My top 5 tips for taking more than just snaps this Christmas
With everything else that’s going on during the holidays, it’s easy to not give much thought to taking photos, to grab your camera at the last minute and start snapping away.
Then you look back at your photos afterwards and realise that they didn’t really capture the moment at all. All you’ve ended up with just boring snapshots of your special time.
So, to help you avoid that, I have put together these 5 easy tips to ensure that you are taking photos that will remind you of the special memories in years to come, instead of just meaningless snapshots.
1. TAKE PHOTOS IN NATURAL LIGHT
If you are in the UK, then I know we don’t have a huge amount of natural light at this time of year!
But it is worth trying to shoot in natural light where possible rather than using the flash on your camera. If you know how to turn the flash off on your camera then please do….the direct flash on the camera never gives good results!
For these photos of my boys opening their stockings a few years ago, I opened the curtains and blinds in our bedroom to let in as much light as possible. They obviously didn’t wake up too early that year! I also made sure they were sat on the bed instead of the floor so they had as much natural light falling on them as I could.
This meant that I was then able to photograph them without using the flash, resulting in much more natural-looking photos.
Don’t you just love the bed-head on my eldest son in the right hand photo!
Sometimes you just won’t have any natural light at all, as in the UK we don’t have many daylight hours in the winter. In this case, try and use the ambient light you have in your house….fairy lights from the tree, a lamp or screen light from the TV. Just try to avoid overhead light sources as they aren’t very flattering.
If you know how to use your camera off auto, then please don’t be scared of using a high ISO. So many people seem to be scared of going above ISO 800, but I would much rather shoot at ISO 3200 and have some noise in my photo than use my flash. If this sounds like a foreign language to you, then you need to join me on one of my workshops in the new year. 😉
This photo was taken after dark, just using the fairy lights from the Christmas tree to light my son’s face. A challenging photo to take…my ISO was really high (this was taken at ISO 3200) and I also had to rest my camera on a sideboard to stop camera shake, but I managed to get it without any blur.
With an entry-level camera you may not be able to take a shot like this just using fairy lights without getting camera shake. You may need to switch on other lights in the room if you want to take it without a flash.
2. CAPTURE THE DETAILS
Make sure you don’t forget to capture the details of the day. From the letter to Santa to the special presents you’ve received. In 10 years time you’ll look back at the photos and smile when you remember all of the little things from that year that you would have otherwise forgotten.
Growing up we always had table presents, so everyone has a small gift on the table before eating lunch. I told my husband about this tradition and asked him to keep a small present for me so I could have it on the table.
I did laugh when I walked into the dining room a few years ago and saw this…
This photo still makes me smile whenever I look at it! Yet if I hadn’t taken a quick photo of my gigantic table present and put it in that year’s family album, I would no doubt have forgotten all about by now.
3. TAKE FAMILY PHOTOS OUTSIDE
People always seem to try and get ‘the’ family photo with everyone sat round the Christmas table. But it never looks very natural does it?!
Everyone sat there smiling uncomfortably with their Christmas hats on and their lunch in front of them. And you’ll end up with someone in focus at the front and everyone else tiny and blurred behind them.
A great solution to this is get everyone outside in the garden during daylight hours (or go for a nice walk) and take a photo of everyone together. I used a tripod and the self-timer mode on my camera so that I could get in the photo myself with our family. (You can see here why I think it’s so important that you appear in your family photos).
Although these posed shots are not the most exciting photos to take, they are essential I think for the family album (plus the grandparents always love them!) And then once you’ve got it you can focus on getting lovely candid shots of everyone interacting indoors. Within 2.5 years of this photo being taken, my Dad (who is standing next to me in the middle) tragically died from MND. So you can imagine how grateful I am that we made the effort to take photos like these of the whole family. It’s so important.
4. PHOTOGRAPH THE PRESENTS
Make sure you take photos of the big present opening.
Then make sure you take photos of your children playing with their toys. They’ll always remember those toys that meant so much and it will be so special for them (and you!) to have the moment captured when they first played with them.
And yes that is a drum kit in the middle, ear-plugs were at the ready!
5. DON’T SAY CHEESE
For those of you who have seen my free video training with my 8 tips to getting natural expressions in your family photos, you’ll know how I feel about the word ‘cheese’!
It’s great to get a couple of posed photos with everyone smiling at the camera (like the photo I showed in point 3), but the rest of the time tell your family/friends to just ignore the camera and let you capture all of the special moments that happen naturally.
I hope you have found these tips useful and that you capture lots of lovely memories from the holiday season.
I’ll just leave you with this quote and photo of my boys holding hands in front of the Christmas tree.
Have a great time!
PS. Make sure you check out my other Christmas photography tips too...a creative way to photograph your Christmas tree and my top tips for photographing your child’s nativity play.
Vicki Knights is one of the leading family photographers in the UK and started running her popular 'Photography for Parents' workshops in 2010 (the first of its kind in the UK!)