Christmas is almost upon us and although its a time of year I love you will rarely see me sharing Christmassy images. It’s not that I don’t take them but each year Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier with the big name TV adverts, the various light switch ons, the selection boxes and other festive treats seeming to appear so long before the big day. By the time Christmas comes around I feel like I’ve already overdosed on festive imagery and stories!
But Christmas is definitely a great time for photography, many of us are lucky to have our families around us and once the pre-Christmas panic of present buying and wrapping and what seems like never ending food shopping is over with we often have a little time on our hands to indulge in a little festive picture taking too.
I would love to have started off with tips for taking pictures in the snow but that’s just not going to be happening in the UK any time soon. Tips for shooting on murky grey and drizzly days would probably be more apt this year but most of us won’t want to be outdoors at Christmas in that sort of weather! If you are fortunate enough to live somewhere where you can expect a white Christmas be sure to get out with your camera and make the most of it, just be aware that all that bright white of the snow will fool your camera into underexposing and your lovely white snow will show up grey. Override your camera’s exposure and over expose the image, take a few test shots and check them on the screen to work out how much you need to over expose.
Lights – At this time of year lights are everywhere! They can be great to photograph but can also cause a few problems. So many people have amazing displays of outdoor Christmas lights and these can make great pictures, either as the main subject or as an out of focus background. Only trouble is it needs to be dark to really make the most of them, in fact it needs to be fairly dark for them even to be turned on. Shooting in the dark means that you will have a slow shutter speed so you will need to make sure your camera is steady or your picture will be shaky and blurred. A tripod is ideal but if you don’t have one try propping the camera on a wall or resting it on a gate or something similar to steady it in your hands.
Lights can be challenging indoors too, we often have tree lights plus lamps or other lights turned on, especially if its one of those dull days we’ve been having. Generally your camera can handle different lighting conditions well when set to Auto White Balance but sometimes there are just so many sources of light that it just can’t deal well it and you may end up with everything a strange orangey colour, I’m sure you’ve seen the sort of picture I mean! Now I know this may mean that you need to resort to the instruction book but knowing how to change the White Balance will come in handy at Christmas. Take a test shot and have a see how it looks on your camera LCD, if its ok just carry on as normal but don’t forget to check every so often that its still looking ok. If its a strange colour change the White Balance setting, the best setting will depend on the type of light you are dealing but just keep trying until you find the one that looks best.
People – Christmas is often the time when all the family get together and its great to capture some memories. It’s very tempting when posing people for their Xmas photo to stand them in front of the tree but its all to easy to look at those pictures afterwards and find that Granny appears to have a bauble sat on top of her head or the kids have branches sprouting out of their ears! Try standing them just to the side of the tree instead or if that isn’t possible bring them as far forwards from it as you can and shoot with a wider aperture, those fairy lights will look great out of focus and any unfortunate placement of branches will be much less obvious.
Candid pictures of people are generally the ones that capture the day best, the ones that really tell a story. The best candid pictures rely on being observant, have the camera constantly close by and be aware of what is going on around you, have the camera set in a mode you are comfortable using so you can just grab and shoot when you need to. BUT do not miss out on the excitement of the day by viewing it all through a camera, don’t forget to put it down and just be present in the moment.
Food – Food photography is becoming increasingly popular and what better time to give a try than Christmas. Use a wider aperture and make sure you focus on your main subject, watch for objects included in the frame that might be a distraction from your subject particularly anything that might just be poking into the edges of the frame. Think about adding a little festive styling, there will be an abundance of baubles, tinsel, crackers and other bits and pieces to make your pictures wonderfully festive. If food photography is your thing keep an eye out for my new course starting early next year!
Traditions – make sure you capture those little things that make your Christmas unique, it may be decorations on the tree that have been used for years and have their own little stories or it could be special Christmas stockings or little rituals that you keep to each year. They may seem small and insignificant but could just make a wonderful picture.
And for 2016 how about a New Years Resolution to print those pictures. Better still why not have a photobook made from the best ones? Huddling around a screen with the family just doesn’t have the same appeal as looking through a book together. And at least you know that book will be around much longer than your computer.
Have a fantastic Christmas,
Very best wishes,