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Take better holiday photos

Written by Digicamhelp Editor

Here are some simple tips to help turn routine family holiday photos into works of art.

Thankgiving dinnerDuring the holidays, the family is gathered and it’s your job to capture the proceedings with your camera. Here are some simple tips to help turn routine family holiday photos into works of art.

In many ways, holiday pictures are no different than pictures taken at other times of year. The same rules of composition and exposure apply, so be sure you’re up on those aspects of picture taking. Review some articles right here at Digicamhelp. Once those are second nature, you can then concentrate on the following:

Get inspired

See what others have done with their holiday photos to make them outstanding. Visit a photo sharing web site like Flickr and do a search on a particular holiday to pull up photos tagged with those search terms. Click “Interesting” to see the most popular photos in that category.

Capture candid expressions

christmas-smileThe holidays are times that are filled with emotion and sentiment. Anticipate the emotional reactions of your subjects and try to catch them as they happen – laughter, surprise, delight and wonder.

Mix it up

Variety is the spice of life and it also jazzes up a collection of photos. Vary the angles that you shoot from. Get up high. Get on the floor (especially if you’re snapping a child or a pet). Zoom out. Get in close. Move around.

To flash or not to flash?

For the most part, the best photos are taken with available light with the flash off. If your gathering spot doesn’t supply enough light without creating blurry images, you can minimize the harsh shadows and red-eye produced by your on-camera flash in one of several ways.

If you have a flash unit that allows you to rotate or pivot the flash head, do it. Flash bounced off a wall or ceiling produces softer, more natural looking light.

Bounce cardIf you’re stuck with the camera’s built-in flash, you can either position a white index card under the flash and bend it upward to direct light toward the ceiling, or tape a layer or two of tissue paper over the light to soften it. If you’re modifying your camera’s flash with a bounce card or tissue, be sure to test it out beforehand. You don’t want to be caught making adjustments while the action is going on around you.

Getting good group shots

Finally got all the relatives in one place at one time? Congratulations. To make the most of a shot with everyone from Aunt Sue to Cousin Jack, try these tips:

Position your group into a slight semi-circle facing toward the center, rather than stand them in a straight line. Besides looking more interesting, you’ll save on space, and possibly be able to squeeze more people into the shot. You can also position people farther from the center to stand slightly behind the person next to them, overlapping them to buy more room if needed.

If you can’t fit everyone into one row, arrange concentric rows of people by height. Kids and shorter subjects in front, medium height folks in the center and tall people in back, if you need a third row. If a couple gets split, simply have the taller half of the couple stand behind the shorter of the two. Instruct everyone to position themselves to get a clear view of the camera, so no one’s head is partially hidden behind another.

Getting up on a chair or stool and shooting downward at the group also helps reveal everyone’s face. Take several shots to decrease the odds of catching blinkers. To keep folks from bolting after the first picture, tell the group before the first snap that you’ll be taking several shots. There is no guarantee that it will work, but at least you’ll have several others in the group helping you call defectors back into the picture.

A little thought and planning ahead of time can go a long way toward making your holiday picture taking less stressful, more productive and conclude with a bounty of better results.


  • In the past I’ve just pointed and clicked the camera and off I go – but I agree taking the best holiday picture with the best camera is worth it to remember those excellent moments on holiday