IN MY EIGHT YEARS AS A PARENT AND PHOTOGRAPHER, I HAVE USED A VARIETY OF CAMERAS TO CAPTURE MEMORIES OF THE HOLIDAYS WITH MY FAMILY. FROM A FLIP PHONE TO A POINT-AND-SHOOT, AND MULTIPLE VERSIONS OF PROFESSIONAL CAMERAS…I HAVE LEARNED THAT WHAT MATTERS MORE THAN QUALITY OF A PHOTO IS THE FEELING IT EVOKES WHEN YOU LOOK BACK ON IT YEARS LATER. HERE ARE A FEW TIPS THAT WILL HELP YOU TAKE THE BEST HOLIDAY PHOTOS WITH WHATEVER CAMERA YOU HAPPEN TO HAVE AVAILABLE.
Consider this, when you look at your photos from the holidays, do you want to trigger happy memories of your kids enjoying an authentic moment, in all their childish glory? Or, do you want to trigger the memory of coercing them to smile and comply with your request?
I believe that moments of genuine emotion and reaction are what we want to remember, and our goal should be to hone in on that emotion and connection. Some ideas for you to contemplate:
• A CHILD GAZING IN WONDER AT THE CHRISTMAS TREE
• VISITING SANTA, THE REAL MOMENT WHEN YOUR CHILD CONNECTS WITH SANTA, BEFORE
• THE FORCED SMILE
• A CHILD LIGHTING THE MENORAH
• HUGGING GRANDPARENTS DURING A VISIT
• CHRISTMAS EVE MAGICAL MOMENTS: READING A BOOK TOGETHER
• OR CANDLELIGHT CHURCH SERVICE
So now that we have a clear vision of the what, let’s move on to the how.
Before beginning to shoot, take some logistical steps to be prepared. Make sure there is space for photos on your phone or memory card, batteries are charged, lens is clean. Also, ensure that a camera remains accessible throughout the season. Check your camera settings to be sure that you are shooting high resolution files.
TO BE ABLE TO CAPTURE A FLEETING MOMENT, YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR.
Let’s get to my second point, intention. To be able to capture a fleeting moment, you have to know what to look for. It’s important to anticipate the moments before they happen. Switch your mindset from anticipating and hoping for the “say cheese moment” to the moments before that when a child is acting naturally curious or engaged. Ask yourself: “What is the story I want to remember here?”
Here are some examples of holiday experiences:
• DECORATING THE HOUSE
• MOMENTS IN THE KITCHEN: baking, decorating, cooking holiday meals together
• CHRISTMAS MORNING JOY AND CHAOS (if you’re feeling adventurous and want to get in the frame yourself, use your intervalometer/self-timer/remote for family gift opening; just make sure you try everything out ahead of time so you’ll know what to do on the big day)
• NEW YEAR’S EVE EXCITEMENT DURING THE COUNTDOWN AND ONCE THE BALL DROPS
• VISITING WITH RELATIVES: simply move around the house and take photos of family members connecting through talk and play (without asking them to look and smile)
Put some thought and precision into your photos to take them from snapshots to priceless captures. Here are a few tips for composing and executing your photos:
• TAKE A MOMENT TO LEVEL YOUR HORIZON LINE or use the lines in the room to make sure your image is not crooked before clicking the shutter (some cameras even have a built-in grid to help with this)
• MOVE CLOSER IN FOR EMOTIVE FACES- not necessarily smiling, but thoughtful and curious faces
• PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION TO WHAT IS WITHIN THE FRAME OF YOUR PHOTO. Eliminate distractions by moving yourself or objects to isolate only what you feel is most important
• SHOOT SPECIAL MOMENTS FROM A VARIETY OF PERSPECTIVES: get on your subject’s level, shoot overhead from a bird’s-eye view, shoot around the doorway into a room during a quiet moment or from a wide angle to capture an exciting scene with several elements
• HOLD THE CAMERA STEADY AND LOCK FOCUS BY TAPPING FACE ON YOUR PHONE OR USING YOUR CAMERA’S FOCAL POINT.
• NATURAL LIGHT IS BEST BUT NOT ALWAYS AVAILABLE. If you have enough natural light to make a well-exposed photo, go ahead and turn off any overhead lights or lamps that might cause unpleasant color casts
Now that you are a pro at taking the pictures, let’s discuss how you will enjoy these photos for years to come. Here are some ideas for sharing and remembering all the wonderful moments you preserve:
• DESIGN A PHOTO BOOK TAKING ADVANTAGE OF POST-HOLIDAY SALES
• CREATE A SLIDESHOW TO RING IN THE NEW YEAR AND SHARE WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY
• ORDER PRINTS OF YOUR FAVORITES AND FRAME THEM then tuck away in your holiday decoration box so they will be ready to pull out and display next year
• DON’T FORGET TO SAVE YOUR FILES SOMEWHERE SAFE, and back them up in an extra location
If you keep these suggestions in mind, you will be well on your way to documenting the real beauty and excitement of the holiday season for your family. Trust me on this one: You will never regret investing in your memories by capturing honest photos of how it actually felt to celebrate the holidays with your loved ones.