Monday, December 19, 2011

10 Christmas Photography Tips and Tricks

With Christmas just a few days away, we wanted to give some tips, tricks, and ideas for better holiday photography.  No matter whether you are using an iPhone or an expensive full-frame DSLR, there is something here for you. 

For some reason, a few days after we get back from the holidays we wonder why we don't 'Oohhh' and 'Aaahhh' over our Christmas pictures?!  Let's see if we can't change that this year.  We'll do this countdown like David Letterman, Top Ten style...

10. Use Reflections
At this time of year especially, there are lots of shimmering surfaces available.  Use these to capture reflections all around you from faces to scenes to palettes of color.  Remember, you have shiny Christmas ornaments to capture children around the tree and silver serving trays to capture those hungry ones at the table.  From there, it's only a matter of scouting around for even more reflective image possibilities.  Be reflective...

9.   Try a Silhouette
Come on now, that's not a new cocktail...  Taking dramatic, stunning silhouettes couldn't be easier this time of year with all the additional lighting around the home and outside.  Get your subject between the camera and the light (back lit), disable the camera's flash, set your meter off the brightly lit background - and VOILA!  You have a beautiful silhouette picture, just like the pros.  My suggestion is late Christmas Eve night - that last look at the lit tree, when the lights in the room are out, with the kids in their PJ's.  Find the silhouettes...

8.   Be the Present
When you are shooting the typical Christmas morning gift opening brouhaha, don't force everyone to hold up a gift and smile.  This produces just another one of those Christmas pictures that we throw on the cutting room floor.  Get to the level of the gift opener (yes, that means on the floor for the children) and catch their natural reactions - tearing or neatly opening the wrapping, the 'reveal' shot when the gift is first opened, or the 'not-so-funny-to-the-gift-giver' discard of the unwanted Christmas sweater over the shoulder.  Get genuine...

7.   Think Outside the Box
There are so many possibilities for Christmas memories, but why do we always get stuck on the pictures of opening presents?  What about the night before, when the kids place the cookies and milk out for Santa with a note?  Or when your children make that homemade gift or card for Grandma? (PS - great addition to the gift too!)  Or that sneak peek out of the bedroom door after being told to go to bed - to see if Santa is here yet?  Think outside the gift wrap...

6.  It Isn't Lame, Fill the Frame
Yes, I know - I'm getting boring with technique talk, but this simple little technique will add so much emotion and flavor to your pictures.  We all sit on the couch and take those pictures across the room...put on the zoom lens!  Or better yet, GET OFF THE COUCH!  Fill your frame with the subject, it will have a stunning effect on your photos.  Get close for the most...

5.   Have Yourself a Balanced White Christmas
One more technical tidbit, then it's on to the top 4 fun tips!  Check to see if your camera has 'white balance' settings.  Either choose indoor or tungsten lighting settings to ensure your indoor photographs are white balanced and avoid that deadly indoor yellow or green glow.  But, if you are shooting in RAW format with your camera, don't worry if you forget this one - shoot away and set your white balance during post-processing.  White like the snow...

4.   Turn the Lighting Down
The story of Christmas is told about a small, shiny star that takes on an extraordinary responsibility - to shine bright and tell the world.  If you have time to compose a few shots this Christmas season, add a batch of low-light candlelight images to your collection.  A child's face lit by candlelight as they sit still and wonder at the glow.  Or capture that look of anticipation on a face lit up by the Christmas tree lights before they go to bed.  The possibilities are endless - use your imagination, or better yet - let it run wild! The warm fire's glow...

3.   Go MACRO
Whether you have a macro lens or a camera with a 'closeup' or 'macro' setting, try photographing the smaller items around for a set of fun photos.  Ornaments glittering on the tree, the almost empty wineglass on a messy table with the decorations in the blurred background, colorful decorations on the table, the nativity scene under the tree, or stage yourself a picture with the Gingerbread Man getting into the sauce.  Don't forget the small stuff...

2.   Capture the Preparation
I know, if we have the camera, usually we are the ones doing the preparation too!  The gift opening and the meal are generally our photographic focus for the holidays, but there are so many other opportunities to capture during the preparation.
  • Food preparation - Grandma's arm stuck in the turkey
  • Putting up decorations - Uncle Joe's plumber heritage showing
  • Tantrums - They are going to happen, might as well have fun with them
  • Opening the bottle - Remember that time when Aunt May sprayed the kitchen with pinot
  • Wrapping gifts - Capturing the spirit of little Berta 'giving' instead of 'getting'
Imagine the possibilities...

1.  PREPARE Ye the Way!!!
He's making a list and checking it twice...You should too!  The holidays seem to get so rushed, take the time to fill out a list.  Getting yourself ready is the best tip of all.  A little preparation will go a long way in making this holiday excursion less stressful and so much better.
  • Pack the camera - oh, don't tell me you've never done that before
  • Batteries charged - extra ones on hand (did you pack the recharger?!)
  • Extra memory cards - @#$$%($%^!*&
  • Consider the light - do you need to bring your flash? diffuser?
  • Photographer's eye - take some time and look online for ideas
  • Test shots - take a few shots in spots that may have difficult lighting beforehand, so you can get it right when the actual moment arrives
  • Tripod - for those night time and low-light Christmas tree shots
  • Picture list - have a great idea, but don't want to forget it, write it down
  • Non-people shots - get them out of the way during 'nap time' when you can focus on getting the 'photography' right
But most importantly, don't forget - it's Christmas.  Remember the reason for the season and enjoy yourself.  Don't sweat the small stuff...there's always next year!

Can't wait to see some of your photography after this holiday season - just post them below!

To you and to yours, may you have a Holiday Season filled with peace, joy, and happiness!  From our family here at Dakota Visions Photography, LLC...Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  We will see you behind the lens...