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5 Tips for Capturing Great Holiday Photos

By Marc Serota Dec 13, 2017

Getting great holiday shots is a lot easier than most people think. This time of year is perfect for capturing memorable photos because you can take advantage of all the lights and decorations in your home or around town. This year, make sure you take pictures you’ll want to look back on with these 5 tips for capturing amazing holiday photos.

Tip 1: Create a Background

Although indoor photography can be tricky due to lighting limitations, one of my go-to holiday photo settings is usually around the Christmas tree. A quick change of camera settings or post-processing can fix lighting issues, but you could also think outside the box to spice up the backdrop a little bit. If there is a local community park or public area that decorates for the holidays, take a family field trip and set up shop there.

To make for a more interesting shot, you can wrap up your children or friends in Christmas lights, which will illuminate their smiling faces. Feel free to add cool props or have your subjects play in the snow, capturing action shots of everyone in the midst of a snowball fight. (Unless you’re like us, living in the eternal summer that is Florida…then go to the beach). Just get creative!

Tip 2: Get Close for a Blurred Background Effect

The trick to capturing shots with those blurry, dream-like backgrounds is to make sure you’re shooting with your aperture at its lowest setting. In layman’s terms, this means the lens is wide open and allowing in as much light as possible. This will create depth in your image. If you take a portrait of your children in front of the Christmas tree, this setting will turn the ornaments and lights out-of-focus behind them, creating beautiful circles of light called circles of confusion.

If you’re shooting with a DSLR, an optimal aperture setting to accomplish this is f/1.8 or f/2.0, or the next highest number on the F-Stop aperture setting. You can also accomplish this effect with a smartphone, but you need an app that allows you to control the aperture like a DSLR camera.

Tip 3: Get Their Attention

If your subjects are especially young ones such as toddlers, small children or even pets, it may be hard to get them to look at the camera. Of course, the subject’s eyes are the most important part of a photograph, so their attention is necessary when you’re trying to get a good shot. Rather than blurring your image by trying to snap your fingers, clap your hands or do a silly dance to get them to look while you’re taking the picture, wrap a stuffed animal or favorite toy around the lens of your camera to spark their interest and keep them focused on you.

Tip 4: Avoid Flash and Opt for Natural Light

When shooting indoors, look for a location with natural or window light and make sure you turn on all the available lights around the subject. Neighborhoods and homes are always more illuminated around the holiday season, so take advantage of this extra lighting and turn off the flash. Let in the natural surrounding light and embrace the warm, welcoming tones your image will have as a result! If you absolutely need to use flash, try to bounce it by pointing the flash toward the ceiling or soften the flash by putting some tissue paper over it. This technique will reduce the harsh lighting that a direct flash would cause.

Tip 5: Go Candid and Have Fun

The holidays are all about love and cherishing time with your family, so don’t hesitate to let them be silly and have fun while you take photos. If they let loose and laugh a bit, you’ll be able to capture those natural, in-the-moment smiles that make any photograph special and more memorable. Candid moments, especially when your subjects are not aware you are shooting are usually the best shots, so tell them it’s a wrap… and then just keep shooting.

Most importantly, have fun with your holiday photos! You’ll not only cherish the photos you capture but also the memories you made in the process. Share your favorite holiday shots or your own photography tips with us by tweeting Polaroid (@Polaroid) and Polaroid University (@Polaroid_U).

Check out episodes from Polaroid University for even more professional photography tips.