December 16, 2011

Guest Post: Improve Your Holiday Photos

With the holidays just over a week away, I'm looking forward to spending a little quality (aka disconnected from the internet) with family and friends. While I will be dropping by my facebook page and the bloggo on occasion, I plan to lay low between now and early January. But fret not my faithful readers, starting today, I have a series of awesome guests posts (and a few pre-planned posts from yours truly) lined up to take you through the 2011 festive season. There'll be tips and tricks, recipes and crafts, family activities and even a little new year's mojo to keep you busy. So, between your socials and sociables, I hope you enjoy this holiday love from me and my friends right here on Us Everyday.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to my first guest blogger, the lovely and talented Brooke Armstrong. Brooke and I go waaaay back (now that we're old, I can actually say that and it's legit!), like to university days. Over the years, Brooke has honed her photography skills into nothing short of spectacular. She has this creative side that instinctively knows how to frame up that perfect shot and this techy side that has figured out the ins and outs of a digital camera. I am jealous on both counts as if I had half the talent she has, my bloggo would be rockin with phenomenal photos...alas I digress. Lucky for you, Brooke has graciously agreed to share with us her tips and tricks for capturing those elusive magical holiday photos.

Stepping Up Your Holiday Photos
by Brooke Armstrong

Christmas is right around the corner and flashes will be firing from the time the kids put out Santa's snack on Christmas Eve, right on through to the frenzy of Christmas morning. Here are a few tips and ideas to step up this year's holiday snapshots.

Get Closer
Closer is (almost) always better. Don't zoom. Move yourself -- and the camera -- closer. Frame your shots tighter to help emphasize the subject. The subject can often get lost in the clutter in shots taken at a wider angle. This is especially important in holiday photos because there's so much going on.

Re-direct Your Flash
A lot of Christmas shots can use a boost from a flash. Often, shots taken with direct flash give you harsh shadows and subjects that look like deer caught in the headlights. You can avoid that blown out look (and ever-present red eye) by using some kind of diffuser or reflector for your flash. If you're lucky enough to have an external flash, try bouncing it off something else, like a white ceiling or wall, to dial down the direct light.

Find One Point of Interest Per Shot
Every good shot should have a focal point that draws (and holds) the viewer's attention. With people, color, decorations, and food in nearly every holiday shot, there can often be too many things competing to be the centre of attention. Check out this post on minimalism for some tips on de-cluttering your images.

A White (Balance) Christmas
Christmas celebrations usually happen after dark -- in difficult and/or unnatural lighting conditions. Pay attention to what type of light you’re shooting in and set your white balance to match the situation. Bonus if you’ve got a camera that shoots in RAW mode -- you can snap away and fiddle with your white balance later during post production.

Capture the Lead Up
The actual Christmas meal or party is likely the highlight you're looking to record. It can be nice to capture food prep, decorating, wrapping gifts (before the pretty paper and ribbons are torn away), setting the table, etc. There are tons of options for unexpected angles and a fresh perspective.

Christmas Lights
Nice shots of Christmas lights can be very elusive. They're tricky, but oh so pretty when you get them right. Visit and check out David Hobby's tutorial on How to Photograph Christmas Lights for some pro tips.

This time of year, there's an almost unlimited number of photo ops around you. Carol services, houses covered in Christmas lights and decorations, malls bustling with hurried shoppers, and snow-covered everything. Get out, walk around, and capture it. It's a great time of year to practice your photo skills and push yourself -- and your camera -- to do things you didn't think possible. Have fun!

Thanks Brooke! If you're interested in seeing more of Brooke's photography, check out the Photo A Day project she did a while back here.


sandy said...

Great tips Brooke!

Lesley Ann Staples said...

great tips for any level photographer.