Five Pro-Tips to Capturing the Holidays

1. Map it, draft it, and roll with it

Give yourself “photo assignments” for each event of the holiday season. Otherwise, you might overwhelm yourself with a daunting photo project! Avoid the feeling you’re missing moments by considering these questions: 

  • How can I take photos of loved ones that bring out their personalities? 

  • Can I tell a story with the images I want to make today? What is that story? 

  • What is my lighting situation like? Should I use natural or artificial light, which will look better? (maybe try both!)

Notice how “story” is mentioned a lot. The point of photography isn’t to take an perfectly bright photo, but rather to show the right mood or tone of that moment. Practice making bright and dark photos and see what you like better.  

Photo Assignment examples: 
– A day of portraits of my friends/family.
– A day of candids and/or play.
– A day of documenting how my loved ones prepare food.
– A unique tradition done only this time of year. 

2. Shoot A-plenty

Continuous shooting (or burst) is a setting in your camera that allows a quick succession of photos to be captured in less than a few seconds. This feature isn’t only reserved for wedding or sports photographers!

Take advantage of this life saving feature when shooting family photos (there might be one good photo where everyone’s eyes are open) or capturing the moment a child opens their present. You might need a Class 10 memory card with at least 32 gb of storage for this feature to perform consistently well (Amazon Link). Otherwise, you might find yourself waiting for the images to write onto the memory card. 

Before you shoot in Continuous or Burst: 
– Find consistent lighting so you can have a medium to fast shutter speed. 
– If you can’t find consistent lighting, crank up your ISO. But remember, the higher the ISO; the higher the grain. 
– For group portraits; use a tripod or a stable foundation. You might be at risk of moving and not having consistent framing / composition hand-holding your camera. 

3. Get close and shoot off-center

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Challenge yourself to find something exciting about the mundane. If everyone is laying on the couch and watching football, you can isolate your subject, frame them left or right heavy, and capture their facial expressions. You have the potential of capturing their personality— all while they’re watching television! 

When people are looking at photos— they’re not looking for an impressive or unique subject; they’re looking for a dynamic read. If a subject is dead-center, or they’re far away, it might be difficult to find a photo interesting. So remember: you’re not taking good photos; you’re taking dynamic photos.

Here's an example of a relatively mundane subject made interesting: 

Notice how the main subject is left-heavy, or occupying more than 1/3 of the screen. There is also a bench in the foreground (lower 1/3) that creates depth. 

Notice how the main subject is left-heavy, or occupying more than 1/3 of the screen. There is also a bench in the foreground (lower 1/3) that creates depth. 

Compositional rules that can make a photo dynamic: 
– Rule of Thirds
– Frame within a frame
– Leading lines 

4. Think "relationship" instead of "subject"

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Sometimes, taking a photo of Grandma standing next to the holiday tree can be a little boring. Consider using one subject to convey the other. Take a photo of Grandma in front of the tree, get close, and have the tree become a backdrop made with an interesting texture and color that only complements her face. 

You can also switch this dynamic. A photo of Grandma’s hand placing an ornament makes the tree the main subject, and her hand a way to convey it. Thinking of subjects in relation to their environment really helps with telling the story you want to make.

What kind of photographs can you make with these everyday situations? 
– A pile of ripped wrapping paper.
– A child playing with their new toy.
– Cleaning up at the end of the day.

5. Don't be afraid to break the rules

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Sometimes, a photo is just a photo. If something catches your eye as a photographer, don't overthink if t it fits with your "style" or the story you're trying to tell. Just take the photo. Who knows! Maybe it does tell a story once you piece everything together in an album.