Although the holidays aren’t here quite yet, it’s never too early to start thinking about what photos you’re going to choose for your holiday cards this year. Use these foolproof tips to take a memorable and beautiful holiday photo, whether it’s from the beach, the lake, the backyard, or the new living room.
What do NBA players, PGA tour golfers, and NFL kickers all have in common? A consistent pre-shot routine. You should have the same when preparing to take your holiday photo. Your routine should include these steps:
- Charge your batteries. Is there a worse feeling than having everyone organized for a photo, only to have your camera die?
- Free up space. Allow plenty of memory on your camera for multiple photos. Back up your data on a computer or storage device.
- Set the scene. If you’re at home, make sure to tidy up. Even if you’re in public, do a bit of maintenance. You don’t want the focus of your beach photo to be the pile of seaweed in the foreground.
Now that you’re ready to shoot, use this quick guide to capture great holiday photos.
- Keep your background uncluttered. Leading travel photographer Lucie Debelkova believes in choosing “strong but simple scenes” as the backdrop to your photos, thereby letting the subject stand out.
- Light from behind the camera, but not directly behind. Photos taken with the light directly behind the camera feature a lot of squinting and grimacing. Natural light is softer than artificial, so if you are outside for your photo, be sure that the sun is at an angle to your subjects. If you’re inside, use lamps and warm lighting rather than the harsh light of the camera flash.
- Move in close. A photo from far away leaves unnecessary negative space and distracts the eye. If you’re going for a collage or mosaic card, take a few tightly-framed still-life images. These will give a varied, interesting look to the card.
- Capture lights at dusk. The best time to photograph outdoor lights – such as holiday lights, tiki torches, or lighted windows – is at dusk, just before darkness falls. There will be enough light to capture the surroundings, but it will be dark enough that the lights will pop.
- Play with perspective and focus. For those collage photos, a lit candle looks much more artsy shot from below than above. And a tree with lights on it is much more intriguing if it’s out-of-focus and in the background of a close-up shot of something else.
- Wear the wrong clothes. You probably know some of the rules for clothing in photos: contrasting prints and patterns are distracting, white makes you look bigger than you are; never combine horizontal and vertical stripes. The reason these are so well-known? Because they’re true.
- Be unnatural. Photos that are too staged look forced and uncomfortable, and photos that try to look effortless often do the same. Try to loosen everyone up by having a family pet, relative or funny anecdote on hand to induce some real smiles and movements.
What are some tips YOU have on how to take a great photo?