How to Take Decent Holiday Photos Without Forcing Anyone to Wear Matching Pajamas

How to Take Decent Holiday Photos Without Forcing Anyone to Wear Matching Pajamas
Photo: Rawpixel.com, Shutterstock

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant may have put a damper on your holiday plans, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the festive photos you want (of those in your household). And while it can be hard to feel jolly (again) this year, you may appreciate having a record of your second pandemic Christmas years down the line.

But we’re not talking about awkward, posed photos of everyone wearing matching pajamas arranged by height in front of the Christmas tree or on a staircase: The idea here is capturing actual, real-life moments. Here are a few tips from experts on how to do that.

Eat cheese, don’t say “cheese”

Think of yourself as a documentary filmmaker, says Simon Ringsmuth of the Digital Photography School. Pay attention to your surroundings, and snap pictures of people talking, opening presents, laughing, or sharing a drink. Let the photos speak for themselves, telling the story of what was happening in the room on the day.

Get down

When taking photos of kids, pets, or other things close to the ground, Ringsmuth’s top tip is to get down to their eye level. “Your shots will be more personal, more interesting, and far [more] memorable,” he writes in a blog post.

Turn off overhead lights

Any photos you take indoors will be affected by the sources of light in a room, including lamps, the Christmas tree, or a fire in the fireplace. That’s why Erin Brooks, a photographer and contributor to The Sweet Setup, recommends always turning off overhead lights — day or night, and regardless of the type of camera you use. Overhead lighting can change the tone of the colours in the photo, and cast weird-looking shadows on the people and things in it.

Frame the picture before taking it

The idea here is to frame the subject of a photo using whatever happens to be in the room, or nearby. To do this, Brooks says to look for lines to do the framing, which can include things like walls, beams, Christmas trees, candles, wood flooring, picture frames, windows, etc. “Watch your angle as you set up to capture your shot [to ensure] that those kinds of lines aren’t crooked,” she adds in a blog post for The Sweet Setup.

Ditch the flash and adjust the ISO

This tip from Ringsmuth takes a tiny bit more effort, but solves the problems that come from using a flash (i.e. demon eyes, people looking washed-out, odd colouring, etc). First, check to see if your camera (or the camera on your phone) gives you the ability to adjust ISO (a number corresponding to your camera’s sensitivity to light). If it doesn’t, sorry — this isn’t an option for you.

If it does, first turn off the flash, and then boost the ISO. “The higher the ISO, the brighter the image becomes, and the sharper the image becomes, too, because a high ISO will allow your camera to increase its shutter speed,” he explains.

But don’t go overboard and increase your ISO too much, because that can leave your photos looking grainy. Although, according to Ringsmuth, most modern cameras will produce decent photos at ISO settings as high as 3200 or 6400 — especially if you only plan to print 4×6 images, or share them online.

Lastly, he recommends practicing and getting comfortable with your ISO settings ahead of time — that way you’re not scrambling to figure out how to do it and missing the shots you want to capture.

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