How to Take a Great Holiday Photo [tips]

BreakingModern — When Christmas comes around, lots of people suddenly become photographers. But they don’t all become good photographers. And you have to agree, some Christmas photography is downright awful. Here are some helpful tips for making your own Christmas photography stand out from the crowd.

Light in the Front

The first rule of thumb is to get adequate lighting from sources that illuminate the front of your subjects. Simply put, this means that you will want light sources that come from behind you or from off to the front side(s) of the subject. This imbues your subjects with warmth and clarity.

Christmas Photo Front Lighting

If you’ve got an automatic flash on your camera it’s easy to provide this frontal lighting, but sometimes that’s not enough. If the flash comes on it indicates that you don’t have enough ambient lighting. Your photography could turn out too dark, shadowy or unclear, and even if it doesn’t your subjects may look washed out or discolored.

So, the second rule of thumb: You don’t need a flash for daytime shots that aren’t being taken in an enclosed, dark space. You’re certain to come across exceptions to this, but make it a basic guiding rule and your shots will turn out well.

Back Lighting

It’s true: Back-lit photos can be dramatic and often more artistic than the usual front-lit photos, and in the northern hemisphere December’s dawn and late-afternoon lighting may make your photos enchanted when the subject is lit from behind. However, getting good back-lit photos is tricky for amateur photographers. For some solid guidelines on good back-lit photography, check out this source.

Shots in the Dark

The holiday season is one of the best of times to take night shots because there are so many outdoor and indoor places that are lit up with Christmas lights and fun decorations. But, as with back-lit photos, getting good night-time photos can be tricky. Also, if you’re shooting at night you may find your smartphone or tablet camera isn’t good enough for the job. If this is the case take your photos with an actual digital camera. Check out this resource for simple but important tips on getting the most out of night photography.

Christmas Photo in the Dark

To Pose or Not to Pose?

When you’re taking photos of people during Christmas and other occasions, the question is to pose or not to pose? Instead, try capturing the spontaneous moment, in the same way a sports photographer would as he shoots athletes in action. ‘Tis the season — people are doing fun and interactive tasks and activities. Standing or sitting and smiling for the camera “just right” may not represent this most-wondrous time of year. Do you agree that we may have just too many staged Christmas photographs?

Do your best to capture the moments which, no matter how mundane they may seem, are a crucial part of the season: decorating the home; finding a tree; baking Christmas cookies; wrapping gifts; moving through a crowded shopping mall; playing in the snow; singing Christmas songs; and other activities.

Christmas Posing Photo

But there are some instances when people strike a pose that makes a simply fantastic photo. Ask people to pause for a moment when they’re in the midst of doing something natural or spontaneous, like hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree.

What’s Your Story?

When you’re shooting Christmas photography, ask yourself what story the shot in your sights is going to tell. A lot of “cute” holiday photos are actually dull and boring to everyone other than the photographer. Photos of your kids sitting on a Christmas rug aren’t that exciting. But shots of people involved in the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, though they may seem mundane, can tell some quite interesting stories.

Christmas Story Photo

A Final Frame

When you’re trying to capture seasonal holiday spontaneity, you’re going to shoot your share of blurry, unfocused or just plain bad photos. If you can’t save them with photo editing software or apps, just throw them out. Your time is better spent capturing those awesome images and moments that you get to keep. When you’re photographing, go for quantity. When you’re editing and deciding what to keep, that’s when you look for quality, a good message and something that you’ll keep.

For BMod, I’m

First image: The U.S. National Archives [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

Second/Featured image: Merry Christmas!” by Andreas. via Flickr Creative Commons

Third image: christmas decoration” by anthony kelly via Flickr Creative Commons

Fourth image: Christmas market in Stockholm Old Town” by Michael Caven via Flickr Creative Commons

Header Image: Sam Hood [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Brant David

Author: Brant David

Based in New Jersey, Brant David covers sports and tech lifestyle at BreakingModern. Follow him on Twitter at @mabriant

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