Christmas lives on, in your photos

Be ready for all the special events and signs of the season.  Keep your battery charged up (or have spares on hand) and have an extra memory card. And take the camera with you – how many times have you kicked yourself when a Kodak moment came along and the camera was at home?

Make your list and check it twice: Take a few moments right now and think of the photo ops you’ll have during the season. From shopping for the right gift, to trimming the tree, to opening the presents (wrapping them, too). Lots of great moments in the kitchen, because even those who rarely cook will be making cookies and cooking traditional fare. What’s traditional varies from home to home, of course – I’ve already had roast turkey and pulled pork barbecue this season!

Inside or out? Flash can be harsh, but there’s a world of beauty out of doors. Direct sunshine can also be harsh, so look for open shade to bring out the soft colors and flatter faces. While you’re doing this make sure that the lighting on everyone’s face is about the same intensity, you don’t want shadows on one face and direct sun on another.

If the sun is harsh, turn your subjects away from the sun and use your camera’s flash to fill in the shadows.

When it comes to the background, often less is more. That is, too much background diverts attention from the people. Stand farther away, use your zoom lens to fill the frame with the people and throw the background a little out of focus. And look past the subjects to the background – a telephone pole growing out of your loved one’s head is not the perfect Christmas trim!

Taking photos of short people (kids?) Get down on their level, or use the rotating monitor on many new cameras to shoot low while saving your knees and back. Photos from standing eye level can be a little boring, I sometimes use a ladder to shoot from on high.

Got a big group? Get the formal shots of the whole bunch out of the way first, then break out the smaller sections. I’d suggest getting the youngest kids early before they lose interest.

Posing – let’s have fun. Sure, the kids will want to line up in a row and shout “cheese” but after you’ve done that, encourage them to relax and interact.

Better photos of ornaments: A simple example is the lighted Christmas tree. You’ve got three ways to photograph it:

  • Use the flash. You’ll see the tree, but not the lights. Not perfect
  • Put the camera on a tripod and take a time exposure. Now you’ll see the lights, but the tree itself and non-illuminated decorations will be very dark. But you’ll capture that warm glow of candles and tree lights.
  • Leave the camera on the tripod and use the night portrait or night scene mode. This combines a time exposure, so the lights are seen, with a flash exposure to fill in the details. There’s probably an icon on the camera that looks like a person and a crescent moon, or a moon and starts. If you can’t find this mode, come to the store and we’ll show you.

If you’re feeling more adventuresome, use a manual mode and try several different shutter speeds and lens openings ‘til you get exactly the effect you want.

Film is cheap and digital memory is absolutely free, so take lots of photos. Instead of trying for one perfect photo, take a sequence that will tell a story. We have seen some great collage prints and greeting cards so far this year, and you can even order multiple-print products on our website.

The story is in the details – lots of close-ups make your Christmas story complete.

Show them that the gift was received
And now is a good time to teach the kids that gifts need to be acknowledged. Take a photo showing the gifts being unwrapped and the joy on the face of the recipient; make a truly one-of-a-kind card that says “Thanks.”

When all else fails, use your cell phone. Sure, the results will be better with a “real” camera, but maybe you’ve just got the cell phone with you. Here are some tips for better pix with the phone:

  1. Clean the lens with your handkerchief
  2. Get really close – cell phones work best for close-ups because the details get lost. Some cell phones have an LED light they call a flash, but it’s only good for a foot or two.
  3. Hold it extra steady – the grip is not good.
  4. Set your phone to take the best quality photos it’s capable of (there’s a menu someplace) and use a memory card to store the photos.
  5. Resolve not to get caught again without your “real camera”