Make This Your Best Christmas Ever! :: Digital Photo Secrets

Make This Your Best Christmas Ever!

by David Peterson 11 comments

The holidays are getting closer and closer. This year, give your friends and family something they'll really cherish and be the first one to deliver images they can be proud of. With just a little more effort, you can create holiday photos that will make your friends wish you were a part of their family. Here's how to do it!

Your Biggest Challenge As A Photographer On Christmas Day

So, the house is buzzing with activity as you see your relatives for the first time. While this is very exciting, all that commotion makes for some cluttered backgrounds. If memory serves me, we always try to cram as many of our relatives into the same house on Christmas. This makes it a bit challenging when I'm trying to isolate my subjects (I haven't even mentioned all the pets, gifts, and bags of luggage lying around). Your house won't be all that different.

So, unlike most photographic situations, you'll need to take a more active role in reducing the clutter in your images. Here's a for-instance that's all too common during the holidays. Let's say your little ones are opening presents, and you want to snap a few pictures. By now, they've opened 7 gifts, and the packaging is all over the floor behind them. Do your images a favor and throw some of that gift wrap into the trash. Your Christmas photos will look much better without it.

You might get a few weird looks from your relatives when you do this, but they'll be eating their words when they see the pictures you've taken. Be aware that people can count as clutter too. If you're trying to get a picture of your kids opening a present, it's probably best not to include uncle Joe, who's staring at the Christmas tree, in the shot. Unless a person is central to an image, zoom in and leave that person out (at least for now).

Your Second Biggest Challenge, The Low Christmas Lighting

Unless you live in Australia, you probably spend most of Christmas inside. When you consider that Christmas is very close to the winter solstice, you're faced with the reality that there won't be much natural light for shooting photos on this day. That's okay because there are few things you can do to get past this little problem.

It goes without saying that you should use a flash, but be aware that there's a good chance of flash blowout on Christmas day. What is flash blowout? It's what happens when you get too close to your subject and you use a flash. The light is so bright and intense that it erases the details in the subjects you're trying to photograph.

Like I just said above, it gets crowded during Christmas. Whenever you can, take a few steps back and zoom in on your subjects. This puts a little extra distance between your subjects and the flash, resulting in a much more evenly lit image. You should also try to diffuse your flash (or spread it out) by placing a paper towel or a coffee filter in front of it. I know it looks a little weird, but the results speak for themselves.

An Pro Tip You Can Try

Here's another handy tip for intermediate/advanced photographers. Try setting your camera to continuous shooting mode and then increasing the ISO speed during the day's more active moments. The high ISO speed allows you to take the picture without using a flash, and continuous mode lets you capture images at the speed of life. Sure, the images will be a little more grainy, but sometimes it's worth it when you capture a special moment. This is perfect when your kids are opening gifts.

One Last Note

You'll probably take quite a few traditional group photos this Christmas. Make sure you get these out of the way as soon as you can. As all parents can attest, kids get tired and cranky the later it gets, and adults aren't that much better after a few drinks. Get one group photo in front of the Christmas tree, and then head outside for something more natural looking. Take at least five group shots. That way, you can ensure nobody is blinking.

I want to thank you all for reading my photography tips! It's been a wonderful year, and I wish you all the best this holiday season.

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  1. behzad says:

    thanks David, information and help when it is most needed.

  2. isabel ferreira says:

    Many thanks for your tips.
    I am an amateur and I am learning with them. The problem is some difficult in understanding the english language.
    Merry Christmas and a Happt New Year.

  3. Mariana says:

    Dear David,
    I tried these tips you gave us just before Christmas and it was wonderful to look at my photo's and notice the difference. Also to try the new techniques was great fun. All the best for 2012

  4. Jackie says:

    Hi David, I just love your tips. I am an amateur, but have saved all your advice and have seen how my photography skills have improve over the months. I am very proud of my achievements and often refer back to postings when I have a problem. Thank you so much for being willing to share your knowledge with us. I wish you a merry, safe & peaceful xmas & a wonderful photographic 2012.

  5. Brenda says:

    Thanks for all the tips, have a great Christmas n happy new year !!!

  6. George says:

    Hi David, I firmly believe you deserve rest after a job well done. You have blessed me through sharing your photography skill such that I became a blessing too. May you and your family experience the joy of Christmas and may you prosper in everything you do. George.

  7. sue says:

    Thank you. This will make the neighborhood X-mas Eve party alot more interesting!

  8. Leona says:

    Hi David

    Thank you for all your tips and wonderful advise. I live in nova scotia canada and having snow for Christmas makes for some wonderful pictures.
    A wonderful holiday to all.

  9. Hilda says:

    Hi David, thank you for your wonderful tips. I have learned so much from you. Yes I did tell my friends of your website who are also novices and Yes I agree with Elaine we do have the most beautiful country (South Africa) in the world which makes photography an absolute pleasure.
    Christmas greetings.

  10. Claudio Hess says:

    Hi David!!
    I am with Elaine, sunny Xmas also in Center and South America, out of Australia!!
    Have a happy holliday!! Nice tips always!!...

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.