Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tips for Taking Photos During the Holidays

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
The *best* photo I could get of my daughter and niece together on their first Christmas two years ago.  Pretty much sums up how a lot of holidays go.

Two years ago, for my daughter’s first Christmas, all I wanted was a photo of her with her two cousins wearing their matching pajamas. But as with everything else, sometimes things don’t go as planned — when one baby was crying, the other was happy and when one was calm, the other was having a meltdown. Meanwhile, my then-two-year-old niece was going through what I like to call her “no! pictures! no!” phase. Needless to say, I didn’t get what I thought I wanted but looking back, it was perfect and hilarious.  This was the story that I was going to tell planning or no planning...and that's exactly what makes the holidays so fun, spontaneous and chaotic.

Thanksgiving has come and gone and the dizzying month of December, filled with holiday parties, friends, family, dessert, sparkles, traditions and champagne starts this weekend.   It’s hard to believe that the holiday season will soon be in full swing so, with that in mind, here's a very simple list of tips for taking photos during the holidays so you can relax and have a cocktail!

This tutorial was adapted by a guest post that I did for the Bon Bon Rose Girls last year.

1. Make a list, check it twice.

I always made mental list of the moments I wanted to capture at any given event.  Eventually I just started to write it down because let’s face it, the holidays are busy enough and I don’t need to have another 50 things to remember. The list helps to get me thinking about what I want to achieve and what I absolutely don’t want to miss like group shots, the food, the tree, the menorah, gifts, etc.  I keep my little list in my pocket or put it somewhere I can be reminded about it — like up on the fridge or next to the wine!

2. Tell a story

Your photos don’t have to be a play-by-play of the entire day but it’s fun when you get the big picture of the event and when you look back at your photographs you want to be able to remember all the big moments of the day as well as all of the details. Take picture of your dad asleep on the couch, take a photo of the kids opening presents, the look on people’s faces when they open your gift, your ornaments, the menorah, the food…all of these things are telling the story of your celebration. While you’re capturing all these fantastic details, try different angles and perspectives to create shots that are unique. Get down on the floor with the kids, stand up on a chair and take a photo of the room and all of the decorations, sit at the table and take a photo of the food. The possibilities are endless. 

You can check out how to create a narrative with your photos for more tips too!

3. Chase the light

Whenever possible, I prefer to use natural light when I’m taking pictures and during the holidays of course you want to be able to capture the twinkling lights of your tree or menorah or candles on the table. Chase the natural light, whatever or where ever it may be and you’ll get photos that are true to your celebration and the moment. If it’s just too dark to shoot without a flash and your photos are coming out blurry don’t worry — you can still get beautiful pictures using a flash. Most people, myself included, want to avoid that washed-out flash-look in their pictures (that doesn't look good on anybody) and you can diffuse the light of the built-in flash in your camera quite easily. All you need is a little piece of tissue paper left over from all that beautiful gift wrapping or even a tip of a white napkin — take the paper and secure it over the flash to get a more subdued light.  I would also consider investing in mount flash for your DSLR - they are worth the money if you're a person who doesn't like the look of flash - sometimes in certain low light situations you just can't avoid it.  If you already use a mounted flash and still have too much bright white, then you might consider picking up a flash diffuser (I like this mini softbox too).

You can also check out this tutorial about shooting in low light situations.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Do you have any tips?  Check out some more tutorials here.

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