There's nothing like looking back at photos from past holidays. It's one of the reasons I love photography so much. It's a small piece of history, a way to travel back in time, and the best way to decide if you should go back to that haircut. Looking at holiday photos from when I was a kid always warms my heart. Holding those photos, seeing the coloring from a classic film camera, even the red eyes that I seem to have in every single photo taken of me as a child makes me smile.
The holidays are really a special time of year. There's a nostalgic feeling you can't help but be overcome by and that's probably why it becomes so important to document them. I get asked all the time how I take such great photos of the holidays or am begged by my soon to be in-laws to bring my camera with me when I come to visit (as if I would ever leave the city without it!).
To help you keep the memories alive and to have the kinds of photos you'll pass down someday, I've created a few tips for taking your holiday photos. There is no wrong way to take photos, and as long as you're capturing the moment you're doing it right. But if you have an idea in your mind of what you want your images to look like, or you just want to better be able to tell the story of the day you might like a few of these ideas.
Tell The Full Story
I use fixed lenses meaning that I can't zoom in with a lens. I have to put a zoom lens on my camera. When I tell the full story I usually use a 22-50mm lens. This allows me to get the room with all the decorations and people in it. I want to set the scene and show what everything looked like. Wide shots also allow you to see more interactions between a group of people or multiple groups of people and sets the stage for what's happening. I usually start off with a few wide shot photos, just 3-4 and then move on to my close-ups. You get the full story pretty quick so don't feel like all your photos have to be wide shots.
Find The Details
After shooting far out I find the details of the day. I like to capture the table set, the food prepared, a hand mixing the sauce in the pot and so on. I'll see what others are doing and get close-ups of the kids playing or my niece sitting by the train under the tree playing with everything. I like to make sure I include photos of everyone that's there so that when we look back a few years from now we can remember the aunts and uncles that traveled to be a part of the holiday. Another great detail shot is the decorations. New ornaments that made the tree this year, or some of your favorites from years before. Get photos of the stockings filled with candy and toys and all the presents under the tree before they've been unwrapped.
Capture Candid Moments
While having a few photos of everyone looking at the camera and smiling are nice I much prefer candid photos. Of course, you can direct people if their pose is awkward or they have a piece of hair going haywire but for the most part, I just like to walk around and do my thing without anyone knowing I'm there. When you see people laughing, or deep in discussion these are great moments to capture. Kids are always fun to get photos of and those are the ones that mean the most down the road. I also spend a lot of time in the kitchen capturing the cooks hard at work preparing a meal. When it comes to opening presents this is a great time to get in the action and shoot the wrapping paper that's flying in the air and the shocked faces of what Santa brought.
Find The Moments You'll Want To Hold On To And Make Some For Yourself
At Thanksgiving this year I knew that my mom and my niece would be making a Pumpkin pie together. My niece was so excited to get to do this with Nini and I knew that it would make for some great photos they would cherish for years to come. As my grandmother grows in age (She just turned 90) I wish I had more photos of us together. These are the photos that will really mean something to both of them.
When the time came for pie making I was ready. I probably overshot the moment but wanted to make sure I had options and had one that was flattering of both my mother and my niece. The photos turned out so sweet and I'm sure they'll be something they both love.
If you know the kids will be opening special presents, are spending time with grandparents or extended family, are running around with the dogs or have passed out in the middle of the floor, these are all the types of photos you'll want to hold onto. Look for the moments you know you'll want to remember and capture those. But be sure to be in some of these moments too and put down the camera. It's easy to get lost behind-the-scenes but it's important to be present and a part of the holiday too!
Show Off Individual Personalities
Everyone has a different personality, capturing images of everyone cheesy smiling isn't authentic to anyone. I love to let people be themselves so that the photos I take resemble them the most. I find that when people are more comfortable with the photographer they can be themselves or if they still aren't comfortable I try and catch them when they aren't paying attention. Kids are the easiest to capture their true selves but working on getting photos that show off people's fun side is something we all like to see.
When it comes to having the right gear for your holiday photos there is no right or wrong answer. The number one tip I can give you is to have great light. If it's dark outside or your home is dark then investing in a flash will make all the difference. Direct the flash at the ceiling will soften the light and prevent harsh shadows and the dreaded red eyes.
During the holiday season don't stress about getting the perfect photos. Capture the moment the best you can and move on and be a part of the day. Don't get lost in the photography but be a part of the community and experience. Some of the reasons that childhood photos mean so much to us are the memories that are associated with the photos. I love the classic looks to them and seeing the clothing styles and decor around me. All of these things combined are what make me love the photos taken while I was growing up. So look for these things, try your best but remember that the most important thing is to be present and a part of the memories!
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