How to Photograph the Holidays

Snow in south Louisiana, December 2008. A rarity by any measure, shot very early in the morning. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Snow in south Louisiana, December 2008. A rarity by any measure, shot very early in the morning. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Photography around the winter holidays is a natural thing—if you’re the photographer in the group, you’ll be expected to shoot the majority of the photos. To keep from ending up with a dull and predictable group of images, though, you need to think ahead.

Here are my tips for shooting the holidays, guaranteed to help you make your photos stand out.

GROUP SHOTS

The best group shots frequently occur before, or after the more predictable version. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

The best group shots frequently occur before, or after the more predictable version. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

I’ve written about how to shoot great group shots in another post, but here are the relevant points to remember for this time of year:

  • Fill the frame up with your subjects.
  • Shoot either full length or waist-up for groups of  3 or more.
  • Work quickly! Group shot subjects have notoriously short attention spans, especially if they’ve been hitting the eggnog.
  • Try to capture spontaneous moments, not just the safe, predictable photo. You’ll find that these best moments frequently happen before or right after  the  predictable shot, so be ready and alert for these.
  • Make sure to get a bit of ‘holiday’ in your background, whether that means the Christmas tree, Chanukah Menorah, or whatever.
Including just a bit of 'holiday' in your background--here the Christmas tree--gives your photograph valuable context. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Including just a bit of 'holiday' in your background--here the Christmas tree--gives your photograph valuable context. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

DETAILS

Bow detail. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Bow detail. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

I think it’s a great idea to try and make some nice photos of holiday details—the things around your celebration. These little still lifes are great to have, help you slow down and really ‘see,’ and can even make great cards to send out next year. So look around for images that only you, the photographer, can see. You’ll be surprised at how much fun these are to shoot.

OUTDOORS

If you have any outdoor decorations, you’ll want to shoot these as well. The best time to shoot them is during ‘magic light,’ the 30 minutes or so after dawn and around dusk when indoor and outdoor illumination balances.  Everything turns a bit blue, artificial lighting will glow warmish yellow, and everything just looks better!

PRESENT OPENING

If you have young children around, photographing the opening of the presents can make for some great images. Here are a few specific suggestions for this ritual:

  • Be ready and try and capture Peak Action: that moment of delight and recognition as the wrapping paper comes off.
  • Get down low on the ground with your child—nothing worse than shooting down onto the scene from the comfort of your chair.
  • If you have a strobe that works with your camera (or you’re using a built-in pop-up flash) have it ready to go. You don’t want to be fumbling with your equipment as great photos pass you by.
  • Beware the dreaded shutter lag! Really hard to get the ‘decisive moment’ – shock and awe on your child’s face—with your point-n-shoot always a full second behind you. (This truly is DSLR country. As you shoot these shots, congratulate yourself  for plunking down the cash for that fast, responsive camera that  you’re holding.)

Good luck and happy holiday shooting!

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Or subscribe to our Facebook page or our Twitter feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: How To

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

1 Comment on "How to Photograph the Holidays"

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  1. Sharon says:

    Thanks for the tips…will put them to use here in a few days!

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