Tips for Holiday Photos You’ll Cherish

As the holidays are upon us, many of us are feeling the need to capture memorable photos of friends and family, food and fun, and the sparkle of joy in the eyes of the little ones. Whether you’re wielding a $2,000 professional DSLR camera, snapping with a slim and trim compact camera, or dusting off an old film camera for this annual tradition, your holiday photos don’t need to be boring line-ups of the usual suspects or posed mug shots with artificial smiles. Here are hints to help you create some inspired photos you’ll cherish for years to come.

1. Turn Off The Flash And Use A Tripod

holiday-photo-tip-01
Click to enlarge

Most amateur photographers assume that a flash, whether built-in or add-on, is necessary for indoor photos. The truth is a flash will light up Uncle Bob’s toothless smile or little Jimmy’s rosy cheeks with a bright white light while the background will fall into indistinguishable darkness. If you have a DSLR with an add-on flash you may be able to tilt the flash upward to “bounce” the light off the ceiling, and succeed in lighting the background as well as little Jimmy’s adorable grin, but you’re still drowning the scene with sterile, ambiance robbing white light. Part of what makes the holidays charming is that golden glow of holiday lights – candles flickering on the table, a yule log burning in the fireplace, the warm twinkle of a thousand Christmas tree lights. To capture this magical light you’ll need to turn off your camera flash and mount your camera on a tripod. Why do you need a tripod? Because without a flash, the dim indoor lighting in most homes would cause the camera to use a 1 second or longer exposure. Since nobody can hold a camera perfectly still for 1 or 2 seconds, the result will be a very blurry photo. Go ahead, grab your tripod and give it a try. Turn off your flash and you’ll be rewarded with dreamy photos bathed in the golden light of the holidays!

2. Get Down Low And Get Close

Just because you’re taller than your kids doesn’t mean most of your photos should be of the tops of their heads. To get some great photos of children try to get down to their level where you can make eye contact and really engage them. You can even try getting down on your belly and shooting up! The new perspective can be fun and different! Another common problem with holiday photos is the background clutter that distracts the viewer and ruins otherwise lovely photos. The way to exorcise drunk party guests, roaming relatives, and piles of wrapping paper from the backgrounds of your photos is to get close. By zooming in or simply walking closer to your subject, you can capture little Suzie’s gleeful gasp as she tears open that perfect gift without showing off the pile of paper, ribbons, and unfolded laundry in the background.

3. Shoot Things, Not Just People

As much as the holidays are about people – family, friends, loved ones, and even in-laws – the spirit of the holidays is also in the décor, the food and yes, the desserts. To capture the full essence of the holiday season I encourage you to include photos of the things that make your family holiday unique and special. Years from now you’ll cherish that photo of the paper mache snowman your child made in school or that triple layer banana rum upside-down cake from Aunt Selma.

With my 3 simple photo tips you’re ready to take some holiday photos you’ll be proud to display on the mantel and cherish for years to come. What are you waiting for? Go grab that camera and go snap some priceless keepsakes!

About the author
Warren Tang – I am just a serious advanced amateur photographer who enjoys writing. My friends and coworkers asked me for holiday photo tips so I wrote this article. I hope you like it.
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9 Comments »

Comment by Gnarf Subscribed to comments via email
2009-12-07 09:55:47

Great tips! But I do have a question. I don’t like to use the flash but when shooting indoors (or other conditions when lightning is poor), I often get blurry pictures. This is because I take pictures of people in motion (i.e. my 1,5 year old daughter) which seldom are sitting perfectly still for that 1-2 seconds which is needed. A tripod sure helps, but the people is still moving… Any advice on settings etc which could improve my blurry photos? (I’m currently using a Nikon D60.)
Cheers!

Comment by Warren
2009-12-08 14:06:27

I’m glad you enjoyed the article and found it useful! I can relate to your difficulty in trying to photography your 18 month old daughter. Children seem to be in perpetual motion, don’t they? Where do they get the energy? For sharper indoor photos of your daughter without flash, I have 2 suggestions. First, increase the ISO to 800 or even 1600. Your photos will be slightly noisier (grainy) but the higher ISO will lower your shutter speed and give you a better chance of freezing the motion of your speeding toddler. Second, use A mode (aperature priority) and choose the widest aperature (lowest number) to let in more light. You’ll limit your depth of field (blurred background) but that might be good thing. The upside is that by letting in more light you’ll also lower your shutter speed, giving you a fighting chance at freezing the little one for a sharp photo. Give these tips a try and I hope they help. Cheers!

 
 
Comment by Jeannie Subscribed to comments via email
2009-12-07 11:25:00

Great article and helpful tips!

Comment by Warren Tang
2009-12-10 10:57:12

I’m glad you liked the article Jeannie! I hope you can use some of the tips this holiday season. Cheers!

 
 
Comment by Jeannie Subscribed to comments via email
2009-12-07 11:59:08

Great article and tips!

 
Comment by Robert Subscribed to comments via email
2009-12-12 18:32:56

I like that sample pic. Yeah those indoor pics with ambient lights are great!! The first time I accidentally but successfully took one, I was shocked by how good it looked.

Comment by Warren Tang
2009-12-15 00:17:14

Wow, you *accidentally* and successfully took an available light photo indoors? Well, Robert, you must have some steady hands! :-) I really love available/ambient light photos around the holidays because of that warm lucious aura. This is one time when you don’t want to “fix” the white balance because the magic is in that golden glow. Cheers!

 
 
Comment by Evelyn
2010-01-07 04:00:31

Thank you so much for your tips, Warren. I’ll give it a try instead of wasting my ‘toy’ everytime when I come indoor.

Comment by Warren Tang
2010-01-11 11:30:24

You’re very welcome Evelyn! Don’t let anyone tell you your camera is a “toy”. It’s an artist “tool”! And although this article is titled Holiday Photo Tips, these tips are great for indoor photos all year round. Cheers!

 
 

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