Top Tips For Better Holiday Pictures

family photo
Is this how your family holiday photos come out looking?

The holiday seasons are approaching and that means it’s time to review the holiday photo basics.  Unless you really like your computer to be loaded with distant shots of uncomfortable looking people, time to shake up the holiday photo sessions.

Get In Close

If you can see your subject’s feet in the frame when they’re standing up, you’re back to far.  Get in close.  When you think you’re close enough, move in even further.

The number one amateur mistake in holiday pictures is taking them from the other side of the room.  It’s okay to cut off part of their body, just make sure you break the picture at the right spots.

For humans put the frame line at mid-thigh and for the upper body arms between the elbow and shoulder.  Keep the frame line off joints like knees and elbows.

Take Many Shots

This is the digital age, you’re not paying by the picture anymore.  Most people have been conditioned by the process and results to hate family photos and do their best to put on a fake smile for two seconds, then sprint away as fast as dignity and social grace will allow.

But the best pictures will frequently happen when people have gotten past the initial discomfort and start interacting with one another.

How I sometimes captured those moments was to tell people to stay right where they are while I get something from my camera bag.  Instantly everyone relaxes and starts chatting.  Kneel down by your camera bag and start shooting.  After I’ve gotten five or ten shots of the group candid, then they catch on I’m not really getting anything out of my bag.

Turn Off The Flash Indoors

You can’t always do that, but whenever possible, get as much natural light on the scene as possible and turn off the camera flash if you can still get a decent shot.

Try to get people to move over by a window and get as tight to the window wall as you can.  You don’t want the window in the picture most times, you just want the delicious natural light.

On-camera flash units are harsh, flat and unflattering.  For those times you absolutely can’t avoid using the built-in camera flash, spend $10 dollars and get yourself a pop up flash diffuser.

Turn On The Flash Outdoors

I realize it seems counter-intuitive but give it a try.  While the pop up flash can be harsh and flat, it makes a great fill flash when shooting outdoors.  Try to find a spot with some open shade, turn the camera flash on and use it fill outdoor portraits.

Shoot First, Pose Shots Later

Better to shoot first, even if the subject is too far away.  If you get a good shot you can crop out the background later.

Especially with kids, you’ll get the most natural poses and reactions if you just let them interact with each other and their presents and not try to get them to hold up the sweater Aunt Martha got them.

Shoot the candid moments first and the Vanna White pose with the present moments later.

Have Fun

The most important thing to remember is your best shots will happen when everyone is having a great time.  If you pull out a camera, it sometimes interrupts the moment.  So just keep the camera in your hand or next to you as much as possible.  Batteries are cheap, leave it on.

That way when those moments happen you can grab the camera and shoot instead of waiting.

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