Holiday Shooting Tips

Jeff Cable

As we head into the hectic holiday season, we’re all so busy shopping, decorating, and making family plans. But don’t overlook your picture plans! To make sure you make the most of those special moments, here are some tips to capturing great holiday photos:

1) Prepare your camera

There is nothing worse than grabbing your camera to take that once-in-a-lifetime shot and the battery is dead. Or, just as disappointing, there is no memory card in the camera. Make sure your battery is fully charged and your memory cards are formatted and ready to go. If you are using an external flash, be sure to charge those batteries, too. Once your camera is ready to go, put it somewhere easily accessible so you can grab it when a “photo op” presents itself.

2) Focus on family traditions

Each family has their own set of traditions for the holidays. Capture these moments now so you can look back on them for years to come. Putting up the Christmas tree, lighting candles in the menorah, or baking cookies with the kids all make great photos. Family members preparing the holiday meal is also a nice moment to capture. And if the kids are all in matching pajamas, snap that, too. Keep it natural and fun!








3) Capture the excitement

Like it or not, the giving and receiving of gifts is a big part of the holidays. For little ones, this is one of their most anticipated moments of the year, and you’ll want to capture this pent-up excitement as it unfolds. Make sure to take pictures of them opening their presents and capture the look of anticipation on their faces. Focus on eyes and face as much as the gift itself. Capture that moment of delight!

4) Don’t forget the table

If it is part of your family tradition to set a formal table, you might want to capture some photos of the table before everyone sits down. This is a good time to get shots of the centerpiece, the carefully prepared dishes, and the colorful décor.

5) Get creative

If you’re a more advanced photo enthusiast, try to do something different this year. To get a little more mood into your photos, turn off the flash and use only the ambient light from lit candles in a menorah or lights on the Christmas tree, for example. In order to do this, you will either need to have your camera on a tripod or turn up your ISO to allow a faster shutter speed.

If you have a situation where kids are ripping open presents or running around at a frantic pace, you could also try to slow down the shutter of your camera, which will show motion blur in your subjects. If you set your camera to shoot images at less than 1/100 sec, you will see the motion of their hands as they open their gifts.

6) Get out!

As you drive around your neighborhood this season, you will likely see decorated houses. Maybe you even decorated your own place! Take your camera outside in the evening and capture images of the decorations. Once again, it is best to use a tripod to keep your camera steady during the long exposure. Even if you have not decorated your home, you might have a nice view into your home from an outside window. This could make for a creative shot of your decorated table.

7) Don’t be a poser

There is nothing better than capturing a real smile on a person’s face. Nope. Not that canned smile that happens when someone poses for a picture. The real thing! For the best “real” photos, try to take photos as the action unfolds, but don’t always feel the need to direct the subject. Try to capture real emotions as they unfold, and then ask your subject to look at you and get the posed image. This way, you will have both the real image and the set-up shot.

8) Gifts in action

Even after all the gifts have been opened and wrapping paper fills your living room, the photo opportunities continue. Make sure to take pictures of people using their new gifts. This could be your daughter riding her new bike or your dad modeling his new sweater.

9) Put it all together

Now that you have captured the “story of the day,” you might want to put all of those images into a nice photo book. There are many services that offer reasonably priced photo books, giving you the opportunity to create your own family keepsake. Try all these tips to help you capture and celebrate the holidays in a more creative way.

Happy holidays!


“Tip to Try”

Want to try something different when the kids are opening their gifts?

If you have an SLR or a point-and-shoot camera that lets you determine your shutter speed, you can slow down the shutter speed to add some motion in your image.

Try setting your shutter speed to 1/5 sec, and turn on your flash. The motion will show up, due to your slow shutter speed, and yet the flash will help freeze your subjects to make them more visible. Too much motion? Try increasing your shutter speed to 1/30. Not enough motion? Slow it down even more to 1/2. Experiment and have fun!