Well, it’s that time of year again! Running around town, scrambling to coordinate plans with family, and trying a million different things to get in the holiday spirit. Let me start by saying IT’S OKAY TO BE STRESSED. It’s okay to be overwhelmed. But don’t let the holiday season win by allowing time to pass you by that you’re left wondering “what even happened this past month?” That’s why I love my job as a photographer, time will never be able to beat me. As long as I have a thoughtful eye for my surroundings, I’ll be able to document my time with family, friends and so much more. Looking back on photos from the holidays always reminds me of how meaningful it is to have pieces of the past that I can turn to when I need a pick-me-up.
In an effort to help you with slowing down and enjoying this holiday season, I want to share five quick tips that will help you take memorable photos this holiday season, regardless if you’re using a phone camera, point-and-shoot, or DSLR.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the fun and then forget to take pictures. At the same time, it’s even easier to ask for people to look at you when you want a picture of them. Stop. Don’t do it. Fight the urge. Let people do their thing and if something strikes you as cute or photogenic, take a picture of the moment without announcing your intentions to the world. The pictures above are some of my favorites from the past two Thanksgiving family dinners because I had absolutely nothing to do with what was happening. A hysterical laugh, a moment of zen, a silly game…the moments are going to happen. Capture them in a candid way. I think you’ll look back more fondly on that picture if it happened authentically compared to if you told everyone to stop and pose.
This one can take some practice. Learning to take a photo without looking can be a huge advantage to capturing a moment authentically. Take the picture above as an example. My cousin has just commenced a power nap that will surely prepare her for the imminent feast. It’s cute, but I’m in the middle of a conversation with my grandmother. While utilizing the “silent mode” on my DSLR, I angle my camera and fire away a few shots. With a bit of luck and experimenting with different angles for different shots, I get a good one that captures a candid moment, uninterrupted. That’s the value of being discreet: the moment is completely pure, even in the photo.
There are different ways to be discreet: most DSLR cameras have a “silent mode” that quiets the sound of the shutter. Many smartphone cameras can trigger a picture by clicking the volume down button. But ultimately, you have to have a good feel for where the camera is pointing so you can angle the shot properly.
Even smartphone cameras are getting better at varying the depth of field to create blurry backgrounds. By having an object between you and your subject, it can create a sense of intimacy because it draws the viewer’s eyes to what is in focus and it’s almost like they’re peaking quietly into the scene. Making this happen typically means you’ll have to change where the focus point is on your camera, because it is likely it will want to focus on the closest object. On a smartphone, you can tap where you want to focus, on a DSLR, there are options to change your focus point. Guides on how to do this are easily accessible on Google.
When I’m at home with my siblings, I am a total goon. I love to make people laugh, even if I have act ridiculous to make it happen. By joking around with people, you can get some pretty funny shots that capture the essence of the fun, or pave the way for some really natural smiles. It all depends on the comfort level of your subject. Tell them to do a random pose, ask them how they feel about something totally ludicrous and capture their reaction, or if being silly isn’t your forte (may God bless your soul) then hang around people who are so that you can capture funny moments.
We see with our eyes. When we take a picture, where do we naturally bring the camera to? Our eyes. Well, then move your eyes! Get down on the level of your pet, take a picture of your holiday tree from the ground, get super close to somebody’s hands…the possibilities are endless. Try to keep an open mind as your brain first shouts at you to take a picture and ask yourself if the scene could look better if you went higher or lower to the ground? Or what if you got closer? This sort of thinking can really take your photos to another level.
So don’t forget to take lots of pictures this holiday season! I hope these five tips will help you take even better pictures that capture all the fun. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!