It’s that time of year! We’re all making our final preparations and getting together with friends and family to celebrate. There are so many precious and magical moments during these few weeks that you’ll probably want to get the camera out. But how can you make sure you ‘capture the moment’ and get a great shot?
Here are some of my top tips for taking the hassle out of photographing your family this Christmas season!
1 – It’s not just about the big day
Remember to take your camera out and about and make sure the battery is charged! I often keep mine by my front door at this time of year so I can grab it at the same time as my handbag and coat. Most smart phones have great cameras too these days so there’s no excuse not to capture your Christmas adventures. Visiting Father Christmas is always fun! In Cambridge, we loved Scotsdales for young children and Wimpole Hall for the older ones. In Bury St Edmunds, Ikworth House is certainly worth a visit!
2 – Crank up your ISO
At this time of year, it’s dark… a lot… and so its important to set up your camera to cope with these conditions. If you have a digital SLR camera, find out how to increase your ISO. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive your camera will be to light, meaning it will be able to take better quality photos in darker conditions. Just watch that it’s not too high as this can cause ‘grainy’ photos. You can also increase your aperture to somewhere between F2 and F4 to help bring more light into the camera. The photo below was taken inside in front of the Christmas tree around 2.00pm. She was facing a window which cast light onto her face. My camera was set to ISO 800 and F2.8, both of which enabled me to bring as much light into the photograph in dark indoor conditions.
3. Decorating the tree
Putting up the decorations is always fun and my children get super-excited that Christmas is almost upon us. Last year, I tried some more creative tree-decorating pictures using my fairy lights. Don’t be afraid to try a different perspective to capture the fun. Again, if it’s dark, you’ll need to increase your ISO and your F-stop. If you photograph children around the tree during the day, the light will be much better but the Christmas tree lights wont stand out as much in your shots.
4 – Christmas light ‘bokeh’
Bokeh is ‘photographer’s speak’ for the gorgeous out of focus circles of light you get in the background when you focus on your subject in the foreground of a shot. You can also place lights infront of your camera with your subject behind them to create bokeh in the foreground of your shot. To achieve this effect, make sure your DSLR is set to aperture priority and choose an F-stop number lower than 4. then just play about with where you put your lights and your subject! Hey presto!
5 – Capturing connections and real story-telling moments
What often makes a good photo great is capturing a special moment or real emotion. It’s about taking the shot as it happens rather than stopping the fun and asking everybody to pose. The trick here is to set your camera up for the light conditions beforehand. Often using the shutter speed or aperture priority modes work well. And remember, nobody is going to look their best straight out of bed on Christmas morning, but those memories are precious!
6. Unwrapping presents
Once you set the kids loose on un-wrapping their gifts, its impossible to stop them in the middle of a paper ripping frenzy to pose for a picture. They’re just too excited. Instead, work out beforehand where you want to be to capture the action so you’re ready to click and get that reaction. And again, make sure your camera is set in advance so you don’t have to fiddle with settings and miss your shot.
7. Get a group shot
All DSLR camera have a remote shutter release function. This means you can set up your camera to delay taking the shot until you’re ready. If you have a tripod, set up your camera and frame the shot. If not, you can rest your camera on something steady. For the shot below, I rested my camera on some booked on the dining table. Take a couple of test shots and make sure the framing and exposure are correct. Next set the shutter release to 10-second time delay, press the button, and dash round into the picture. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to get there!
8. Include your pets
Pets are well and truly part of the family. We often buy them gifts at Christmas too. So don’t forget to include them in your festive photos. Our dog loves to unwrap presents. We give him a few of his own, otherwise, he’ll try and unwrap ours!
8 – Brave the cold and head outsideIf you’re out for a wintery walk on Christmas day (or any other day) then remember to take the camera. The colours at this time of year are dark – rich chocolates, mossy greens, beiges and greys – so dressing the kids in brighter colours can make photos stand out. Get down at their level to take your shot and don’t worry about making sure everybody is posed perfectly for the shot – laugh and joke along with them to capture those real smiles.
9 – Lastly, and most importantly, PRINT IT!
Whatever you capture, don’t let your photos sit on your computer hard drive gathering dust. Make sure you print them and make something tangible you can keep for years to come. I always make my yearly family photobooks in January as there are some fantastic post-Christmas deals available. Try Photobox, Blurb, or Bob Books January sales.
Booking your family photography session
Louisa Williams is a family and children’s photographer based near Cambridge and working throughout Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and the surrounding areas. You can see more of her current work and enquire about commissions here and can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
If you’d like some beautiful family portraits, you can find more details about my family sessions here. If you’re ready to book and would like to secure your session date, please drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in this form.