Much of holiday picture-taking involves capturing people and holiday details. Taking a moment to think about the kind of photo you want and setting your camera properly or changing your position can take your pictures from typical snapshots to outstanding holiday photographs. Here are few tips from my LifetimeMoms.com post last month. Happy Holidays!
Photograph traditions and candid moments: Capture the result of an activity, like cooking and baking, with flair. Position yourself at a higher level and shoot down. Position the subject in the top one-third of the frame and the activity in the bottom two-thirds for a pleasing composition. This elevated position also eliminates distracting backgrounds.
Capture family interaction by keeping your distance and zooming in a bit. When shooting into a wall, you chance getting harsh shadows behind your subject. Try using a flash that can bounce off of a white ceiling, which showers the area with light and eliminates the shadows.
A key to getting good expressions during gift-giving is to be on the subject’s level or slightly below. Kneel or sit on the floor with them and you’ll capture more of their face instead of the top of their head. Additionally, the shadows created by your on-camera flash can be reduced.
Capturing group portraits: For fast group pictures, line up your family members with tallest on the outer sides of the group. Avoid the “line-up” look turning their bodies slightly towards the center. Or try arranging chairs so that the tallest, or the patriarch/matriarch, can be seated in the center with children standing to their sides and adults leaning in from behind and the side. Ask men to kneel and women sit on the floor. Avoid having heads all on the same level, or “ear to ear.” Stagger heads for a more pleasing composition. Avoid photos on a couch as people tend to lean back and their position is not flattering. Take several shots to ensure all eyes are open and expressions are good.
Shoot the details: Capturing favorite holiday items is easy when you set your camera to macro mode or use a lens that can zoom in close. When you are so close to your subject, the background automatically becomes blurry making the subject to stand out. Focus carefully when shooting close up.
I was honored to be asked by Stephanie from LifetimeMoms.com to write up some tips on how to take better photos over the holiday season. Well, that season officially starts next week and there are a few tips in that article that will come in handy at your Thanksgiving gathering. Or as you think about snapping away over the extended weekend trying to get the perfect photo for your holiday card. Please take a look at the article by clicking here. And thanks Stephanie!
I have made this same picture over and over and I still love it. Birthday cupcakes with lit candle, a number of fingers held up to signify a birthday year, a lottery ticket, a dyed Easter egg, and more. This time it’s the four leaf clover my subject plucked from a pot in the yard (look closely since at first glance it looks like three, but it is four). I was actually taking pictures of her cute Valentine’s outfit when she found the clover and held it out to me to inspect. The resulting image is really cute and the clover pops out not only because my aperture was set wide open at F/2.8 and I focused on the clover (thus blurring the background), but also because of the contrast of the green against the red and white of her clothing. So whether it’s your child’s favorite stuffed animal, a perfect test score, or a special holiday object, this effect is a great way to bring focus to the event or milestone while still keeping the subject’s face present in your photos.
I rarely use the scene modes on my camera, but the one I find myself using from time to time is the Night Portrait mode. This scene mode is the one with the icon featuring a person and star or moon (see typical camera mode dial below). I use this mode when I want a person as my main subject, but the special lighting in the background, like Christmas lights, Times Square lighting, or a sunset, is equally important. In this photo, my subject posed in front of the town’s decorated gazebo and lit tree.
The Night Portrait mode sends out a burst of the flash to capture the subject and than makes the shutter stay open a little longer to capture the lighting in the background. The trick in this mode is to be sure both you and your subject hold still to avoid unwanted blur from camera shake or subject movement. In fact, my subject did move and her hands are slightly blurry due to the very slow 1/10 sec shutter speed required to achieve the effect. But the expression was just what I hoped for, so for me, it’s perfect. I boosted the ISO considerably—to 1000— and I opened my aperture to F/5, the widest setting for this situation, in order to make the lights softer in the background. Using the Night Portrait mode helped me take the guess work out of deciding how to set my flash and shutter speed and instead concentrate on snapping away until I got what I was looking for. So pose your kids in front of the tree or outdoor decorations, or position your family along the railing at sunset on your next cruise, set the camera to Night Portrait mode and see what you can get!
Fireworks photos are easy to shoot if you have a great position and a stable tripod or surface for your camera (or a lens with image stabilization like my 18-270mm VC zoom). I set the camera to manual mode (off of the program or aperture priority shooting mode I usually use). I also set the camera to manual focus. Since the sky is dark, the camera cannot focus so you need to manually set the lens’ focus ring to infinity. Next, I boosted the ISO to 1000. And finally, I set the lens to my widest aperture (F/6.3) and a slow 1/15th of a second shutter speed. The slow shutter speed captures the streaks of the fireworks’ bursts nicely (but the slow shutter speed can lead to some blur if you are hand-holding or shooting without a tripod and cable release–did you know that even when your camera is on a tripod, the act of pressing the shutter release button can cause blur?). If you get too much blur, move your shutter speed to 1/30th of a second, but your streaks may not be as long. I did have a nice position on the patio of a beautiful bed and breakfast where a friend was staying (we were so pleased that she invited us all to watch with her!). There was a nice break in the trees that looked out over the LI Sound. While the fireworks we saw were not Macy’s quality, they were fun for the kids, we oohed and aahed, and I felt I got a few good shots to include in my scrapbook page for this year’s holiday. Perfect end to a Happy 4th of July Day! (270mm; ISO 1000; F/6.3; 1/15th sec.)