A tripod for photos indoors with ambient light or exterior light displays during twilight.
A “fast” lens for low-light conditions.
Multiple flash heads or studio lighting for family portraits.
Regardless of your photography skill level or type of camera, taking many pictures of all the festivities and fun this holiday season will be one of your major activities, and responsibilities. Without giving you the sweats, many people are relying on you to deliver the goods when it comes to great holiday photos that include everyone and all the events and celebrations. The following tips will help you be ready for the challenge and make family and friends very happy that you were the “official” holiday photographer.
(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.)
A little game you can play with yourself that will help to ensure you don’t miss any of the important holiday pictures and to take a few other photographers may overlook is to pretend you are on assignment. Think of yourself as having been “hired” to photograph your family, company and/or community’s holiday celebrations. If you’re a casual, amateur or aspiring professional photographer, then this is a great opportunity to learn how a professional would approach the assignment.
A professional’s first step for such an assignment would be to start early and prepare thoroughly. Make a brief list of the type of holiday photos you want to take. First on your list is the period from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day, with the hanging of stockings, children being put to bed with their heads full of Santa’s impending visit, opening presents, family dinner, etc.
If you’ve “volunteered” to photograph your company’s holiday party (which is an excellent learning experience), then meet with the person or committee planning it, so you know all the details. If the boss is expected to dress like Santa and distribute presents, then you certainly want to be ready for those pictures!
Another set of holiday pictures you could include on your list is your community and/or neighborhood holiday decorations and events. Do a bit of research to determine what is planned for your community and which local government offices, non-profit organizations or businesses are in charge. Don’t hesitate to ask if you can photograph “unofficially” at venues (theaters, schools, etc.) presenting holiday musical programs, Nutcracker, etc. You may discover an opportunity to be paid for your images to promote next year’s events. Non-profit or community arts organization may sponsor some of these events. They may not have the budget to hire a professional, but maybe an opportunity for a professional-type experience and a smaller amount for your time. At the very least, your “volunteered” images could be published with your name referenced on various Websites of the sponsors and others.
Preparation refers first to your photography equipment. This may be a good time to schedule a bi-annual or quarterly camera and equipment check-up and cleaning…and make it part of every year’s schedule. If you don’t have a cleaning kit, then give yourself an early holiday present, and order one today. If there is a local camera shop that offers a check-up/cleaning package, then it’s a smart idea to pay to have a technician inspect and clean your camera, thoroughly.
Well in advance of the holidays, make sure you have plenty of spare batteries and memory cards, and recharge any reusable batteries.
If you’re traveling for the holidays, then you might want to make a list or actually gather all the equipment you want to take well before it must be packed. Lay all the pieces on a bed or a sheet on a table or floor to help you visualize everything you need. When you are sure of what equipment you are taking, then make sure they will fit in a single camera bag, giving you plenty of time to eliminate some items or buy a new bag.
Equipment choices should be driven by what kind of photos you plan to take. A few examples:
The holidays can also be one of the best times of the year to consider renting equipment you don’t have. It would allow you to capture more of the celebrations or be much more creative, making the low cost well worth it. Remember to reserve equipment as soon as possible, so it can be shipped to you in time.
Photo by PhotographyTalk member Steve Shipstone
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