The other day, a friend at work asked me for a few tips for taking better family photos during the holidays. Since I hadn't taken any photos this week, thought I would highlight what I told her in this blog post. There are tons of tips... too many to talk about here, but there are a few that I think will make a big difference. The holidays are a great time to take pictures, so why not try and make them the best you can. Everybody will be glad you took them and you'll look like a hero. You can thank me later.
I'm going to focus on a few things that I think will make the biggest difference in your photos. If you want to talk about exposure, shutter speed and stuff like that, read some of my earlier blog posts. Today's post will highlight simple things you can do to make a big difference in your family photos.
1) Rent a bunch of models and pretend they are your family. This will not only be a lot of fun, but the models will appreciate a paying gig and don't worry... they won't eat a lot. With this option your photos will look beautiful and you'll have really fond memories to look back upon years from now. Now I already live with models (hey, I'm no dummy... that's my story and I'm sticking to it!) but if you're not as lucky, search Craigslist and look for attractive, inexpensive, experienced models who want to work during Christmas. I'm sure there are tons... Good luck with that.
2) Okay, let's assume the model option is out of the question. One of the best things you can do to improve your photos is to consider the environment and your background. Whether your shooting outside or inside you need to watch out for objects in the background appearing to sprout out of the heads of your family. Now if someone in your family actually has something protruding out of their head, you can forget this tip. Inside it might be a lamp, a plant or that machine you have for making meth at home, while outside it’s often trees, street lamps, signposts, or that machine you have for making meth at home... outside. Have a good look around the scene before you take the shot and if necessary move the offending article, recompose the shot or find an alternative location.
3) Another thing to consider is the inside light. Most often, in the winter, there's not a lot of light inside and by the time everyone is ready to eat, it's often dark. One thing to consider is just to go outside. There’s much more light outside and provided you pick an over-cast day, there should be good, even lighting. Alternatively, if you want to shoot at home, try pushing up your camera’s ISO and use a flash or two with the light bouncing of a white ceiling or wall to help spread it out and give soft, even coverage.
4) "Aunt Johnny's eyes were closed!" Something you've probably heard before cause there always seems to be one person with their eyes closed in every picture. The worst part is it's usually the picture that you like the most and everybody looks perfect except Aunt Johnny's with her eyes closed. One solution to this particular problem is to get everyone to close their eyes and then open them when you give the signal – just as you press the shutter release. Of course, you might wind up with some strange, wide-eyed expressions, but that’s part of the fun. Another approach is to take plenty of photographs in the hope that there will be some in which everybody has their eyes open. I usually choose a combination of both approaches.
5) My final tip I've said many times... Make sure you're in some of the photos! Nothing's worse than looking over your photos with the family and realizing that you're not in any of them. Now, maybe you're really ugly and have something sticking out of your head like I mentioned above. In that case it's perfectly fine to keep yourself out of the photos. Assuming you're relatively normal and don't have a plant permanently sticking out of your head, you'll want to be in some of the photos. Get your camera all set up and let somebody else take some, use a tripod and a timer, whatever it takes... just get in some of the photos.
That's it. I'm off to spend the next two weeks with family. Wish me luck! Over the next few weeks have fun, take some great photos (send me the ones with the models) and have a Happy Holidays!