First, some background. DisneyWorld has what they call the "PhotoPass." Whenever you see a Disney photographer in any of the parks (and they are EVERYWHERE), you can grab them and have them shoot a few pics of you and your loved ones. They're pros with good equipment and they do their job well. Then they give you a PhotoPass, which is just a little credit card sized card with a big long number on it and a 3D barcode. Get more pics taken and you can just give them the card and they add it to your "account." Forget your card or whatever and just grab another one (they are free) when you next need pictures. You're saddled with an additional "account", but that's okay because you can combine them all to one account at any PhotoPass kiosk (again, free).
Share that number with friends (or pull it up yourself and share the link) and any of your friends and family can see what's going on with your trip as it happens. At the kiosks you can buy prints in an array of sizes. But the best deal of all is to buy the CD. You get the raw images sent to you and you retain all copyright on them. It's expensive at $150, but there are pre-purchase deals that can cut the price to $100 or so. And if you go to Disney with other families, just pool your dough and put all the PhotoPasses on one account and then copy the CD. Disney doesn't seem to mind that kind of thing one bit.
The problem arises when you combine a bunch of Photopasses to one pass and then you LOSE IT. Don't do that! One way to avoid it is to "back up" your PhotoPass by simply using your own digital camera (a cellphone camera will usually suffice) to shoot a picture of the number on the pass. Or write it down. Or when you combine you can actually have them put it on two or three passes that they'll give to you and you can put those in different places or in other people's hands. There are lots of ways to avoid being a dumbass, but sadly, as you might have guessed, I took none of these.
That's right, I had a Photopass with 65 pictures for THREE families from an entire day at Blizzard Beach, the best water park in the world. What makes that doubly bad is that this is the one place we generally don't bother taking our own camera in since it's a water park, even though we have an awesome new Canon D10 that's waterproof (just too annoying to keep up with when you're doing all those big slides and stuff since EVERYONE was participating in lots of BIG rides!). But at Blizzard Beach they have "little" PhotoPasses that are waterproof and have a rubber band that will go on your wrist and are no problem. Except we ended up with about a dozen of them throughout the day.
So at the end of the day I combined them at a kiosk to one. I shunned the smart man's attempt to give me two or three and said one was fine. Then, somehow, today, I lost it. I think I left it in the hotel room in a stack of old receipts I didn't need. We left the hotel around 9am and stored our bags for one more morning in Animal Kingdom before coming back to depart for the airport. It was right as we returned I realized I didn't have it and the staff was VERY helpful in tracking down the person who had already cleaned our room to find out if they had it or had seen it. In fact, that entire process took less than SIXTY SECONDS from the FIRST person I asked about it when I walked in the lobby of the MASSIVE hotel. But alas, not surprisingly, the cleaning lady did not have it.
I was a bit dejected, but then the security guy said "let's go over to the PhotoPass kiosk...sometimes they can find your pictures." I was a bit stunned at this possibility, because Disney doesn't really link your Photopass to YOU in any way. You go do that yourself at the end of your trip. You can enter ALL your PhotoPass numbers you might have accumulated and link it to your CD and have it pressed. Why they don't do this earlier (or make your room key a PhotoPass) I don't know, but that's the way it is.
Anyway, it turns out that not only do the pictures get put in a database that's linked to the number on the card they scan when they shoot the pic(s), but they are entered into the database by park and even location as well as the time they were taken. Since I remembered about an hour window at one of the Blizzard Beach rides that SEVERAL of us had gotten PhotoPass pictures at, I was able to have the kiosk guy just show me big thumbnail views of pictures from that time period on that ride until I found one of myself. He was then able to pull up that entire PhotoPass from that one picture of me. SWEET! He then scanned another card, handed it to me, and I was on my way, all in under ten minutes. I immediately snapped a pic of it with my iPhone and ran to catch my bus. Yeah, you got it, that's the Disney Magic. I'm not only amazed they could do all that, I'm amazed at the speed at which it happened. Truly special. Thank you, Disney, for saving me the embarrassment of being the one to lose 65 pictures and really the entire record of our day there.