Photography tips for the holiday season

Here is an article which I wrote for the New Stork Times this month – if you are a subscriber, it’s on page 19 of this month’s edition.  Thanks to all subscribers for their interest!

Photography Tips for Christmas

The run-up to Christmas and the holiday itself is a great time to get your camera out and capture the atmosphere at this special family time. Here are some tips on capturing christmas decorations as well as photographing during the holiday.

Photographing Christmas Decorations

Depending on whether you are photographing decorations on a tree or a whole house on your street, the equipment you will need are a macro lens (or the macro mode on your camera), a wide angle lens and a tripod.  For outdoor decorations on houses at night – a tripod helps to make sure you don’t have any blur.  If you do not own a tripod, put your camera into manual (M) use a higher ISO (try 800 but be aware that the higher the ISO the “grainier” the photo) and a low aperture (anything from 2.8-5.0) to allow in as much light as possible.  It is important though not to set a too low shutter speed as this is what will cause blur in the image (initially set the shutter speed to 1/50th of a second and then go down from there if the photo is too dark).

Without a tripod the best way to photograph decorations is to time it so that you arrive at sunset / early evening although you will need to pick a house which put the lights on early before it is too dark. Photograph the house from a low perspective and include the sky to get the golden colours in the sky.

Changing your AWB (auto white balance) to tungsten will make your lights the colour they are meant to be too (as christmas lights tend to be tungsten balanced).  Otherwise you may have an orange tint to them.

The later it gets, the more the lights will sparkle – take several shots as the light changes.

When photographing decorations on a tree, make sure you also photograph other decorations around the house – tins of colourful sweets / baubles in a vase. Be careful to stand so that your reflection is not in the ornament though (unless you want this effect… one of my christmas cards from many years ago was exactly that although I was surprised at how many people didn’t see me in the shot!)  With lights on a tree, try to “declutter” your shot and focus on one light/bauble and use a large aperture (2.8-5.0) to throw the background out of focus.

Photographing Family at Christmas

Be prepared – prepare your camera bag the night before, load and pack extra batteries / a recharger, a flash and memory cards.

Capture the preparation stages – putting up decorations, wrapping up gifts, setting the table, children in outfits, food preparation.  Photograph the room decorated before it is filled with people and then also when it is filled with people later (this can also be done with the decorated table – without people and then with them afterwards).

Take the group photo when everyone has arrived and before chaos descends.  Use a big aperture (f11+) to make sure everyone is in focus.

Capture the opening of gifts by switching your camera to burst mode  (continuous shooting  mode) as this a great way of capturing emotions (joy and sometimes disappointment) and the colour of Christmas day.

Set up an area where you can photograph all the guests – ideally the background would be red or have some decorations in it.

Fill your frame and get closer to the subject to show emotion.  Declutter the background before taking the shot.

Give someone the responsibility of taking the photos if you are busy so that it doesn’t get forgotten.

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