5 Tips for Better Holiday Photographs

5 Tips for Better Holiday Photographs

By Kelly Lee


You’ve seen it a million times, stiff family portraits, strained expressions, and unimaginative poses. However, that does not need to be the norm for your holiday photographs. Read our five quick tips to liven up the holiday photographs that will make you proud to display in a frame or family photo album.   

#1 Capture Candid Moments 

 Candid photo of grandparents and kids

Posed images are nice to have, but unless you are a seasoned portrait photographer, the experience of gathering people of any age into a single photograph can be daunting. Between the wiggly children and the photo shy, impatient adults, it can be taxing on the nerves. So if that is not your thing, don’t worry there is a better way!  

Candid photos are an excellent way of capturing the spirit of the season, and the results are beautiful.  These types of photographs capture the real emotions of individuals and most importantly, the relationships between different friends and family. Plus, as viewers, we are more drawn to photographs that exhibit raw emotion which gives us a glimpse into a personal moment.  

#2 Change Your Perspective

Portrait of young boy


Avoid average looking holiday photographs by getting on the child’s perspective. You’ll gain more intimate feeling images if the subject’s eyes are on the same level as the camera. Children love to move, so encourage play or attempt to sneak into a moment to capture the action. Also, avoid the word “cheese” at all costs if you prefer to capture an authentic expression. Kids are trained just as well as the adults to stiffen with that command.  

If you are looking for a good portrait lens to keep up with the kids, we suggest investing in a 50mm f/1.4 lens for a DSLR or a 25mm f/1.8 lens for a mirrorless camera. These prime lenses have larger aperture settings which will result in beautiful bokeh backgrounds and the quicker shutter speed capabilities will help freeze the action. 

#3 Flash Can be Your Friend 

During holiday festivities, the lighting can be challenging which leads to what some would consider the dreaded flash. However, you can attain good images when a flash is necessary. In a small intimate setting, an on-camera flash can be used well if you get up close to the subject. You can also utilize the "drag the shutter" technique, where the flash is used, but the shutter speed is slowed down in order to allow more ambient light in. This will allow the subject to be lighted and the background to be discernable instead of the black background you'll often get.

If you prefer to photograph in auto-mode, you can utilize the night photography setting to achieve the same technique. This is a great way to capture customary portraits in front of the Christmas tree. When you drag the shutter, you'll find that the Christmas lights look more exciting behind the subject then if you used a quicker shutter speed. 

If you do not want to use the flash or you are too far from the subject, you can still attain good results by increasing the ISO setting. Most digital cameras on the market today do a reasonably good job with clarity when shooting higher ISO. However, you still need to experiment with your camera to test its threshold for noise. Also, pay attention to where the ambient light is coming from. If possible, photograph your subject with light coming in from the right or left angle instead of overhead to get the best results. Oh, and don’t forget about a tripod or monopod to help reduce camera shake.  


#4 Fill The Frame 

Portrait of a toddler boy by the Christmas tree


Capturing a wide shot is great for providing context to an image, such as sitting around a warm, cozy fire or a tree lighting ceremony. However, your images will pack a punch when you fill the frame with your primary subject. It’s also great for when you are trying to avoid distracting background elements. If you have a great zoom lens or optical zoom on your camera, then use it. Otherwise, just getting up close and personal will do the trick. This simple composition tip will take your holiday images from average to amazing.  


#5 Plan Your Gear Before You Take Holiday Photographs

Don’t be the victim of a dead battery, or a full memory card. Before any holiday event, be sure to charge batteries, format your card or purchase film for your classic camera or instant film camera!  

As always, for more tips and tricks, Rockbrook Camera offers a range of classes for beginners to advanced. New classes will be starting in January, so sign-up today! 

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