Christmas Photo Guide

Unless you’re a cross between Kirstie Allsopp and Anthea Turner, I’m guessing that you have other priorities (running around like a headless chicken and shouting at the kids) on Christmas day other than taking a perfect set of photos. Once the day arrives and starts to unfold you’ll want to enjoy the moments (after all you’ve spent the last few weeks preparing for it!), instead of faffing around with your camera. But, the day can pass you by in the blink of an eye and if you haven’t taken any pictures then you can’t smugly look back on them and remind yourself what a wonderful mother/father/host/guest you are. And, of course, you’ll need something to post on Instagram and Facebook won’t you?! So, here’s a few tips for you to get camera ready for the big day.

Before we get started I want to get this out of the way…my guilty secret…I use my phone to take photos over the holidays. I’m sorry, but there it is. Photography for me, at times like this, is not about using the best kit, it’s about capturing the moments and I honestly don’t mind if the quality of the final image isn’t as good as my professional work because each picture will remind me of how I felt at the time – a visual prompt if you will – to something deeper. As a photographer, if I got my camera out, I’d spend most of the time stressing about the light (or lack of), worrying about the grain (from a high ISO) and shouting at the children to KEEP STILL. So, over the holidays, I take off my photographer hat and put on my Mummy one instead.

I won’t be winning any awards with my phone pictures, but they will all go in our yearly family album and I’ll love them. So there. 

If you have a camera and want to use it on the big day, then go for it. If you’ve had one too many buck fizzes and only have your phone to hand, then that’s fine too.

Here’s my handy guide to taking photos on Christmas day – with your camera or phone!

Christmas photo advice Be prepared

Christmas day goes by so quickly, one minute you’re being dragged out of bed at some unearthly hour by your kids and the next your watching the Strictly Christmas Special. So, it’s worth thinking about the photos that you’d like to take in advance of the day. Make sure your battery is charged and your memory card is empty. If you are going to use your DSLR – take some test shots the day before, set your white balance and your ISO. Work out if you want to use your fully automatic settings or if you’d prefer to use Aperture Priority.

If you’re using your phone – make sure it’s charged and that you have space on it. Plan where you will need to sit or stand to take the pictures and leave your phone there, so you can grab it when you walk in the room.

Gift opening

The first shots of the day are the most important (I think) – opening the pressies! Unless you have complete sleeping angels, you’re likely to be opening presents when it’s dark outside, so set your camera the day before to cope with the light in the room.

Put your camera on continuous mode to make sure that you get all the expressions – anticipation, awe, delight and hopefully not disappointment! Phone users – keep pressing the button over and over again. You can delete the ones that you don’t like afterwards.

Photography tips for ChristmasFocus

In the heat of the moment, it’s very easy to get a bit over excited and lose your focus (I mean literally), so take a deep breath and keep still, make sure that you’re focussing on your subject to avoid motion blur and camera shake. If you’re using your phone, press on the screen to show where you’d like the focus to be and wait until it locks on before taking the photo.

Composition

Think about what you’d like the image to look like. Make sure you have a point of interest and that you’re focussing on them or it. Look around and make sure there’s nothing too distracting in the background. Can you zoom in, or move closer to eliminate fussy backgrounds? Think about where you are – are you looming over your subject? If so, get down to their level. If you’re photographing a child, get down on the floor to capture them at their level. ‘The Loom’ is probably the worst angle you can go for, so move around and see if you can improve your composition. Don’t be afraid to take close up portraits – the Christmas tree doesn’t need to be in every shot.

Christmas day photo tipsGroup pictures

In my experience, you have a very small window to take large group portraits. As soon as everyone starts snaffling the sherry/baileys/prosecco and eating the Quality Street you’ve lost your audience. If you want a group photo then grab everyone early doors. Work out where you’d like to take the picture and do it quickly. If you can get everyone outside, great, if not, try and use the lightest area in the house. The same rule goes for smaller group photos – if you want to get cousins together, or grandchildren etc, do it early before the sugar rush and subsequent sugar slump sets in. Camera users – think about your aperture and depth of field – make sure you put it higher for group photos to make sure you get everyone in focus.

Details

What’s important to you? Have you spent the last 3 months planning your table decorations – if so, make sure you’ve captured them. Does the food look amazing? Take a low shot across the table before everyone tucks in so you can see the spread. Don’t forget the ‘looking down’ shot onto plates of mince pies or smoked salmon blini’s. I’m winging it here because, as anyone that knows me will tell you, I’m a rubbish cook and buy as much pre-prepared stuff from M & S as I can and dump it on a plate. Is your tree beautifully decorated – take some close ups etc.

Christmas photography adviceCandid images

If you’re like me, it’s the candid images that will mean the most in years to come. Yes, it’s nice to squash all the cousins together awkwardly in front of the tree or force the kids to smile nicely at you, but sometimes, it’s nicer to just grab candid shots throughout the day. My favourite from last year is my son doing a handstand in his pants on his new gym mat whilst my daughter is glued to You Tube on her phone in the background. It basically says it all. I won’t post that one in this blog. Look for special moments – are grandparents playing with the kids and helping them work out their new toys? Is anyone genuinely laughing at the jokes from the cracker? Has someone snuck into the kitchen to secretly eat chocolate whilst no one is looking (just me?)?

Get in the photo

Last but not least is the most important rule of all. Make sure YOU are in the photos. Yes, I don’t care if you’ve eaten too many mince pies in the weeks leading up to Christmas or you’re having a bad hair day and neither does anyone else. Get in those pictures. Make sure your partner, kids, parents take the camera off you and take some of you as well. Use the timer on the camera if you need to but please make sure that you don’t end up with a set of images missing a very important part of the family.

I  hope this has been helpful. Drop me a line if you have any questions!

Don’t forget that I have Beginners Photography Workshop on Saturday 13th January 2018 in Colwinston, just outside Cowbridge. If you’d like to learn more about your camera and meet some like minded folk then come and join us. You can book directly through the website.

MERRY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL.

Gem xx