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Holiday Photos Tutorial

Our fabulously talented photographer friend Monica Shulman of Ciao, Chessa! – a blog about art, photography, living in New York City and inspiring things is back with some tips on taking holiday photos! Don’t forget to follow her on twitter!

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

It’s hard to believe that the holiday season is in full swing. I say this to myself every single day and I’m sure that in January I’m going to say that I can’t believe the holidays are over. Why does time fly by so quickly? Maybe it’s simply a function of my profession, or because since I had my daughter I’m a self-proclaimed mamarazzi, but I am one of those people who always has the camera ready to snap photos at any given moment. This is never more true than during the holidays. So, with that in mind, I thought I would put together a very simple list of tips for taking photos of family, friends, your kiddos, if you’ve got any, and pretty much anything else that strikes your fancy during the holidays.

1. Make a list, check it twice.

I used to make a mental list of all the moments I wanted to capture at any given event. Eventually I just started to write it down because let’s face it, the holidays are busy enough, I don’t need to have another 50 things to remember. I don’t go crazy over the list but it definitely helps to get me thinking about what I want to achieve and what I absolutely don’t want to miss like group shots, the food, the tree, the menorah, gifts, whatever it is that is important to you. Put the list somewhere you can see it and be reminded about it — like up on the fridge or next to where ever you keep the wine!

Having said that, don’t get so wrapped up in the list of photos you want to capture that you forget to live in the moment. Enjoy that time and most importantly, have fun…isn’t that part of what the holidays are all about? Last year was my daughter’s first Christmas and all I wanted was a photo of her with her two cousins wearing their matching pajamas. But as with everything else, sometimes things don’t go as planned — when one baby was crying, the other was happy and when one was calm, the other was having a meltdown. Meanwhile, my two-year-old niece was going through what I like to call her “no! pictures! no!” phase. Needless to say, I didn’t get what I thought I wanted but it was fun anyway and looking back, it’s pretty hilarious.

2. Tell a story

Your photos don’t have to be a play-by-play of the entire day but it’s fun when you get the big picture of the event. When you look back at your photographs you want to be able to remember all the big moments of the day as well as all of the details. Take picture of your dad asleep on the couch, take a photo of the kids opening presents, the look on people’s faces when they open your gift, your ornaments, the menorah, the food…all of these things are telling the story of your celebration. While you’re capturing all these fantastic details, try different angles and perspectives to create shots that are unique. Get down on the floor with the kids, stand up on a chair and take a photo of the room and all of the decorations, sit at the table and take a photo of the food. The possibilities are endless.

3. Chase the light

Whenever possible, I prefer to use natural light when I’m taking pictures and during the holidays of course you want to be able to capture the twinkling lights of your tree or menorah or candles on the table. Chase the natural light, whatever or where ever it may be and you’ll get photos that are true to your celebration and the moment. If it’s just too dark to shoot without a flash and your photos are coming out blurry of course don’t worry — you can still get beautiful pictures using a flash. Most people, myself included, want to avoid that washed-out flash-look in their pictures and you can diffuse the light of the built-in flash in your camera quite easily. All you need is a little piece of tissue paper left over from all that beautiful gift wrapping or even a tip of a white napkin — take the paper and secure it over the flash to get a more subdued light. If you still have too much bright white, then you might consider picking up one of these flash diffusers for your DSLR

And finally, just have fun! Last year I spent every holiday party with my new baby worried that she was tired, hungry, cold, too warm, over-stimulated and the list of worries goes on and on. I had all these plans to take so many pictures and the next day when I was looking through my camera I saw that these were really the only ones I remembered to take. They sum up the day and the reality of the moment and now every time I look at them, I crack up.

Happy holidays, everyone!

If you ever need any other photography tips don’t hesitate to ask in the comments, email me or check out my other tutorials.
Copyright Monica L. Shulman

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