It's amazing how many of us photographers are reduced to taking snapshots on Christmas morning. For some reason we're not in photographer mode, so when we review or get our pictures back from the lab we're less than thrilled. So here are some simple tips for Christmas and New Years that will help beginners and the more advanced enjoy the holidays a little more.
1. Get Down!
How many times have you seen Christmas photos where you get a great view of the top of the kid's heads or their faces are frozen into fake smiles? How do you get candid professional looking photos?
First set your camera to its widest aperture (smallest f-number) or choose portrait mode if you're shooting in one of your camera's auto modes. When the kids start tearing into the presents get down on the floor so you're on their level. Now you can capture the looks on their faces as they open their presents - and those looks are priceless!
Catch them now. They grow up way too fast.
2. Use a little fill flash
Very few homes are so brightly lit that you'll get great detail on your kid's faces as they're tearing into those presents. A little flash will go a long way toward filling in the shadows so you can see detail in their faces.
The pro tip here is that if you have flash exposure compensation as one of your camera (or flash) options you can get more natural skin tones by dialling down the flash by one stop ( -1 flash exposure).
3. Stay quiet!
As a parent it's easy to fall into the trap of yelling at your kids to "look here!"
After they look up and get a face full of flash a couple of times you'll start getting photos of scowls instead of smiles. If they're not looking directly into the camera the flash won't be blinding and the kids will learn to ignore their parents with their camera - and you'll get better shots as a result.
Remember Christmas is about the kids not the camera. Capture the moment quietly and let the kids take centre stage - after all it's their day.
4. Red eye reduction
It sounds simple but you'll need to remember to turn on red-eye reduction so your kids and pets don't look like aliens.
5. Choose a faster ISO setting
Many digital camera owners forget that they can change the ISO setting on their cameras. Choosing a faster (numerically higher) ISO setting means faster shutter speeds and fewer blurry images. That means that there will be a lot more images that will be suitable for your desk and for grandma's fridge!
6. Digital shooters, choose the right White Balance
White balance is a term that scares a lot of new digital camera owners. And most will want to leave their digital cameras on auto white balance. But in most digital cameras, especially the point and shoot cameras, auto white balance won't always correctly balance indoor lighting.
Pull out the manual and change the white balance setting to incandescent or indoor lighting. It's usually represented by a little light bulb symbol. Now the skin tones on those smiling little faces will look natural and you'll look like the great photographer that we know you are!
7. Get the kids involved
Get the kids to take some pictures of you and of each other. This works especially well with digital cameras. You might be surprised at what they come up with. Kids literally have a different perspective on the world and their images may surprise you.
This works especially well with digital cameras where they can see the results of their efforts immediately.
8. Hook your digital camera to the TV
Want to capture the moment for when Mum-Pop and Gran-Grandad arrive?
Get all those great shots of the kids and then hook the video connection on your digital camera to your TV (or VCR/DVD player). Now when the grandparents arrive you can put the camera in play mode and let it cycle through the images from the morning's festivities. This is a lot faster than getting prints made and waiting until New Year’s Eve to share them.
Make sure you have fresh batteries for your camera. If you have a separate flash unit make sure you have fresh batteries for it as well. If you're using a digital camera with rechargeable batteries make sure you put it on charge the night before Christmas.
10. Do a Pre-event Check
When you're putting the toys together the night before pull out your camera and get it ready to go. Add fresh batteries, make sure red-eye reduction is turned on, and all the camera's settings are what they should be. Do it the night before when things are quiet and it's a lot less likely that you'll forget something or accidentally choose the wrong settings.
11. Watch for the Quiet Moments
The kids will have their motors running on high for most of the day. Later on when their bellies are full and they're winding down you'll find some great moments hiding in the quiet times.
Have a Safe & Happy Christmas.