I've dedicated previous posts on providing tips for taking holiday portraits, so I'm not going to waste your time telling you what we've already discussed. If you're looking for tips for improving your portraits, especially those taken during the holidays, type portraits into the search box and the top, right side of this page. Doing that should bring up previous posts that were focused on the subject. I thought today's post I would highlight some of my favorite portraits I took over the last few days. Pictures of my best and cheapest subjects... my family.
As we did last year, we spent the holidays with family in El Dorado Hills, CA. It's a about 30 minutes past Sacramento on the way to Lake Tahoe. Well, I had lots of plans to take some landscape shots in nearby areas, but of course one of my main priorities this time of year is to take photos of the family, and especially the kids. Anybody with kids knows how fast they grow up and having new photos of them every year will help you remember how young, cute and awesome they were before they turned into the little terrors they are today. Even if you're kids are totally ugly, you'll want photos. I took pictures of these same kids last year, but I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to capture them again. The most beautiful family holiday photo is the photo that captures what your kids or family members are like now... this year. What is the "now" for your family? Do you have little ones who run around everywhere? If so, consider a photo like that for your photos, cause in the next few years your "now" will look very different. Capture something about today that will be unforgettable to not only you but your family!
When I'm hanging out at the house I usually have a plate of food in one hand and a drink in the other, but I never know when a great photo opportunity will pop up, so I always keep my camera close. I think it drives my family crazy, cause it's always near by... usually on the kitchen table, in front of the TV or hanging on the coat rack. You can be sure wherever it is, it will be in the way. I also always make sure when I'm just hanging out that my batteries are charged and the lens I want to use is on the camera. During this trip I mostly had my Sigma 50mm f/1.4 on my camera while I was in the house. It's a great lens to use in doors cause it's wide aperture can almost see in the dark, so I can still get sharp photos in relatively little light. I also always had my Canon Speedlite 580ex on my camera. Again, it's not used all the time, but I want it ready to go when I do need it. I actually found myself using it a lot this year. An off camera flash is one of those things that you don't realize how much it will benefit your photos until you start using it. Try it, you'll like it.
If you remember last year, I actually set up a studio in the garage and took portraits on a backdrop, with a full lighting set up and even snacks! This year I decided to go more causal. Don't just plan on taking photos around the tree or at some fancy family dinner. You never know when you'll have a great opportunity. I literally took my camera with me when I took the dogs outside for a pee, or when we hit the malls for those after Christmas sales. I just took my camera around with me and took photos when the mood hit, or found myself in a moment I really wanted to capture. Below are a few of my favorites from the week. No rules, nothing set up, just took 'em when I felt like it. I got some good shots and I know the family is really happy to have the photos, even if they think I'm really annoying at the time.
So I don't want to leave you without offering a tip. Some great kernel of knowledge that makes the last two minutes of reading worth it. Okay... here it goes. DON'T TELL YOUR SUBJECT TO SMILE!! Seriously, there's nothing that generates a faker, more uncomfortable, unnatural smile than to tell somebody to smile. Say something else... anything. I used i know a photographer that would have her subjects say "fuzzy pickle." When I'm taking pictures of kids, I usually include the word "fart" somewhere in my request. That always gets a laugh, cause come on... farts are funny. Anyway, try it. Say something that will illicit a nature smile rather than a forced, uncomfortable one. Oh, and when taking a family holiday photo, get everyone to close the gaps by getting as close as they can to each other. If you can see any background between two people (or worse crazy Uncle Bob), have them get in closer, tighter, for a more affectionate feel.