The gates open and the crowds rush in; the smiling faces of cast members fill the sidewalks along Main Street; the castle gleams and glistens in the sunlight; the whimsical music invites guests to ‘leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.” For Giana Beverly Austin, this is just another day at the office in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Austin is a 17-year-old who has been going to Disney since she was three months old. She credits her parents for instilling a love for Disney inside of her, and that love grows stronger every time she visits.
“[I love] how it feels seeing the castle for the first time ever, or that day,” Austin said. “How you can’t help but want to dance to the music piped through the parks; how you can always get emotional meeting Mickey Mouse or twirling with your favorite princess; how you can be a kid again, no matter if you are 2 or 202.”
Recently, she has taken that love and combined it with her other true love–photography.
“I have always been passionate about photography and Disney World,” Austin said. “So once I realized I could combine the two, at the beginning of the year, I was just the happiest.”
At the beginning of March, Austin started an Instagram account called ‘Disney World Delights’ where she could post pictures she took while at Disney. Much to her surprise, the account skyrocketed. She now has 10,000 followers and receives anywhere from 300-500+ likes on a single picture.
To me, that’s A LOT.
Not only has this young (only 17, remember that), up and coming photographer made a name for herself, she has also managed to grab the attention of many cast members that she takes pictures of.
“It started out with some wanting to thank me for my photos by meeting up on their breaks to buy me coffee or have lunch,” Austin said. “I am still shocked and amazed at what it has now turned into.”
Her cast member connections even tell their managers about her.
“Their managers watch my page and review some of my friends on their character performances by my videos and photos, which is an honor and also a tad nerve-wracking,” Austin said.
On top of being friends with so many cast members, which is something I am just slightly jealous about on the down low, she’s also made some very close friends through this account, one of them being a young woman named Meghan Mueller.
“I originally followed Giana on Instagram and loved her pictures,” Mueller said. “A few weeks after we originally met [at Magic Kingdom], we would see each other around the park and we began to spend more time together. By the end of the summer, we were spending the entire afternoon and night together! Now, we are extremely close friends and we talk almost every day.”
A beautiful friendship tied together with magic and pixie dust. I love it.
Interestingly enough, Austin does not live in the Orlando area. No, this determined photographer makes the four-hour trip to Disney twice a week so she can get her dose of magic and new content to keep her page fresh and up-to-date. However, it has proven to be a challenge.
“Driving four hours, twice a week, is expensive and tiring,” Austin said. “It’s certainly been an obstacle, but it has not gotten in the way of doing what I love!”
Because Austin does visit the kingdom twice a week, she has developed a precise schedule, which makes her giggle when she thinks about it.
“I normally get there at 10 sharp where I proceed to watch the 10:10 trolley show, followed by 10:35 castle show. Then the Move it, Shake it, Celebrate it street party starts at 11 that I never miss. Usually after that, I go see Alice. After I visit her, I get Starbucks and I sit at the Tomorrowland Terrace. I bring my computer so I can edit photos right there. It’s the best to be able to work with a view of the castle!
“I catch the 12:30 street party and then roam for photos until the 2:05 castle show, which is my favorite show time of the day to watch for some reason! After that it’s straight to Frontierland to wait for Festival of Fantasy, which I proceed to watch twice by running to the end of Main Street! After the parade, I grab more coffee and attempt a 10 minute nap at the Terrace while I wait for some friends to clock out from the parade where we sit and hang out. [This is] one of my favorite parts of the day, getting to see my lovely friends and relax for a while!
“I catch 4:55 Hoedown, 5:15 castle show and then 5:40 street party. And after the last street party, from 6-8:30 I attempt to eat something, go visit characters for photos and then by 9 I have a spot for DEP [Disney’s Electrical Parade]. 10 is Wishes, and 11 is usually the second DEP where I do not take photos. I just stand and wave and be silly to some friends. It’s the most magical way to end a busy and fun day!”
There was no way for me to accurately describe a day in the life of Giana better than she did, so I had to give you her entire answer.
Quite a day, huh?
I bet you can’t guess how many photos this girl goes home with at night. Hint–it’s A LOT.
“In a single day of shooting at Disney, I normally come home with about 2,000 photos,” Austin said.
Yes. 2,000 photos. And she goes twice a week, so make that 4,000 photos.
And then comes the editing process.
“I spend 20 minutes on each photo. And with over 2,000 to go through, well, you do the math! (If I could put emoji’s, I would’ve inserted the laughing-crying one),” Austin said.
Is she not the cutest?
But even though the rest of us think she’s awesome and incredibly talented, Austin still doesn’t really get it. She is incredibly modest and humble, and even that is an understatement.
“I minimally have 10 people a day stop me in the parks to tell me they love my photography and normally they ask for a selfie,” Austin said. “I question if they have the right person because to me, I’m a dorky, weird-looking ‘nobody’, why do they want a photo with ME?!”
But don’t worry–even though she is modest, Austin is incredibly grateful for all of the support and kind words she receives.
“I gush and tell them they made my day because they DO!” Austin said. “It never fails to make me smile when someone goes out of their way to approach me and spread kindness.”
But the most rewarding part of what she does?
“The friendships alone are the most amazing payment I could’ve ever dreamed of,” Austin said. “And seeing the genuine smiles from people when they see a photo they love..it is unreal how rewarding that feels.”
Mueller is proof that Austin holds her friends close to her and values their presence. She recalls the last time they saw each other this summer, which just so happens to be one of her favorite memories.
“I had bought a Mickey balloon and wanted my picture with it in front of the castle,” Mueller said. “I handed her my phone and asked her to take a picture for me, which she did, but then she grabbed her camera and said, ‘Let me take some on my camera so you can have some good ones too!'”
“It’s nothing glamorous, but it’s one of those little moments that I absolutely love.”
I don’t know, these seem pretty glamorous to me! ❤
Because Austin is only 17, it’s safe to say she has her whole life, and photography career, ahead of her. However, as Cinderella would say, they cannot order her to stop dreaming, and she is excited to see where her life takes her.
“I would love for Disney to hire me as an official park photographer, which is a huge dream right there! But as for right now…I am so happy and content with where I am. Things can only go up from here!”
You can follow Giana Beverly Austin on Instagram at ‘DisneyWorldDelights’ and on Twitter here.