Secrets Behind Disney’s Amazing Food Photos May Surprise You

For foodies and Disney fans, there’s no better place to capture beautiful photographs of delicious dishes than Disneyland Resort, especially during our Lunar New Year celebration

At this year’s celebration, one of the top food photographers in the game, Disney cast member David Nguyen, is covering it all. And today, he has a few gems to share that just may make your photos better! 

Disney cast member David at the Lunar New Year celebration at the Disneyland Resort

With 15 years at Disney under his belt and food photographs that have gone viral, David knows that photography basics (lighting, rule of thirds and such) are crucial. But he’s also learned that one of the secrets for capturing share-worthy images is having an eye for the unique story around the food and knowing it has the power to connect. 

Disney cast member David photographing food at the Disneyland Resort

He says a captivating image of a simple dish has the potential to revive a familiar and positive feeling or memory — especially at a celebration like Lunar New Year. These holiday food photos can evoke heartwarming and happy thoughts.

“Food is tied with a lot of memories,” said David. “With Lunar New Year, you have traditional foods like steamed fish with sesame oil, white rice, and steamed vegetables that remind you of a family meal,” David says.

Disney cast member David at the Lunar New Year celebration at the Disneyland Resort

David’s earliest childhood memories involved a disposable camera and an ice cream sundae, of all things, so for him, telling meaningful stories through a camera lens has always been a part of life.

Disney cast member David photographing food at the Disneyland Resort

Now, as an ace Disneyland Resort food & beverage optimization manager and photographer, David uses his skills to combine creative storytelling and authenticity to digitally represent Disney’s dishes!

“Disney is now showing that food is a destination, an attraction, a place that you need to come to. And we tell a story with just food,” says David.

David has even found a way to weave his earlier experiences and friendships into day-to-day photography – which may be another one of his secrets to success. 

“Every position that I’ve been in was a huge opportunity to get to know all the cast members in each location. When people say that what makes Disney so magical is the cast members, you can really tell when you walk into an area,” said David. “It’s not like working with strangers. It’s working with families and friends.”

Disney cast member David taking a selfie with Goofy at the Disneyland Resort

In addition to capturing nearly all the food content for this year’s Lunar New Year celebration at the Disneyland Resort, David along with other cast members part of the Community of Pacific Islanders, Asians and Allies (COMPASS) Business Employee Resource Group (BERG) worked closely with the Lunar New Year festival development team to ensure that guest culinary offerings were both culturally authentic and uniquely Disney.

“There’s coffee, and then there’s Vietnamese coffee,” says David. “We’ve worked on this for years and years, trying to get a coffee that will taste authentically Vietnamese. We’ve had it close, but not authentically tasteful. This year, we’ve done something. We have a Vietnamese coffee, and we added a little taro topping on top.”

While David admits that it can be nerve-wracking to have his work seen by so many people ranging from guests in the park to fans all over the world when his photos are shared by national media publications and go viral, he says there’s a great deal of gratification in seeing the Lunar New Year food offerings go from ideation to photos on menus.

Disney cast member David photographing Lunar New Year displays at the Disneyland Resort

“It’s the product that we made for the resort,” says David. “We watched it from the first day. It was an idea all the way down to the final product. Everyone who walks by is like, ‘Wow, we did that. It finally came true.’”

You can check out more of David’s work in our popular Disney Eats: Foodie Guide to Lunar New Year 2024. And keep checking back for more stories on this year’s Lunar New Year celebration at Disney Experiences.