After a challenging year, you’re likely looking forward to finally catching up with friends and family over the holidays. The festive season is a time for fun, laughter, and making memories with loved ones. But, it can be disappointing when the festivities end and you realise you didn’t capture any of those memories on camera. Or, worse yet, all of the photos you did take are blurry, dark or everyone has their eyes closed!
The good news is, with a few simple tips you can take crisp, clear, and joyful Christmas photos — even if you only have a smartphone! No more kicking yourself with regret next time you go to put together your Christmas scrapbook.
Here, photographer and art director, Nick Clark shares his top 4, beginner-friendly tips for taking better Christmas photos.
1. Capture candid moments
“While it can be tempting to line up the family in the backyard for a photo shoot, this isn’t likely to get the best out of them. When you’re not working with professional models, this can translate as quite stiff and staged. Where the real magic happens is in those candid moments, where family members are just chatting and laughing.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t round everyone up for a photo — otherwise, it can be hard to get the family together. But, a good strategy is to keep the camera rolling, either on video or in rapid shooting mode. The ‘live photo’ function on many smartphones is also helpful for this. That way, you capture those natural, in-between moments where your photo subjects look most relaxed.”
2. Let there be light
“Lighting is arguably the most important element in photography, and Christmas portraits are no exception. Where possible, you’ll want to make sure you’re shooting with a diffused natural light source, with minimal harsh shadows.
The best time to take photos is ‘golden hour’, which is a couple of hours before sunset. So, you might want to pull out the camera while you’re having your Christmas Eve BBQ, or after your Christmas Day lunch (although, you may have to deal with some sleepy models!) However, if you do need to shoot later, most smartphones have an in-built night mode to compensate for low light.
You can also use the Christmas lighting from this time of year to your advantage. When combined with a large aperture (clear foreground and blurred background or shallow depth of field) photos taken in front of the Christmas tree can create an eye-catching ‘Bokeh’ effect.”
3. Think about framing
“Framing is another element that can take a Christmas photo from ‘good’ to ‘great.’ This is simply where your subject or subjects sit in the photo, in relation to other things in the shot.
The ‘rule of thirds’ (where images can be equally divided into nine squares, both horizontally and vertically) is a composition guideline for creating balanced photos — and many modern camera phones have in-built guides for this. However, you can also get more creative by shooting through something like a window, or including hints of festive decorations in the frame.”
4. Don’t forget the detail shots
“Christmas is first and foremost about the people (and the food!) However, don’t underestimate the power of the in-between details to bring your Christmas gallery to life. This could include things like the aftermath of gift unwrapping, table decorations, or the family dogs taking a Boxing Day nap. These little details can really bring the story of your Christmas to life, whether you’re posting them in an Instagram carousel or turning them into a photobook.”
You don’t need to be a professional photographer or have a fancy camera to take great Christmas photos. With a little know-how and a lot of love, you can capture beautiful moments that last a lifetime.
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