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Break These 5 Rules for Better Holiday Photos

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Learn which rules to break while shooting to create unique holiday photos.

The holidays are fast approaching, and that means lots of chances for great photos—especially if you’re willing to put a new twist on your traditional picture-taking. The professional photographers at Art’s Cameras Plus suggest getting creative instead of playing it safe—because breaking a few rules can mean creating some truly unique images.

  1. Don’t Say Cheese—holidays are all about feelings, so focus on capturing a real moment in time rather than lining people up for the typical stiff and staged holiday photo. Use loose groupings and snap away as people interact. You’ll find the best photos often happen when all eyes are not on the camera and not all faces have the same forced smile. Go for the natural, intimate, and unpredictable sense of celebrating with families and friends.
  2. Don't Use a Flash Indoors—many people think that a flash is necessary for all indoor photography, but the light from flash units—especially from the tiny built-in ones found on most small cameras and phones—tends to produce harsh, cold and unflattering illumination. So turn off your flash indoors, whenever you can possibly get away with it.

    Instead, position your subjects near natural light from a window during the day, then get between them and the light source—in other words, don't include the window in your frame, as this will throw off your exposure meter. At night, flood the room with indirect light from lamps and/or overhead lights. This will help reduce harsh, flashed-out subjects, as well as other problems like red-eye.
  3. Do Use a Flash Outdoors—surprisingly, a flash can be a big help when it comes to shooting outdoors during the day. Even in bright sunlight, forcing your flash to fire can often mean the difference between a so-so snapshot and an eye-catching image, as a day flash can help fill in shadows and even out harsh contrasts.
  4. Make the Subject Secondary—an easy way to add a special touch to holiday photos is to focus on reflections rather than the object itself. Look for images bouncing off shiny décor or interesting splashes of color reflected from Christmas lights and other decorations. Surfaces slick with ice or snow help create abstract images or use interesting shadows and other graphic elements to your advantage.
  5. Lose the Tripod—knowing that a tripod is a photographer’s most important accessory, it seems strange to abandon it for something as important as a holiday photo. But trust us, for some shots and with some practice, you can create wonderful effects by swirling and blurring colorful lights. Set your camera to a slower shutter speed—anywhere from a half second to two or four full seconds, then purposefully move the camera while taking the picture.

No Such Thing As “Too Many Pictures”

There is one rule that you still need to follow when photographing groups and families for the holidays—you absolutely must take a lot of photos. Memories are made in an instant—we know because we’ve been making memories last through photography for over 50 years. So be ready and never hesitate to jump into a group or get up close and personal. When you put yourself in the moment, you’re more likely to capture it forever.


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