runDisney Character and Race Photo Tips
runDisney runDisney Tips

How to get Great Character and Race Photos

Anyone who has ran a runDisney race with me or watched one of my video race recaps knows I love getting character photos! How much? Well, during my fifteen runDisney race weekends, I’ve gotten 352 character photos as well as 25 run-by selfies and countless photos with costumed cast members. (For a complete montage, check out my character tips vlog!)

So yeah. I have some experience in this territory. A lot. And now that the Wine & Dine and Super Heroes Half Marathon is right around the corner, I thought it’d be a great time to share my best tips. (See this post if you’d also like suggestions for how to get great content for a video recap!)

runDisney Character and Race Photo Tips

Where can you get them?

For Disney World Races

  • There are occasionally character photo opportunities at the expo held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, but that can be hit or miss.
  • Before and After each race
  • During the race, both in the parks and along highways.
  • There will also be character photo opportunities during the Wine & Dine Half Marathon After Party.

For Disneyland Races

Yes, there’s only one more before these races go on hiatus, but I am staying positive by saying they will come back! Until then, I’m socking away money so when they do, I can run them all! For now, however:

  • In the past, there have been no characters at the expo and before or after each races. Instead, characters are limited to within the parks only, BUT there were a ton of them out during the Disneyland Half Marathon races!
  • We also made a list of awesome non-character photo opportunities throughout the park as part of our #MakeMagicPhotoChallenge as described in this video.
#rundisney Character & Race Photo Tips from a gal with over 350! #DopeyChallenge #GoofyChallenge Share on X

Before the Race

1.) Clear your phone so there’s plenty of data storage

Robert is nodding his head in agreement with this one, since he remembers how I had to frantically delete photos, apps, and data during the 2015 Wine & Dine Half Marathon thanks to zero phone storage … while I was running. Good thing he was my lookout for potholes! So do yourself a favor and clear out any unnecessary data, giving yourself lots of room for photos and video.

2.) Take steps for a longer phone battery life

Last thing you want is that dreaded low-battery notification when you still have miles to go! So for better battery life:

  • Lower the screen’s brightness
  • Turn off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth if you don’t need it
  • Make sure you don’t have lots of website windows open
  • Switch to low battery mode
  • Know that using a running app or playing music will hurt your battery life. Using a Garmin or an ole’ fashioned iPod Shuffle clipped to your clothing or hat can help! (Affiliate link.)

For half marathons, I pack a phone charger and cord in my gEar bag for extra charging before and after the race.

For the full marathon, consider bringing a phone charger. The large pockets on Sparkle Skirts makes carrying one quite easy. Jackey loves her Mophie External case. My go-to technique is to pack a small charger and 8″ cord in the pocket of my Fitletic Ultimate Belt, with the cord safety pinned to make sure it doesn’t fall out. This way, I can store my iPhone in the large pouch and charge while running.

3.) Oddball Tips

  • If you plan on carrying your phone, add a wrist strap for some extra drop protection.
  • For those of us who aren’t interested in hauling a cumbersome gimbal or other stabilizing tool, a Pop Socket (affiliate link) is fantastic! It really helps to stabilize your phone while taking selfies or shooting video of you talking.
  • Be aware that reflective strips on your running clothes will shine bright in dark photos!
  • Make sure your race bib is on the front and visible for better Photopass pictures and not beneath a shirt or on the side of your thigh.

4.) Make a Game Plan

While things constantly change, you can get a feel for the amount and types of characters that will be possibly available by watching race recaps! For example, at the Princess Half Marathon, it’s likely you’ll see Captain Jack and the Princes within the first three miles.

QUICK TIP: In the past, the Princess Half Marathon course loops back around so if lines are very long for Captain Jack or the Princes at the start of the race, you’ll have a chance to stop later during miles 11-12.

runDisney Character and Race Photo Tips

If you’re running solo, think about your pace and how much time you can or are willing to spend on character photos. Keep in mind that there is a 16 minute minimum pace, but the official clock doesn’t begin until the last runners, (usually the Balloon Ladies,) cross the start line. So considering each corral starts approximately 3-5 minutes apart, depending on which corral you’re in, you might have some wiggle room.

Just don’t get carried away and make sure you set your Garmin or other device to NOT pause when you stop, so you’ll have an accurate account of your time so far. Factor in bathroom breaks as well, but also remember that once you’re past the last sweep mark, you can relax. For most Disney World races, this means once you enter Epcot. For myself, when I walked both the last Wine & Dine and Princess Half, when I saw characters right at the backstage entrance of Epcot, I put on the brakes and jumped in.

runDisney Character and Race Photo Tips

There were also a couple more in the parks I was able to get.

For those running with a friend or in a group, have a chat about the amount of character photos you’d like to get, who you want to stop for, etc. If you guys are completely on different pages, consider running separately because, hey! These races are expensive. It’s okay to run they how you want.

Be Aware of Pacing Changes

For those who are faster and start in earlier corrals, something to consider while making your game plan is that stopping for character photos will place you among runners or run/walkers with a slower pace. This means you’ll either have to weave, run off road, or slow significantly during crowded spots.

If this is something you would not enjoy or would annoy you, then consider getting pre and post-race photos instead, or waiting in short lines only. In other words, you can’t complain about slower runners or walkers if you’ve placed yourself in their territory.

Pre-Race Day!

Get to the race early!

Yeah, I know. I’m always saying this. But for Disney World races, lines can get CRAZY long to the point where you’re lucky if you get one. So yes, getting there early is crucial … I’m talking by being on the very first bus out or driving there before the buses start.

To find the end of the line, look for a Cast Member holding a sign. A good strategy is to pick the character you most have your heart set on and join that one. Or, wait in the shortest line and then see if you have time for another. Also know that there are often character changes, such as at the Princess Half Marathon. For those, there are usually two lines with two princesses rotating at each one.


Another strategy for those with a group who wants an individual shot as well is to think of a game plan while in line. For example, have one of you run up first, then have your friend quickly join you for a group picture, and then you quickly leave for her individual shot, while using one phone for all the pictures.

Or, if your friend arrives before you do, have them get in line and then join them. To be courteous to those behind you, however, only get a group photo.

Keep in mind that the line will be cut off at a certain time to ensure runners get to their corrals in time. A Cast Member will go through the line making sure everyone is aware of this, so make sure you allow enough time to check in your gEar bag, hit the port-o-potty line and walk to the corrals.

For During Races!

About wait times…

A popular question is how long the waits are. Well, that depends. Sometimes a hideously long line goes quick, sometimes a short one takes forever. It depends on:

  • How many Cast Members are taking pictures. Usually, there will also be a Photopass photographer plus a Cast Member who will take your picture with your phone. If there are two or more Cast Members rotating, the line will move faster.
  • Also, having a large group or pairs getting their picture taken together will also speed things up rather than everyone doing individual shots.
  • Face characters can also take longer if they get chatty. For example, Gaston’s line for the past Princess Half Marathon was insane because he talked with each runner rather than do what we wanted him to do: Stand there and look pretty.
  • Characters are required to take breaks, so it’s possible you could arrive just when they’re walking away. Know that they won’t be gone long, however, so stay if you really want the picture.

To Speed Things Up:

  • If you are with a running partner or group, use only one phone for the picture and then share among yourselves.
  • Plan out any poses beforehand rather than when it’s your turn.
  • Make sure your phone is ready with the camera app open before your turn. If you want a landscape picture, have your phone turned sideways and mention this preference to the cast member.
  • Quickly run to the character and make sure your bib is visible.
  • Also, once you’re out of the way, take a quick glance at your photo before rejoining the course. If it’s really bad due to Cast Member error … such as out of focus or your head cut off, then ask the CM for a redo. But only do this if it’s really bad. Mussy hair doesn’t count.

Another great tip for those in a group or with a running partner is to have one of you wait in line while the other makes a quick bathroom break and then switch. This way, you’re pulling double duty!

Also, for those doing the full marathon, character lines near the end were much shorter, sometimes even nonexistent. We had no wait for this photo with the Fairy Godmother and later on in Epcot’s World Showcase, there were NO LINES for some princesses!

If the lines are just too long…

… you can still have fun and capture great memories! Get a run-by, over-the-shoulder selfie instead!

runDisney Character and Race Photo Tips

Or make your own character photos! This gator might have been ignored by most, but we saw opportunity.

runDisney Character and Race Photo Tips

Don’t forget mile markers – they also make for great photos! If you’re running solo, chances are there’s always a runner behind or ahead of you who’d be willing to switch phones for a picture. And rather than doing the same pose for each mile marker, have some fun with them my mimicking the characters! (The pose we always use for Merida is my favorite!)


Speaking of poses … be sure to vary yours so they don’t all look the same. I tend to fall back to my signature pose with one arm out, one arm up, so I have to remind myself to mix things up!

Oh, and speaking of signature poses, come up with something fun as yours! For Jackey and me, it’s the #huggypose that we always get at the Hub in Disneyland by Walt and Mickey.


I also can’t leave out chEarleaders! Some spectators are characters as well, especially for Star Wars or the Super Heroes Half Marathon when cos-players come out to play. I love stopping for great race signs or folks who go out of their way to encourage us. Like this guy!


And dogs? I will always stop for a dog.


Oh, and if you’re doing the full marathon, be sure to stop for photos with the animals before Animal Kingdom, if they’re out! Just don’t pet the wart hog unless you’d like wart hog smell on your hands for the next few miles.



You know I can’t get through this without mentioning jumpshots! Since I’m deep in therapy in hopes to still run the Dopey Challenge, I’m going to have to pass on jump shots during the Super Heroes Half Marathon, so you’ll have to pick up my slack. Some tips for a great jump shot are:

  • Have your photographer use the burst feature. In the past, I’ve also had them film video that I’d take a screenshot from but that’s has varied success.
  • Remember to keep your face relaxed. I tend to tense up or have this super huge goober smile.
  • Use the hashtag #JoyfulJumpshot so we can see your jump and give you a repost!

Make the most of Photopass!

If you are a Disney World or Disneyland Annual Passholder, Photopass pictures for your runDisney races are included. For others, packets are available for purchase so you can get plenty of pictures both in the parks and at the races. Here’s some tips on how to get great Photopass pictures!

  • At character stops, again, make sure your bib is visible. Usually, the Photopass photographer will take your photo first and then the Cast Member holding your phone.
  • On the course, place yourself on the side of the road since most times, that’s where official photographers will be stationed, most often in green pop-ups. This way, you’ll have clearer shots and less runners in your way.
  • Smile and run with good form! Photos of yourself hunched with droopy hands and gasping open mouths aren’t as video worthy … unless you’re keeping it real and showing how you really felt. If that’s the case … you’re awesome! Carry on.
  • Do something fun like raising your arms, giving a thumbs up, or going for a jump shot! Just be careful not to disturb others or ruin their shot by getting in their way.
  • Make sure your bib is always visible so your race number can be tracked!

About Disneyland’s Max Pass:

Yes, there’s only one more Disneyland race at this time, so if you’re going to be at Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend, you definitely want to purchase the Max Pass and get all the photos while you can. I give tips for this in my Super Heroes Half Marathon video, but for now:

  • You can only purchase Max Pass with an activated park ticket, meaning you need to be in either Disneyland or California Adventure.
  • The cost is $10.00, which for me, is well worth it considering I can make Fastpasses as well.
  • Directions for how to link your runDisney Photopass pictures will be on the back of your race bib. YOU MUST enter it in on the same day of your race! For example, if you run the Thor 10k on Saturday, you must enter your bib number before midnight on Saturday. You won’t be able to enter it on Sunday without having to pay for your pictures.

At the Finish Line

Most times, there will be characters at the finish line, either standing to the side or on the stage. Out of all the races I’ve done, I’ve only stopped twice for selfies. For me, it took away the momentum from my finish. Plus, it can pose a hazard if the course is crowded and the last thing I want to do is ruin someone else’s finish picture. So I skip them.

Something I also don’t do is film. For my earlier videos, I always tried to get great video at the finish line. Problem was, though, I was so busy filming my finish that I didn’t fully enjoy my finish! Plus my official race photos would stuck because I’d be holding up my phone.

So now, I film up until around twenty feet and then I forget about footage, focusing on truly enjoying the finish rather than capturing it for others. Maybe my videos aren’t as awesome because of this, but that’s okay by me.


There you go, my very best tips for getting great character and race photos during your next runDisney race! Have I missed anything? If so, please leave your tip in the comments below! I’m also sharing the video version with a character montage, but first:

Upcoming Meet-Ups!

We will also be having Joyful Miles meet-ups during the following upcoming runDisney race weekends. We’d love to see you there!

  • 2017 Wine & Dine Half Marathon
    When: Friday, November 3rd at 2:30
    Where: Epcot’s World Showcase in Germany
    Hosted by: Jennalyn Jaeger
  • 2017 Super Heroes Half Marathon
    When: Thursday, November 9th at 5:00
    Where: Trader Sam’s by the Disneyland Hotel
    Hosted by: Jackey and Laura of Joyful Miles, Heather Jergensen from the Running with Grace Channel, and Kimberly Estabrook
  • 2018 WDW Marathon Weekend
    When: Friday, January 5th, time to be determined
    Where: The Boardwalk
    Hosted by: Joyful Miles, Heather Jergensen, and Gerald of RezRunsWhen: Sunday, January 7th, starting by however finishes first
    Where: We typically linger and chat, (with beers,) on lounge chairs in the finishing area. Please stop by and say hello!
    Hosted by: Joyful Miles

Hope to see you there!

Thanks for reading these tips on how to get great character and race photos, and I hope you have a blast at your next runDisney event!




Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger, vlogger, wife to an amazing guy for 26 years, mom of two wonderful boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that plus she can quote most lines from Talladega Nights. Shake and bake!

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