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.
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.
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.
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!
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