Creating lasting images that are memorable can be a challenging thing to do on Christmas day. There is food to be prepared. Presents to be unwrapped. Family to entertain. So how can you get shots that are memorable?
Top 9 Tips for great Christmas Photography
Photographing people can be the most interesting form of photography but can also be the most challenging. As with all forms of photography there are many variables: Light, colour, weather conditions, movement all impact on the quality of the photo. Drop a person into the mix with their own history and individuality and you have a vast range of variables to work with to get the right shots. The bigger the group, the more complex it can become and Christmas is no exception!
Make sure your camera is ready in time for the opening of presents! Ensure your camera is charged up ready to go so that you can capture the faces as they light up with the joy of Christmas.
All professional photographers will always have their camera ready with the correct settings before the shoot. Be like the pros and have it ready before the kids wake up in the morning and see that Santa has been. You can shoot on automatic but your shots will always look better if you understand how to use the manual settings. Perfect exposure isn’t as difficult as you think. There are 3 settings that affect how much light is coming into the sensor. Consider them like a triangle and how each side impacts the other.
Tip #2 Shutter speed
How fast should I shoot? If you are shooting on a DSLR then you need to make sure that your shutter speed is a minimum of 1/60 second. Anything less than this will result in potentially blurred shots. With image stabilisation on lenses these days you can probably get it down to 1/40 second, but if you are photographing children opening presents, you need to have it at around 1/125 second to capture the movement. If children are jumping around and moving more vigorously you will need a faster shutter speed to capture the motion, 1/250 second.
Tip #3 Aperture
If you are photographing in low light (most kids get up before the sun on Christmas morning in my house!) You will probably need to keep the aperture as wide as possible in order to let enough light in. If you would like to have a broad focal length so that everyone is in focus across the room then you will need to go up to at least F8.
If you are photographing with no light source such as a flash you will need to have an ISO that is high enough to capture the movement. The downside of high ISO is that you will lose some detail in the image. If you are shooting indoors you will probably need a minimum of 800 ISO.
If you find all of the above tips confusing, you can always choose to use your iPhone or automatic settings on your camera. The following tips are relevant for any camera not just DSLRs. Composition is the cornerstone of great photography and with a few tricks up your sleeve you will have better looking photos that make your subjects look great!
Tip #5 Composition
Photographing groups of people so that they all look great and don’t look like a football team can be tricky. You will always get some family members who will either hide behind someone else or jump out front and place their hands in front of someone else’s face! How do you get everyone positioned so that you can get everyone looking great? That comes down to great direction from the person with the camera.
Groups of people are best positioned so that they are on different planes. You may need to change the position depending on height. Creating triangles or diamond shapes will create interest in the shot.
Make sure all of your subjects are in shot and not hiding but also try to reduce the space between each persons face. With family shots it is important to show connection by tightening up the spaces and leaning into the shot.
Tip #6 Rule of thirds
Framing and composition is all important for getting a great shot.
Always aim to place items of interest on the intersecting points of the thirds.
Most cameras have a rule of thirds ruler in the view finder. When you use this technique your photos will go from boring snapshots to interesting shots you’ll be proud to put into a frame.
Tip #7 Lighting
Always be aware of where your light source is.
When photographing indoors try and find a natural source of light through a window to help with getting more light on your subjects. This can prove to be challenging as the camera will think you are exposing for the outside. Always ensure your focal points are on the subject, not light coming in from the window. Using flash will always assist with adding light, but use is sparingly as it will flatten your subjects.
When photographing outdoors, cloud cover provides the best light for photographing people. High cloud cover provides a lovely diffuse light. Sun can make harsh shadows and is not always flattering on faces. Middle of the day is the worst time but can be eliminated by finding suitable shadow (under tree, roof , etc.)
Posed or Candid
Capturing those magic moments comes down to timing. Be prepared!
When you photographing kids you have to be able to move quickly. When your kids are opening presents, get down onto their level so that you can see them in their excitement. Perspective is everything when it comes to composing a great image. The difference between photographing from up at adult height and down low at the kids level is the difference between the creating a photo with great connection and a snap shot.
Tip #9 Framing
We all have those photos where your Aunty has cut off your head or chopped off too much of your shoulder in photos and things just look a bit odd.
When photographing people it’s important to frame them well.
If you crop using the green lines indicated in the image at left your subjects will look less like amputees and more balanced.
Using our top tips for photographing people on Christmas Day you will have some great shots to share with your family! Merry Christmas and happy shooting!