Tis the season–for Holiday Pictures. At this time of year, many people receive cameras as Holiday gifts. Whether they want one or not. So in the spirit of Holiday giving, I will give you all a few of my favorite tips and tricks for better Holiday photos. Whether you want them or not.
1. Before you embark on your Holiday photo spree, do one thing first: Read the Manual. You know, the little book that comes with that fancy piece of electronic equipment that you spent way too much money on. If you hate books, perhaps you can download it onto your phone/iPad, whatever. Many problems/issues can be easily averted by a quick read through this little piece of literature. I won’t lie to you–it is really boring. But most photo issues are due to operator error. People don’t believe me, but the camera is not a demon possessed spawn of Satan. They just don’t understand how their camera operates. And practice, practice, practice. It is the only way to get better.
2. In the Bible, when God says, “Let there be Light,” it is because he knew cameras were going to be invented. You need Light to take good pictures. Photographs are the result of light hitting the sensor in your camera (or in the dinosaur days, the light hit the film). In general, I am not a huge fan of on-camera flash indoors. If the available light stinks, try to find a better location. If all else fails, then turn on the flash.
3. This is sort of a continuation of No. 2. If you are going to be taking photos in a dark area without flash, you need high ISO capability. The darker the lighting situation, the higher the number–easy to remember.
4. Batteries and Memory: You can never have enough. Get a few HUGE storage cards and lots and lots of Batteries. You will invariably run into a problem when the cutest thing happens. Or when your kids decide they really DO want to do a family picture. Do not be caught short handed.
5. Beware the dreaded backlight–only trained professionals know how to properly subdue it. Many times people will look at their photos and think “Why is this person completely dark? I can’t see any of their features.” Avoid placing your subject in front of a window and shooting into the backlight. Without flash, the camera will make them go completely dark. If you want to be able to see and identify who is in the photo, stay away from this scenario. If you don’t care about the person, by all means, go for it.
6. Holiday Concert Etiquette: If your kid is performing at a Holiday Concert and you want to take pictures–do NOT stand up and block the people in back of you. This can result in your getting hit in the head with a program. I have seen this happen and it can be a tad bit embarrassing. And guess what–the flash you are using will not travel from where you are sitting all the way to the stage. All you will do is light up the backs of heads of people in front of you. And that is wicked distracting for everyone else. So–Don’t Do It.
7. ALWAYS check your backgrounds. Then double check them. Distracting backgrounds ruin many otherwise great pictures. Your eyes and brain sometimes are so focused (no pun intended) on your subject that you will fail to see the distracting background elements. So before you depress that shutter button, quickly scan the background. No one wants the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus growing out of their head, so take a minute and either move your subject or move the distracting elements.
8. In general, pictures of people eating are just not pleasant. My Dad was always guilty of this transgression and my Aunt always wanted to KILL him. No one looks good chewing or slurping, so just skip those. Your relatives will thank you.
9. Don’t be afraid to get in close. As in No. 6, our eyes and brains can trick us. Many times you will look at a photo you took and think, “Why is little Johnny just a tiny speck in this picture? I thought I was much closer.” If you want your subject to be the dominant element in the photograph, try to fill the frame. Again, really look at the frame before depressing the shutter button.
10. Family photos on Holidays are best taken BEFORE the Big Holiday Meal. Everyone will be fresh and clean. Kids take way better pictures when they are happy, rested and not hungry. A nap and a few Cheerios go a long way in my world. Just stay away from chocolate or other messy snacks until after the photos. Even the cutest kids look gross with food smeared all over themselves. And don’t forget to wipe noses and brush hair.
11. Group photos: Try to have people on different levels rather than in a straight line up. What I mean by this is to have some people standing and some seated. Try not to have all the heads in one straight line–that is boring and monotonous. The viewers’ eyes will travel more easily through the picture if there are different levels.
With these simple tips, you should be taking some great pictures over the Holidays. Remember to think before you depress the shutter button and all will be well with the world. Ho, ho, ho.