Hints For Photographing Holidays and Parties

Just in time for holiday fun, here are a few tips for getting some really great shots.  Let's start out with some basics:

  1. Start with a camera.  OK, that sounds a little sarcastic, but the fact is that the auxiliary phones, ipods, etc., just don't have a great deal of real depth to them.    Those are fine for times when you are on the go and see something that you want to capture, but for more important events, grab your camera.  I suppose that a 'camera' itself will one day be obsolete, but for now, I suggest a real camera.  BTW, I just read that only 'old timers' wear watches, the new generation checks time with their hand held electronic item.
  2. Check that battery condition.  That seems trite as well, but frankly, if you are using a camera with a cell battery, they get a lot of use from a camera.  I know that my first camera did not have a rechargeable battery and I needed 2 or 3 sets (often more) for a special event.  A low battery will take a really bad version of a photo. 
  3. If you are looking at a new digital camera, make sure you get the manufacturer's rechargeable model.  That is an absolute in my book.  It is financially the best option and carrying your recharger will save the day a lot of times.  Before the big day, recharge that battery.  Don't think that because it has a lot of ‘bars' that it will be OK.  If you are on vacation, recharge nightly, you won't regret that!
  4. Start snapping early.  Don't laugh; I am not talking about Uncle Joe who dips into the eggnog too often.  I am talking about getting the event off to a great start by getting groups of people in a casual setting and relaxed.  If the party gets to being a real dud, you have the opportunity to show people photos to get them into a more fun mood.
  5. The early snapshots will be the 'posed' ones that are an obligation.  Later, as everyone starts to get a little more loosened up, you can capture the non-posed photos that are the best photos.  If you check the 'Society Pages,' you will see the more natural smiles in the non-posed items.  You might even see someone making an interesting face toward someone they like/dislike.  It can be very telling.
  6. Don't take photos of people that are unflattering.  There is no way to make these types better, bad behavior is just not complimentary.  Jackie Kennedy-Onassis smoked, but no one wanted to show her in that negative manner.  Choose to take the high road.  It is not interesting now and years from now it still won't be worthy of note. 
  7. Along with item #6, say something nice to your subject just before you take a photo.  For instance, you might tell your sister that she looks particularly pretty today and she will have more of a gleam in her eye.  Capturing a look of appreciation is really becoming for anyone.
  8. Use candle lighting whenever possible.  It can be a warm glow for most of us - and you can adjust any darkening or shadows with your photo software after the event. 
  9. Getting closer to your subject is almost always better. Use your optical zoom to fill the frame. When some people see the camera, they freeze.  Stand back and use the zoom and it can result in realistic and surprising wonderful candid photos.
  10. Use the "Automatic" setting whenever possible.  Taking time to manually adjust a camera can be a headache, and the cameras are very sophisticated these days.  You paid for that technology, let it do its job.
  11. If things are really 'lively,' use the 'sport' setting if available.  Children are likely to be racing around with total glee, those photos are precious.
  12. If you have 'video' on your camera, use it!  However, don't try to take 20 minutes of the party. You will exhaust your batteries and lots of people as they try to stay awake to watch your video.  Try for 1 and 2 minutes of interesting events.  Be selective of 'present opening' videos, not every one of those will be dynamic.
  13. If possible, take photos from the top of a staircase or from a child's eye view.  It really can make a big difference.  Take photos from different angles.  It is more slimming to take a photo from about half way between the front and side of a person. 
  14. Take advantage of natural light, whether shooting outside or in your home.  But, be careful not to take a photo with a window as a background.  Your camera will seek the greatest light as its focusing point.  People can be darkened beyond recognition.
  15. Use your camera's red-eye pre-flash, if available.  It works best for those 'posed' shots.  However, this feature does not allow you to take a candid photo.
  16. When using the flash, make sure you are a minimum distance from your subject.  Flashes that are too close will wash out colors.
  17. Make sure you join the party too.  Being the designated photographer can be fun, but you are a party goer too.

Best wishes to you and yours for a happy holiday season, Pat

And, don't forget to check out the terrific sales here at AnnTheGran, shop where you learn!

Comments (4) -

Great suggestions.  One thing to emphasize on #9.  Use your optical zoom, not Digital zoom.

Additional suggestions

- Buy the best camera you can afford (I love digital SLR's - no lag time between pressing the shutter and taking the photo)

- Practice with your camera before the party.  If you are giving a loved on a camera for Christmas, let them open it a few days early so they have time to learn how to use it.

-- Kayla

thecomputerist 12/19/2009 2:44:36 PM

Kayla - I  agree!    

Your suggestions are terrific.  I was unaware that an SLR has no lag time - something that bugs me a lot!


villalady118 5/8/2010 1:20:54 PM

I'm not sure what a SLR means.  Can I have some brand names sent by email?  I'm excited to learn about layers. I don't understand that at all. Joan

The following tips can be used for both Windows XP and Vista. Operating systems vary, if in doubt, check

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