What’s the one thing you need to remember during the Christmas holiday? To hide the sherry? Not to overcook the sprouts? Nope! The most important item to put on your ‘don’t forget’ list is to take photos – and lots of them! All that festive fun with family and loved ones will go by quicker than you can say ‘Pass the mince pies’, but taking photos helps you savour every second forever. Get snapping and you’ll be able to enjoy those moments long after the decorations are down and the kids are grown up.
Whether you’re using your smartphone or camera, we’ve got some really easy ways to improve your photos so you’ll get your best Christmas shots ever. We asked photographer and Jessops expert Niall Stansfield what his top tips are for taking great pics, and how we can avoid the most common pitfalls.
Always be ready to take a photo! One classic mistake we’ve all made is to forget to capture the preparations – you’ll often get better photos at this point than when things are in full swing. The Christmas table just after it’s been set, gifts under the tree, Aunt Mabel peeling the potatoes… it’s a jolly good idea to take snaps before the chaos descends, because once the unwrapping and eating begins, it won’t look quite the same! Look out for photo opportunities and take as many as you can.
Niall says using the focus on your phone can give added definition to your photos. ‘On your screen, touch the area you want to focus on, and the exposure will be adjusted from that point, which will give sharper definition and a more dramatic feel,’ he advises.
Christmas is often a rare opportunity to take snaps of the family all together – but sometimes, it makes the worst photos! ‘The most common mistake we make? Making people pose too much,’ says Niall, who recommends instead trying to take photos of loved ones while they’re simply enjoying themselves. That way, you’ll be more likely to capture the atmosphere. ‘Candid images are more natural and look nicer. If you spend too long posing people, they get bored – and it shows!’ says Niall. You can still try to get them to smile and laugh, though – tell them your worst cracker jokes and capture their response.
If you’re taking photos of the kids as they rip open presents, try switching your phone’s camera to burst mode as it’ll increase your chances of capturing a shot that shows the excitement of the day.
The flash is not your friend when it comes to capturing Christmas ambience. ‘Wherever possible, keep the flash off – it can kill the atmosphere in an instant,’ explains Niall. Flash photography can turn out over-exposed, and Gran won’t look her best with red eye or looking like a deer caught in the headlights. Instead, use natural light as much as possible.
If it’s dark outside, soft room lighting will usually give you the effects you want – no need for harsh overhead lights. You can also consider increasing your camera’s ISO settings to make your camera more sensitive to light, but keep in mind that the higher the ISO, the grainier the photo will be. ‘Of course, sometimes, the flash can’t be avoided,’ says Niall. ‘If you’re using it, stand a bit further back from your subject than feels natural so you don’t bleach out any colour or blind anyone!’
Christmas may be a big event but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t capture the smaller details. A single decoration on the tree, the frost on a window pane, crumpled up wrapping paper on the floor… these shots can be just as effective as your more obvious ones. And of course, no festive photo album is complete without images of the star of the show: your Christmas tree.
To get the best tree photo, says Niall: ‘Turn on your rule of thirds grid, normally found in the camera settings on a phone, and make sure your verticals are straight, as well as your horizons.’ Niall says that as well as touching your smartphone screen to focus, it’s also worth using the slider to control the brightness that appears on many phone models.
At this time of year, we’re all trying to capture the most mouthwatering images to post on Instagram, and there are a few things that can make your food pictures even better. Firstly, don’t clutter the background. As a rule, a neutral background will show the food at its finest, while bright colours will detract from it. Think about where the knives and forks are and move any unwanted glasses or plates out of shot before you take your photograph.
Natural light will also help to make your food look its best, and Niall suggests experimenting with different angles – take your photograph directly above your plate to capture a pattern, or get the food at camera level so every delicious element can be seen. Niall’s top tip for taking Christmas food photos? ‘Try not to eat it first!’
‘Attempting to include everything in your photo is one of the most common mistakes for people taking photos as Christmas,’ says Niall. Including everything can be a bit overwhelming to the eye, which leads to an underwhelming and dull image. So before you take your photo, check your surroundings and what’s in the frame. You may need to get closer than you think. ‘You may want a picture of Grandpa in a Christmas hat, but if you’re not careful, you can end up losing the impact because the surroundings are too distracting,’ says Niall.
Finally, Christmas isn’t just about everyone else – you need to be involved too, so make use of your camera’s self-timer so you can get in on some of the shots. You could also try setting your camera up and leaving it in one part of the room, then keep going back to it to take a shot at different points during the day. Or, if your camera has the capability, set it to take a shot at allotted intervals so you can forget about it altogether and just enjoy the day. By bedtime, you should have an interesting time-lapse sequence that documents part or all of Christmas day.
1. Get them printed and send them to all your friends and family. At Jessops, prints cost as little as 6p. Click here to order.
3. Make a Christmas photo book. Everyone will love browsing through it in years to come. You could even make it a new festive tradition and make a photo book every year. Choose from a whole range of photo books, including this fabulous soft-cover version
4. Make them into ‘thank you’ cards or even next year’s Christmas cards. Make your own greetings cards with your favourite photos and let someone know how much you appreciate them!
5. Design a Christmas T-shirt and send one to everyone! This is certainly one way of making this Christmas one that’s never forgotten! Order today!
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