1. Get the supplies in and ready
Turkey – check! Toblerone – check! Memory cards – check! Batteries – check! Nothing worse than finding your card is full just as Gran re-enacts the winning dance from Strictly! Or the flashing battery sign that means the camera is out of operation for several hours charging.
And why not buy a second memory card, so you don’t have to wait to download or delete photos. They’re so cheap now it would be rude not to!
2. Get up out of your seat
Whilst the scene might look good from where you are, there’s a high probability it’ll look even better from somewhere else. Move in closer and get facial expressions, go around and get the person and the onlookers in the same shot, go further back to get the main subject surrounded by the rest of the family.
3. Get down to child’s-eye-level, or even below
“Look up Johnny! Up here! Look at the camera. Now smile….”
As we look down on the kids and ask them to ‘gurn’ up at the camera it’s no wonder we end up with so many shots of their bonces, or false cheesy grins.
Try getting down on the floor – then you don’t have to interrupt their natural excitement as they play with or unwrap their presents. See their smiles as they naturally happen. At their level. From the vantage point that they see the world. They won’t be down there for much longer!
There are times you know in advance that a great photo moment is going to happen. That extra special present is being opened, or the silly gift that’s a bit of an in-joke. Imagine you’re a big-game hunter stalking your photographic prey – get ready beforehand by moving to the best spot, camera poised and at the ready. But do also keep the camera close to hand for those unexpected moments.
5. Turn off the flash
Most point-and-shoot cameras have a little flash that fires off automatically. And it makes for a pretty nasty photo – washed out, bluish looking faces, with bright foreground and dark background. So turn off the flash. (Normally a button or a menu option with a sign) And what if it’s too dark? Then try and get the natural light from windows, or light coming from table lamps to fall on the person or scene.
6. Hold it steady
Blurry images are sometimes the fault of a shaky camera. And now you’ve turned your flash off it’s even more important you hold it as still as possible. Holding the camera at arms length, out in front of you, will exaggerate any shakiness.
Try to pull the camera into your body, elbows tucked into your sides. Or even rest the camera against the back of chair, on the floor, or against a doorframe.
7. Try the secret sauce
The one thing that most people associate with a professional photo is a small depth of field.
A small ‘what of what’?! You know, when one thing is in focus and all the rest is softly blurry. And even many point and shoots can do this, you just need to switch your camera from automatic everything to something called ‘Aperture priority mode’, normally marked A or AP on a dial or menu. (If there is no AP mode see if it has a ‘Portrait’ mode, it does the same thing.) You can then choose an F stop. If you want to know the technical stuff read this, but all you need to know for now is that a smaller F number will mean more blurry goodness.
You can choose what to have in focus, normally by positioning a box shown on the screen of your camera, that tells you what it’s picking. Try something close to you first off. Play around and try it – you’re on holiday, and the only thing on TV is a Bond re-run. (One added bonus of the ‘secret sauce’ is that the small F number will let more light into the camera and so compensate for having turned the flash off.)
One of the reasons the secret sauce works is it reduces all the nonessential clutter in the image. Another way to simplify your photo is to carefully choose where to take your photo. If the background is full of ‘stuff’, move to a spot where the background is less distracting. Or try making artistic use of the ‘stuff’ – if the foreground is full of wrapping paper try getting down low so you shoot across the top of it.
9. Don’t forget the details
What do you remember from Christmases gone by? Do you recall the decoration fashions? (‘Angel Hair’ on trees anyone?) The gifts? That special ham that Dad cooked once?
All those little details could look great, put together with other photos in the book prize we’re giving below. So don’t ignore the little things. Get them snapped as well.
10. Know when it’s time to put the camera down
We love keeping a record of our family fun times for posterity. Yet if we spend all our time with cameras in our hands we miss joining in, and adding to the very moments we want to capture.
Vince & Naomi