Top Ten Tips for Better Holiday Photos By BetterPhoto.com
The holidays make for fantastic photo opportunities. Even the least photographically-inclined reach for a camera to do the annual group portrait. Use these tips to make great photos of Christmas, Hanukkah, or the mid-winter holiday of your preference. This year, you’ll come away from the holidays with the absolute best photographs you have ever created.
# 1 Compose Creatively and Move in Close
Whether you are photographing the symbolic subjects of the holidays or your friends and family, getting creative with your composition certainly cannot hurt. This means paying special attention to how you organize the various elements in each photo.
There are two main concepts to keep in mind when composing the scene artistically:
1. Off-center your main subject. Instead of placing your main subject in the center of the scene – with a lot of dead space around it – move your camera until this subject is off to the side. This works especially well if you can balance your main subject with something in the background, on the other side of the picture. For example, if you are photographing a beautiful candle, try placing it on the right with the Christmas tree (or an equivalent supporting element) blurred softly in the background on the left. This will result in a photo that both records the candle in all its beauty and does so in an artistic, creative way.
2. Move in close. Especially when you center your subject but even when you off-center it, moving in close is the one thing that will make the biggest difference in the success of your picture-taking. The simple fact is the audiences are always more impressed when the subject is huge and impossible to miss. Therefore, you want your subject to fill the frame. Say you are photographing the candle mentioned above, but don’t have a Christmas tree (or its equivalent supporting element) in the background. In this case, you might want to instead move in as close as you can. Causing the entire frame to be filled with your subject will inevitably result in a photo that has true impact on your viewer.
# 2 For Better Family and Group Portraits
The most important thing to keep in mind when photographing groups and families is this: you absolutely must take a lot of photos.
There is often a great deal of pressure when photographing groups. People generally complain about having their picture taken and want the experience to be over quickly. They have been trained by bad portrait photographers in the past to hate both the process and the results.
So it is your job to overcome these hurdles. You need to work quickly in order to get the job done within their limits of patience. And you need to keep the experience as fun and friendly as possible, so they remember it in a positive light.
Above both of these tasks, though, you need to get the absolute best photos you can. And more than anything else this means taking a large number of photos. Since there is always someone blinking or looking off to the side or facing another member of the group, having a large number of photos will give you the best chances of catching everyone looking their best.
# 3 Shoot First, Ask Questions Later
Especially if your subject is a child opening a gift – or playing with a gift for the first time – you know that, within a split second, the scene can change. There is often just a few brief moments when that “magic spark” appears.
That’s why it is so important to be fully prepared to capture that moment when it happens. Of course this means having your camera on hand and the batteries fully charged… After all, you can’t capture the moment if you don’t have your camera on you and ready to go.
However, even more than having your camera on hand, this equates to being assertive with your picture-taking. Be ready to press that shutter button at a moment’s notice, anticipating when the magic spark will surface. If you have a digital camera that suffers from a bit of a delay when taking the picture, then you will have to become even more intuitive and skilled at anticipating the moment.
Either way, shoot quickly and shoot often. Don’t be shy – getting a great photo of the right moment is rewarding and well worth the extra effort.
# 4 Don’t Use Flash Indoors
The flip side to Tip #5 is to turn off your flash indoors, whenever you can possibly get away with it.
The flash can be a real lifesaver, no doubt about it. This burst of artificial light can mean the difference between a decent photo and a totally blurry, unusable image.
However, the light from flash units – especially from the tiny on-camera flash units found on most every camera – tend to produce harsh, flat, and cold light. This is rarely a complimentary way to illuminate your subject.
If you are shooting indoors during the day, make your portraits with your subjects standing near a window or door instead of relying on the flash. Get between your subject and the window – in other words, don’t include the window in your composition, as this will throw off your exposure meter.
If you are shooting indoors at night, try to flood the room where you are photographing with as much light as you can – turn on whatever lamps you have at hand. This will help reduce those harsh, flashed-out subjects, as well as other problems like red-eye.
# 5 Use Flash Outdoors
Most people think that using flash is synonymous with photographing indoors at night – at a Christmas party for example.
However, flash need not be relegated to indoor, night photography. Flash can be a big help when it comes to shooting outdoors during the day. Even in bright sunlight, forcing your flash to fire can often mean the difference between a so-so snapshot and an eye-grabbing masterpiece.
The reason is that this kind of bright day flash will fill in the shadows and even out harsh contrasts.
Try it out… next time you are photographing friends or children outdoors, turn your flash on and see if it works for you.
# 6 Look for Reflections
One the quickest and easiest ways to add an artistic touch to your holiday photos is to focus on capturing reflections rather than the object itself.
Simply keep an eye out for interesting splashes of color, reflected from Christmas lights and other holiday decorations.
This is one time when rainy days are your friends – puddles in the street can be a perfect source of abstract images – photos that suggest the essence of the holidays without being direct and explicit.
You can also look for interesting shadows and other graphic elements. Or you can include out of focus Christmas lights, to give your photo an evocative, unique background.
# 7 Blur, Swirl, and Zoom Those Christmas Lights
Tired of the same old Christmas tree photos? If you want to try something new, set your camera to a slower shutter speed – anywhere from 1/2 second to 2 or 4 full seconds. Then purposefully move the camera while taking the picture. The idea here is to intentionally blur the colorful Christmas lights… and in order to blur a stationary subject, you need a slow shutter speed and controlled camera movement.
If you use an SLR camera with a zoom lens, you will have a little more freedom and speed with your zoom. Thus, you will not need as slow of a shutter speed as those using compact zoom digicams. All the same, you can create this effect with either kind of camera.
For the zooming effect to look clean, you will want to mount your camera securely on a tripod to keep it from moving while you zoom in or out during the exposure.
If you want to get even more creative, you can simple move the camera around while the shutter is open. For this technique, you can leave your tripod at home. That’s right… I said it… this is one of the few times I advise you to not use a tripod.
# 8 Give the Gift of a Photograph
Whether you are a last minute shopper or not, we have the perfect gift idea for you: a family photo.
Parents and grandparents in particular love photos of the family and children as a holiday present.
This is such a cherished present, we will be offering a few of the most helpful pointers for getting great portraits in the upcoming tips. In the meantime, pick out a nice frame, get some good inkjet paper if you shoot digital, and get ready to give a gift that, if done properly, can bring tears of joy to their eyes.
# 9 Plan Ahead: Charge Batteries and Clear Cards or Buy Film
The last thing you want to have happen is to get all set up for the family portrait or holiday photo to realize you forgot to charge the battery!
In addition to making sure your batteries are charged (or you have replacements on hand), you will also want to make sure you have a place for your potential images to be recorded.
If you shoot digital, offload and archive your images so you can free up space on your flash memory card. If you use a conventional, film-based camera, be sure you have an extra roll or two of film on hand.
Here’s a bonus tip for you generous gift-givers out there: before wrapping up digital camera and film camera gifts, charge up the batteries and insert the memory card or film. This will make it all the more fun for the recipient to enjoy your nice gift – right out of the box!
Either way, being prepared will make those once-in-a-lifetime moments that much easier to capture.
# 10 Don’t Eat Yellow Snow; Don’t Photograph Blue Snow
If you go out photographing snowy outdoor scenes, most camera meters will be fooled into underexposing your picture. Instead of nice, bright white snow, a bluish cast will give your snow scene an extra cold feel (and an unnatural look).
To remedy this, use your camera’s exposure compensation feature or a manual exposure mode to force an addition 1 to 2 stops of light to reach your film or CCD. If you have a point and shoot camera or a compact digicam, your camera may not feature manual exposure but it will likely have the exposure compensation option. Look for a little +1 or +2 symbol.
If you have a film or digital SLR camera, you will likely have these +1 and +2 exposure compensation options as well as a manual exposure mode.
We had the best time photographing this little charmer. I think he’s probably the happiest little fellow to grace our studio. He was in the best of spirits, and played great for the camera!
We’re looking forward to working with this baby a couple more times, since he’s our newest Busy Bee. Our Busy Bee baby club program is the perfect way to document your baby’s important milestones during their first year. Receive 3 portrait session for just $250 total! For more information, or to schedule your baby, give us a call: 858-356-5859, or contact us through the website.
With the holiday rush, we’ve fallen waaaay behind on the blogging. But with so many adorable babies, bellies, and families, we just have to get some of these posted!
So without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to little Apollo. He was so anxious to meet the world he came a few weeks early! Such a little guy who was sooo sweet and “curly”!
Just look at this adorable little one! Her mom calls her “sugar”, which is easy to understand, because how sweet is this?! She was so observant and interested in us, and is SUCH a good little baby!
Even when we brought her out to the water’s edge and put her in the tub, she handled it like a champ! Enjoy just a few of our favorites!
Have you heard about our Busy Bee Baby Club? Our Busy Bee program is just $250 and covers all 3 sessions during baby’s first year! We capture their big milestones: pushing up, sitting up, and standing up. Your baby changes more during their first year, than at any other time of their life. We offer an affordable way for you to document those special moments of your baby’s exciting first year! Give us a call today (858.356.5859) to schedule your baby’s portrait session, in time for the holidays! To view more of our Busy Bee babies, visit our website, or click here.
Well, this little guy was 4 months, but he’s a little strapper, and SO strong! And with so much personality. We start our Busy Bees (our Baby Club program) around 4 months when they start to push themselves up. This baby not only could push himself up, he could even sit on his own! Impressive to say the least. We’ll have to be a little extra creative for his next session!
Here are a couple favorites so far . . .
So this is the little one who took her time coming out to meet all of us, and while waiting, her parents nicknamed her, “Bean”. How cute is that? Well, Little Miss Bean didn’t want to miss a thing, and she was so alert and observant throughout our session. At the very end, she took a cat nap, but during the session, we captured a lot of images with eyes wide open – which is always a favorite for grandparents! Enjoy the previews . . . .
Isn’t she such a pretty girl?
I call this “mother’s fascination”. I remember those days of just sitting and staring at this little being that’s yours, and the wonder of it all!
And then there’s daddy who is just wrapped soooo tight around Bean’s little finger!
And dad already has a “groupie”!
This is what we call a “foot-o finish”! ;-D
Introducing Riley, the cutest little Yankee – in San Diego! If you remember the parents, they’re HUGE Yankees fan, so of course we had to break out the baseball and mitt for a couple of Riley’s portraits.
And just to show what a cool baby, he hit us with several smiles throughout the session. Sweet!!
Welcome to the world, little guy. You’ve got some amazing parents!
Meet Ava, our most recent newborn to hit our studio. Isn’t she precious? She was so tiny and so mellow, and it was a fantastic session – even if she didn’t let mom and dad sleep a wink the night before! :-) Her parents brought her in around day 8, which is perfect – she would still draw up in that cute, squishy curl, and didn’t get fussy as we moved her around. Can’t wait for mom and dad to see the rest of the photos – it was hard to pick just a handful for the blog!
Talk about a bundle of joy! Look at how sweet she looks curled up against mom!
Couldn’t you just die over that hat?
Is there anything sweeter than a baby nesting in the crook of your neck? Nope – don’t think so!
And the show stopper – look at this awesome tutu shot Nikkie got!
There’s more than 1 doll in this photo . . .
We’d love to hear your comments – just leave a comment below. Did you know we have a Baby Registry for your newborn’s portrait session? Makes an excellent shower gift! Call for details.
This is a great story of a legacy of love! Grandma-to-be is just so incredibly excited about the upcoming birth of her grandchild that she decided to spoil baby, mommy, and daddy by investing in our Chrysalis Collection. This collection focuses on telling that special story of each new belly to baby. Mom and Dad were absolutely awesome to work with and let’s face it mom’s belly is just so beautiful and tiny! Mom disagreed with the “tiny” part so of course we had to tell her to invest in glasses and a good mirror because…just look at her…she’s only sporting a basket ball when I was sporting an over-sized watermelon when I was in my eighth month!
Anyway…here are a few sneak peaks for grandma, mom and dad of a few of the “less revealing” images from the day. We’ll see you soon so you can check out the rest of the images from the session! Let us know what you think by leaving comments bellow!
Madi Rae came back to see us, and she’s as cute as ever! She whizzed through several outfit changes, and we got some really fun images! Mom was a great sport, as we all made funny faces and noises to coax a smile out of Miss Madi. Here are a handful of our favorites from the day. Enjoy mom and dad!
So many of our expectant parents ask us when they should come in for their newborn portraits and we always reply the same way…”Meet us on your way home from the hospital.” There’s usually a long pause as they wait for us to say we’re kidding, but guess what?…for the most part we’re really not joking!
The absolute BEST time to photograph a newborn is within the first week of their precious lives, under two weeks is acceptable but is starting to push it. You see…newborn’s under one week of age still sleep like the dead (not mine unfortunately, she’s NEVER slept like the dead a day in her life…not even in the womb, but MOST do).
They also haven’t had time to realize that they’re not crammed into a tight little space anymore, so they still curl up in that adorable fetal pose. But after day ten (give or take a few days)?… you can just forget about getting that amazingly classic newborn pose without your little one putting up a fight. The secret is out and every time you try to curl them up they just can’t wait to pop those tiny limbs back out again.
Also two to three weeks is about the time a lovely case of baby acne can rears it’s ugly head…no pun intended. Of course we still photograph newborns that have passed the two week mark, and we still capture amazing images of these tiny new beings, it’s just that the longer you wait the harder it is on both the baby and the parents.
So to summarize the answer to the question “when should we schedule our newborn session?”…the sooner the better!!!
This tiny little guy was only 10 days old, and both he and big brother did a great job in front of the camera! Mom and Dad love sepia toned images, so we put the finishing touches on a few of our favorites and here they are as a little sneak peak. Hope you love them as much as we do!
Your input is REALLY IMPORTANT to us so let us know what you think of our images by posting your comments at the bottom of each posting.
La Jolla Cove is one of the most beautiful beaches to photograph at in San Diego. The incredible blues and greens of the water, mixed with the fascinating rock formations and cliffs makes for a dramatic scene. So it was an obvious choice for us when this gorgeous family requested their portraits be photographed at the beach.
Another wonderful feature of the Cove is that it borders the urban beauty of downtown La Jolla. This close proximity allows us to dramatically change the feel of our images by driving just a few blocks up from the beach to the beautiful brick buildings and chic sidewalks of La Jolla. The art and fashion district of La Jolla makes the perfect setting for a precious little girl to dance down the street in her purple tutu and jean jacket. These are a few of our favorites from the session. Hope you love them as much as we do mom and dad!
We are always looking for locations like this where we can get the best of both worlds without having to travel very far between the two. Do you have any favorite locations that you’d like to suggest we use for our portraits? Please let us know by leaving your comments here. Thanks! Nikkie of BlueFlair Photography
Alrighty – we’re going to change up the blog a little, so instead of just sneak peaks, we’re going to feature some contests, favorite picks, tips and tricks, and other things. We want to hear from you, too, so feel free to leave comments and weigh in on topics! We’re also working to blend the blog with our Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace pages.
Subscribe if you want ongoing updates, come back often, or from time to time – we’d love to have you!
To start things off – we putting one of our popular portraits of a little peanut in the pink tutu. She’s been popular on Facebook, and is just a cutie-patootie! Next month, we’ll be featuring various favorites, and the one with the most comments will be deemed the winner – with that family (or couple) winning a complimentary 5×7 of the winning photo!