The holidays are an ideal opportunity to capture images with friends and family. Taking a few extra minutes to snap photos during a holiday gathering will allow you to look back on the event for years to come. Before you gather with your loved ones this year, brush up on key tips for taking better holiday photos.
Focus on telling a story
It's easy to snap pictures during a holiday family gathering without giving them much thought. While you may capture a few memories, most likely you won't create very strong images. The pictures you do have also won't tell much of a story of the entire event. Even if you're just creating a Facebook album or blog post and aren't putting together a photo book or something more elaborate, it's still nice to have a narrative element to your collection of images. Think about the event as a whole and the images you want to take to convey this larger picture.
Strive to get a combination of candid and posed shots
When a large group of family gathers, I love getting a couple of posed shots to print and put up on the wall. But nine times out of ten, my favorite images from a gathering end up being the candid shots. Pay attention to the smaller moments during the gathering, and seek out opportunities to capture the details of the event as well, such as the place settings or holiday decor. When you are planning to get a few posed shots, think about bringing a tripod and a remote shutter, so you're able to be in a few of the shots.
Get on eye level with the kids
Have you heard the photography advice "move to get the shot?" This trued and true tip applies to taking better holiday photos, too. Instead of snapping a quick shot of your nieces and nephews playing a board game from a standing vantage point, move down to their level. You'll create a more engaging action shot. If little ones aren't comfortable having the camera right in their faces, spend some time just sitting with them to put them at ease, or scoot back to create a bit of a buffer safe zone.
Shoot with a prime lens or external flash
A prime lens is one of the simplest and most affordable ways to create beautiful indoor portraits of friends and family during the holidays. It also offers endless possibilities for creative holiday imagery, such as blurred bokeh Christmas lights. Of course, the 50mm is a classic choice. If you're worried that 50mm will be too tight in a smaller space, the 40mm is a great option. Do you already own a 35mm lens? Bring the 35mm instead of the 50mm.When lighting conditions are particularly limited, an external flash is a great asset, particularly for portraits. The above picture is from one of the few events I've attended in the last few years with a flash, and I'm so glad that I did. Make sure to angle your flash away from your subjects to avoid red eye. If you're new to flash photography, the YN-560 IV is just $65 and has an impressive range of features including supporting wireless master and slave functioning and multiple trigger synchronous mode.
If the weather allows for it, move outside for a few shots
Indoor photography is often challenging, even under the best of circumstances. Depending on the given weather conditions that day, outdoor shooting may not be an option. But if it is, take it. Most likely the breath of fresh air and a chance for a bit of exercise and fun will be a welcomed change of pace. Experiment with taking pictures right in your backyard or head down the street to the local park, especially if you have kids in your group.
Keep your camera handy
I can't tell you how many times I've meant to take pictures at an event or gathering and don't end picking up my camera even once. Sometimes it's fun to enjoy gathering with your loved ones without your camera. But it can also be disappointing to miss an anticipated opportunity for photos. Consider wearing your camera for at least part of the gathering, so you always have it with you. If there are multiple people taking pictures, designate a central spot for the camera, keeping it within easy reach throughout the event.Finally, don't forget to put your camera down for a few minutes. Enjoy spending time with the people you love without looking at them through your lens. Personally, I like to spend a bit of time sizing up a new environment and letting everyone get comfortable before I pull out my camera. Then I'm intentional about wrapping up my shooting well before the festivities die down, so I can relax without my camera in hand for a while. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it to make the most of your holidays while still creating beautiful images.
Do you have any additional tips for taking better holiday photos?
Feel free to share them in the comments!