The biggest photo holiday is here! Now is a great time to capture your family as it grows and send out holiday cards to those you love. Taking photos each year helps you hold onto memories, and stop time when everything else around you is moving too quickly. It’s why we love looking at those old photos, right? Although getting that “perfect” shot for the card each year can feel intimidating so I’d thought I’d share a few tricks I’ve learned throughout my photography journey that have come in handy with my boys. Whether you want to take the photos yourself, or you’d like a friend or family member to take ones of your entire family, I put five easy tips below to help get you a great shot without spending the $$$ on a professional one!
1.You Don’t Need an Expensive Camera
A lot of people think they need to go out and spend a lot of money on a professional camera, which isn’t true. You can take amazing shots with even a camera phone, which will print well at small sizes. The iPhone 7 has actually been comparable to DSLR cameras in many areas so if that’s all you have right now and can’t go for anything more, don’t fret. Just skip to the next section!
If you’re looking to upgrade and are planning on printing out many of these photos for your walls, then I definitely suggest you go for either a point and shoot camera or an entry-level DSLR, which will produce less grain, better zoom and picture quality and can shoot in a variety of settings. They also give a nice depth of field, which produces that professional blurry look to your background. My picks for family-friendly cameras are:
- Panasonic Lumix ZS50 – $280
- Canon Rebel – I’m a fan of all models, but one of the newest is the EOS Rebel T6 for $300
- Canon PowerShot – $250
- Nikon 1 J5 – $325
Although these cost a few hundred dollars, you get to use the camera over and over again. It’s yours for life, and cameras hold up their value if you ever wanted to sell. The camera I personally use is a Canon Rebel T3i, and I’ve used it almost every day since purchasing it several years ago.
2. Find Your Light
The key to getting a good photo is the lighting, and the best lighting you’ll find is outside. Taking it during peak hours of the day though isn’t going to help unless they’re being taken under a shaded area. You want to search for soft lighting (such as the golden hours) or find an area where the light is coming from behind you and not directly on top. If you’re not sure where the best spot is, just wait until a cloudy day which offers you even light wherever you go!
Want to take the photo inside? Then you have to think about the time where the most light is inside your house, which is usually around 11am – 2pm. If you prefer to take them in front of the Christmas tree at night then you’re going to have to play around with the ISO and shutter speed. An external flash pointed at the wall can help too. A great video for Christmas tree photos is here. With a camera phone, you’ll have to increase the exposure and be very still!
3. Photographing Small Kids
I love photographing my son, but he does not stay still for a second anymore. I can’t tell you how many blurry photos I’ve had to delete! The best thing to do is to give them something to play with but that will also go with the theme. Let them play with holiday decor, ornaments, gift wrap, eat Christmas cookies, etc. Whatever works and will keep them in one spot for a few minutes! I also like to let kids be kids. Asking them to pose can be tough, but if I get back a bit and let them do their thing, I can usually get a good candid shot!
You want to search for a clean, simple setting, such as a tree farm or a forest. You don’t want to have a background that has a lot going on, which will make your subject compete for attention. Look for areas that only have a couple colors in them. If there’s a lot of bright lights with people walking around, and tons of holidays signs and a big santa in the corner, it won’t come out as nice as standing in front of an empty, brown bridge or inside with a white wall.
Finally, the biggest impact you can make to a photo is to enhance it with some editing. Although some people see this as altering the reality of a photo, I see it as bringing out what the eye truly sees. A baby’s blue eyes can be striking in a person but not come across in a photo. Bringing out the blues can show off those assets and make the photo really beautiful! My favorite editing tool is Lightroom, which is a monthly fee of $9.99 through Adobe. If you’re looking for a free editing tool, I suggest GIMP, the VSCO app or the Snapseed app.
When you’re editing a photo you always want to increase the sharpness a touch. Making it too sharp, however, will make it look grainy overall. The rest is personal preference! For the most part I usually bring out the whites, decrease the blacks, increase the exposure a touch, straighten my photo if necessary, increase the vibrance and use spot removal on anything that’s out of place. It doesn’t have to be on a face – sometimes a spot on the wall can take away from the photo.
Bonus Tip: Practice, Practice, Practice!
Photographing is not a skill we’re born with. It’s a craft that we build upon over time. The more you take pictures, the better they’ll be! Sometimes I need to take practice shots before taking the real one to get me into the right frame of mind and start training my eye. Plus the best part about doing it yourself is you can take as many photos as you want, on as many days as you want until you get the one you’re happy with!
I hope these tips come in handy this season! Overall, just remember to have fun. Don’t make it a serious occasion, but rather a reason to have some family time. And of course, be proud of every photo you take and the subjects that are in them!