Telling a Story
Children creating wish lists and writing and posting letters to Santa.
Holiday shopping expeditions.
Children visiting Santa at the mall.
Crawling into the attic for the Christmas decorations.
Decorating the inside and outside of your home.
Choosing and buying a tree; erecting and decorating it at home.
Wrapping gifts and placing under tree.
Attending holiday parties, events, musical and theatrical presentations, etc.
Christmas Eve activities.
Putting children to bed with visions of sugarplums in their heads.
Parent assembling toys late Christmas Eve.
Children waking and their excited faces on their way to the tree.
Children playing with toys.
Family dinner preparation.
Family portraits, individuals and groups of extended family members.
Use a “fast” lens, or one with the widest aperture possible (or the lowest f-stop number), such as f/1.2, f/1.4 or f/1.8. Consider renting such a lens for a few days.
Set your ISO to a higher number. Depending on your camera, this could be ISO 400 to 800. Any digital noise can be reduced or eliminated during editing.
Use a tripod or monopod.
A Macro Photography Moment.
Other Important Shooting Tips
It’s probably safe to say that December is when more digital photos are taken than any other month of the year, considering the hundreds of millions of digital cameras and smartphones throughout the world. No doubt, you’ll be snapping your camera right and left; but you are more likely to capture your best holidays pictures that everyone expects to see, and with more quality and creativity, when you use any or all of the following holiday photography tips.
(Christmas is used as the example throughout this article, but the tips are also applicable to the many other holiday celebrations, such as Chanukah, Ashura, Kwanza and others. One of your photography challenges is to learn how to adjust and adapt them, accordingly.)
It has almost become a “how-to-photography-article” cliché, but a primary goal of all your photos is to tell a story. The holidays offer many opportunities to encapsulate a story within a single image or with a progression of images. The easiest kind of holiday story to tell in pictures is your family’s entire experience during the season.
Most of your holiday pictures will be taken indoors, but you want to avoid using a flash that will fill the room with blasts of lights. Your family and guests will consider this very annoying after the 25th time you fire your flash and will give you a nasty look for spoiling the celebration and family intimacy.
When shooting with ambient light, you want to maintain a shutter speed of at least 1/125 of a second, as part of the exposure equation. There are a number of ways to accomplish this:
Instead of using a flash for every photo, plan to use it for just a few, and learn how to mix it with ambient light, bouncing the flash or utilizing a diffuser. You can find more tips in the PhotographyTalk articles listed at the end of this article.
The holidays present an excellent opportunity to try your hand at macro photography, considering the ornaments, decorations, lights, candles, cookies, wrapped gifts and other small holiday items. Close-up images will enhance your family holiday photography story. Again, it’s easy and affordable to rent a macro lens for a few days and complementary miniature lighting gear.
If you’re hosting a holiday gathering for family for friends, then you’ll want to take many holiday portraits of family groupings, including Uncle Bill and Aunt Nancy dressed like Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Find a good location to create a portrait setting, and decorate it to act as a background. Then, ask individuals and groups to sit or stand in that area for their “official” holiday portraits. You’ll have control of the background, the position of your camera and the lighting, so you can take the best-looking photos possible. This is another occasion when everyone is apt to be more tolerant of you using a flash, or even studio lighting.
Before you start taking holiday photo “keepers,” snap a few test shots, especially to determine if auto white balance is working correctly for the interior space in which you are shooting. Your tests may cause you to use a white balance preset or adjust it manually, instead.
Try to concentrate on capturing the best photos and not being overwhelmed by the excitement of the celebration. That is when you forget some of the fundamentals, such as filling the frame with the primary subject or object, choosing a primary point of interest in each photo; focusing on people’s eyes; and using various angles and camera positions, high and low, especially when photographing children.
Your best lens choice is a zoom lens in the 35mm to 150 or 200mm range. You’ll have a wide-angle focal length to be more creative, a bit of telephoto (80 to 120mm) for portraits and more telephoto to be able to frame close-ups of people from across the room.
Photo copyright PhotographyTalk member Christopher Lenney
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