can get some great shots of the castle from here with few people in them. The bridge right before you get to Sleepy Hollow is also another favorite of mine; you can get some beautiful reflection shots here.

I also love taking photos at Epcot in the gardens of the UK pavilion! It’s so pretty back there, and you can get some beautiful “Instagram worthy” profile pics back there!

Oh, and don’t forget at Animal Kingdom, when you head back to Everest from the front of the park, there is a little spot that looks straight at the mountain! They usually have a photo pass person here taking photos, which is great, but if you catch it at a time when there’s no photographer there, you can get a stunning shot of Expedition Everest, night or day.

Dumbo at Walt Disney World
Dumbo at Walt Disney World

Do you have any best tips or tricks for someone looking to take better photos at Disney World or Disneyland?

Think out of the box! Aim to be unique. Try to get different perspectives on things! If you’re trying to take ride photos, #1 Never, EVER use flash! You won’t get the shot you’re looking for, and likely will catch a few side eyes as well. You will want to make sure your ISO is cranked up (you can use noise reduction in post later) and make sure your aperture is as wide as it can go. Get stuck on a ride? Now’s your chance to get that amazing shot you’ve been wanting!

If you’re looking for those Instagram worthy food shots, once you get your tasty treat find a beautiful background, be it a Disney Wall (bubblegum wall, purple wall, etc), the castle, the flowers at Flower and Garden, you get the idea! Hold that treat up and take the shot! If you’re using a phone, I suggest putting it in portrait mode to get the creamy background.

If you’re looking for some great parade shots, use a smartphone’s zoom lens if you can. I love my 70-200 lens for these shots, as I can get right up there with the characters on the floats! This lens works great for the castle shows as well.

Tinker Bell at Walt Disney World
Tinker Bell at Walt Disney World

Without any explanation, use a Disney movie title to describe your photography.

The Little Mermaid

Epcot at Walt Disney World
Epcot at Walt Disney World

Last question, I always ask: If your spirit animal was a Disney character, which one would it be?

Lady from Lady and the Tramp

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Chelsea as much as I did. And I learned a lot in the process! I can’t wait to take her advice to make my Disney photos so much better.

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Don’t forget to follow her on Instagram for amazing Disney photography in your life every day!

Subscribe, follow, like, share! Have a magical day!

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Neal Tucker is one of the world’s most engaging Disney influencers, with thousands of views and responses across his blog, podcast, and social media profiles every month.

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