I was in one of my final semesters of college when I decided to apply for the Disney College Program. It was a long time coming, as I’d been dying to do the program for years! And it was my very last opportunity to get gutsy and go for it!
Taking the Disney Company seriously, I thought to do the DCP, move on to do a professional internship or two, in the hopes that I could work for Disney throughout my career. Though this plan changed, it helped me make up my mind to apply! My top choice was to be a PhotoPass Photographer, as I had picked up photography within the last year.
So when I received my acceptance letter a few weeks after my phone interview, I was thrilled! My mind was immediately made up that this was the right place for me to be after my last semester on campus (I had one semester left to complete online).
Once I got to Florida and found out that my main location would be at Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, so glad I can use this information somewhere), I became even more excited since I could basically be a world traveler every day!
My initial training process was exciting and intimidating! It’s like all of the sudden you work for Disney overnight! I got a few variations of the costume at Disney’s Animal Kingdom costuming, since that’s near where all those in entertainment did their training. I had some awesome trainers throughout my training, they were funny and easy going, which made it less scary. All those who were new DCP and simply new hire PhotoPass photographers all did our initial training together. This was learning about our camera gear, costume expectations, types of shots… all the general training of being a photographer in the parks.
After a few days of the general PhotoPass training, we separated into smaller groups and received training at our locations. I had two trainers for location training, and there were only two of us that went to Epcot. Just Brian and me. For real, we were each others BFF’s for those first few weeks since it was all new and crazy!
This training lasted a few days, and then we were set loose in the park! We mostly stayed in Future World of Epcot, and shot in front and in back of Spaceship Earth (the big golf ball… I really hope that none of you actually call it that!). This was great training, and I became good at shooting these spots, called icon spots, very quickly. We didn’t train to work with characters until a few weeks in. Once we were more comfortable and confident with park guests, camera equipment, the layout of the park, etc. And when that day finally came that I celebrated! That was what I really was envisioned as being a Disney photographer.
Once I was fully trained to shoot icons and characters, “work” became so much fun! Normally I worked afternoon to closing hours, which I liked since it meant I didn’t have to spend as much time in the Florida afternoon sun. Each day I would pick up my positions (we’d get about 3 different spots per shift) silently praying to the deployment gods that I would get to work with a character. I would mentally do a happy-dance when I got to spend a few hours with Minnie, Mickey, or Goofy at Character Spot or cringe when I had to spend a few hours at the backside of Spaceship Earth (my least favorite position).
One little-spoken aspect of PhotoPass is that you get LOTS of guest interaction. Photographers are spread out when working icon positions, so sometimes I was pretty much alone. This is what helped me enjoy shooting icons since that is when I got to have real conversations with guests. I learned about how much fun they were having on vacation or where they were from. I met people from all over the world! It was great having so much guest interaction! You don't get that kind of interaction in a fast-paced character setting.
But of course, the gem of the PhotoPass position was working with characters. Disney was paying me to capture guests' reactions to meeting Mickey Mouse and their other favorite characters for the first time. Who else could say that? It was something I never grew tired of. My treasured memories from my DCP came from the times I worked with characters.
I remember one of my last days working, I switched another photographer for a shift at Princess Fairytale Hall. This was the only time I ever worked in the Hall, but it was a dream come true for me. NO JOKE. I worked with Elsa, Cinderella, and Rapunzel that day. All were lovely to work with. Especially since they're all some of my favorite princesses. They were kind and fun and of course, beautiful.
Rapunzel was exceptionally happy that day. Which was just what I needed as I was sad to be ending my program so quickly (our program was short, only 3 months), and required me to move onto adulthood. She went out of her way to help each person feel as though they were the most important human being on the planet, including me. I saw and captured every reaction, every moment. It was the most magical day, and when my shift was done I didn't want to leave!
I am honestly getting chills just thinking about it!
PhotoPass is the best role. Hands down. I realize I’m totally biased, but I got to capture and add magic to many families' memories. I loved my job and I felt like the luckiest Disney lover and Cast Member in the world to be a PhotoPass Photographer!