Your holiday to-do list is long: gifts, cards, food, décor, activities before, during, and after each holiday. It’s a long season, and yet it seems to fly by in an instant, leaving you standing in January like the John Travolta Pulp Fiction meme, looking and feeling kind of lost and wondering what happened.
How can you enjoy your holidays and also document your holiday festivities, so when the new year rolls around, you have good – or even great! – photos to help you relive the magic? And how can you do all that while also making sure you’re included?
The answer? Plan ahead!
Think about the holiday activities you want to document – old traditions or new ones you want to start – and where those activities take place. Consider your role in each of those activities and the equipment you might need. Are you using a camera or a phone? Do you have a tripod or support system for your camera or phone so you can be included in some of the photos? An empty coffee cup on a table or counter can actually be an effective phone holder if you don’t have a tripod. Choose a mug that will hold your phone snuggly.
Practice ahead of time and know how your settings work. Set the timer and practice running to your seat at the table. Set up voice command apps on your phone to help you take a photo from across the room (more on that later). Figure out how the Live Photos feature on your iPhone works to get as many options as possible for those gift-ripping moments. If your pictures often come out blurry, try out a flash.
As you get closer to the activity, make sure your devices are charged and have storage available.
During your planning, set aside specific times during activities for photography, and then be prepared to put aside the camera to enjoy yourself. You don’t need to document every second of every holiday this season; think strategically about what you want to photograph and plan for that.
But what should you photograph? Think about what you want to remember later. How your toddler opened six gifts and then played with a box. What Grandma’s famous pecan pie looked like, both before and after everyone devoured it. Babies meeting extended family for the first time.
Instead of simply taking pictures to document the holiday itself, think about the emotions of the holiday, and try to capture those. Their look of surprise at a great gift, the pride of a well-cooked holiday dinner, or the shared hilarity of a badly burned turkey. Embrace candid photos during the holidays, along with the obligatory group photo.
How can you make sure your photos are the best they can be? Here are a few pro tips:
- Open window coverings to let in natural daylight and turn off overhead lights, which cause dark circles around the eyes and can cast a yellow, unnatural glow in photos.
- Use different angles to help you tell a more complete story. Photograph from above, below, up close, and far away.
- Try the rule of thirds: Turn on the grid on your phone or camera screen (Settings > Camera > Grid), and align your subject along one of the lines or at the intersection of two lines.
- Move closer to your subject with your body, instead of swiping your screen with your fingers to zoom in closer. Your photo quality will be much better!
- Don’t forget – you deserve to be seen in holiday photos! You’re part of your family, and you should be seen enjoying the holidays with your family, not just on the outside documenting the holidays for your family. Try a tripod or coffee mug. If you’re using a DSLR camera, check the interval timer in your camera settings, which will take a set number of photos over a set amount of time. If you’re using an iPhone, Say Cheese for Siri (in your Shortcuts app) helps you take a picture from across the room with a voice command. You can also use the timer feature with your phone camera.
- Encourage your family and friends to take photos, too! Not only so that you can be included, but also so their perspective of the holiday is captured. This has the added bonus of helping you stay present because all of the pressure to document the holiday won’t fall solely on you. You can also assign different family members the role of photographer during specific activities. Just warn them ahead of time so they can practice!
After your holiday celebrations, how will you make sure the photos are seen and appreciated – not buried on a computer or in the Cloud?
- Print your best photos and hang them in your house, on the fridge, or in a holiday collage on the wall that you can update each year. Kids love to see themselves in photos on display. There are lots of resources to print digital images these days. Richmond Camera is a great local option for this, or you can visit Parabo Press or mpix.com online for printing options. While drug stores seem convenient for prints, the color and tones are not always accurate and the paper is lower quality.
- Create a book of your photos with a service like Cluster or Mixbook, both inexpensive options that will let the kids flip through the pages without giving you extra anxiety. Cluster allows all members of your group to share photos that can easily be combined into one book.
- You might start a new tradition of making a digital slideshow with your holiday photos, and then showing the slideshows from past years during holiday festivities.
I hope these tips will help you capture some amazing holiday moments this season that you’ll be able to enjoy for generations. While it’s tough to add to your holiday task list, planning ahead and practicing will help you feel more comfortable and confident during the holiday season, so you can capture fun photos without getting flustered.
Oh, and don’t forget to get that classic group photo!