It’s that time of year – everyone is in a festive mood, there are decorations and lights up, mouth-watering feasts are being cooked and you’ve been invited to a dozen Christmas gatherings.
Now, you’ve probably already started seeing your social media news feed being filled with photos from parties but let’s see if we can make your photos a little special this year.
So here are some tips for this year’s Christmas photos.
Take your camera
We photographers have a saying – the best camera is the camera that is with you. While everyone’s phone is now equipped with a camera, it doesn’t mean it’s going to take decent photos. So my first tip – take your camera with you. And don’t forget to charge the batteries and put in a memory card.
In this age of selfies (and groupies), I can understand people wanting to take a handheld group shot but there’s a limit to the number of people you can cram in when you hold your camera at arm’s length. Do yourself a favour and take a tripod (even it’s a small table tripod). This will let you set up the camera at a decent distance to get the whole family in the photo.
While using a flash is sometimes necessary, try turning the flash off. The warm fuzzy feeling of Christmas can be blasted away with the harsh white light of a flash. And these days, a lot of modern cameras can take relatively good photos without using a flash. There are plenty of sources of light that you can use: the lights on the Christmas tree, a window, a table lamp, etc.
But watch that ISO – even though your camera can reach some astronomically high ISO numbers, doing so would probably render the photo useless with the amount of noise it generates so try to keep it as low as possible. And with the flash off, adjust your white balance to match the lighting – otherwise your subjects will end up looking like Smurfs or like they got a bad fake tan.
Be creative! Move in, walk around or try a different angle. Photography is as much about creativity as it is about capturing the moment.
Look online and you’ll find hundreds of pages and videos about composition – have a quick look to get you started.
Learning to correctly compose you subjects in a frame can make all the difference in the world and add to that a bit of creative flair with filling the frame and angles and you’ll be on your way to creating some stunning photos.
Christmas lights and candles provide the opportunity to create photos with some beautiful bokeh, out of focus objects created by the depth of field. This will involve you playing around with your camera settings as well as your lens aperture but the results will be rewarding.
Tell your story
So you’re ready to take some photos, but of what? Think of your Christmas party as a story and you are a photojournalist. That means you have a story to tell with your photos. Sometimes it can be a herculean task to get all the guests into the one place for the obligatory family photo, so you might want to plan this one and get it done early when everyone is looking the best – especially the kids!
This isn’t going to be a studio photoshoot so look for relaxing environment, e.g. the garden or the deck. And we’ve all seen the photo where someone blinks or looks away from the camera. So take a few photos and, hopefully, one of your snaps will be just right.
If you’ve arrived at the party a little early, get a few photos of people preparing. It might be the food or the decorations or maybe even dad taking some time out to have a cold one.
Go with the moment
Throughout the event, people will be getting together in smaller groups to talk or have fun.
These images often show the relationship between people: mothers in the kitchen preparing dinner, children sitting on steps munching away on sweets, men on the porch having a smoke or couples holding hands in the garden.
You don’t want everyone posing for every photo so sometimes the best policy is to snap first and ask later.
Then there’ll be scenes where there’s a flurry of action and you don’t want to miss a moment. Set your camera to burst mode capture these moments.
Capturing the expression on a child’s face as they rip open their present can be almost impossible with a single photo so use that burst mode and you’ll have a better chance of capturing the perfect moment.
Alternatively, most cameras have a decent video function so for something a little different, try video instead.
The last tip isn’t about photography at all. Don’t forget to enjoy the scrumptious food, the good company and, while you’re there, why not take a silly selfie as well. Party on and merry Christmas!