Nov. 29, 2008 -- I bet you're planning to take plenty of family photos this holiday season. Will you take the same ole washed out pictures? Will your kids once more look like little devils with their red eyes? Or do you want to knock the family's socks off?
OK. No one is going to lose their socks over Christmas photos, but you can still take wonderful Yule pictures. Spend a little time with your camera's manual and these tips. You might actually impress your friends and family.
Take Photos Outside
Indoor lighting can trick your camera. Low-light photos appear overly warm and yellowish. Flash washes out subjects and causes a cold, bluish tint.
So, take your photos outside when possible. Morning or late afternoon light is the most flattering. Then, use the camera's flash to eliminate shadows on subjects' faces.
To capture Christmas lights, shoot in the evening before it gets dark. This will help you properly expose your photographs. You'll see both the lights and your subject clearly.
Snow can interfere with your light meter. I recommend you visit Phoenix at Christmas to avoid the snow! Perhaps that isn't practical. If not, overexpose your shots a couple of steps. Take several exposures to improve chances of a good shot. Better yet, frame your photos to minimize the snow.
A polarizing filter will eliminate glare from eyeglasses. Or, ask your subjects to remove their glasses.
Fill the Frame
Distracting backgrounds are the bane of many photographs. So, fill the frame with your subject. This draws viewers' eyes to the subject.
Of course, you'll want to capture some of the background. So, use background (or foreground) elements to frame your subject.
Shoot in Aperture Mode
Many people don't pay attention to aperture, or lens opening, size, but doing so will greatly improve your shots. I recommend using your camera's aperture-priority mode for your photos.
You can adjust the size of the lens opening for effect. Use a small aperture (large f-stop) for photos at the dinner table. Guests seated far away will appear just as clear as those seated nearer.
Large apertures (small f-stop) blur the foreground and background, creating a narrow focus range. Distracting backgrounds are minimized. You can capture Christmas lights for a pleasingly blurry background.
Take candid photos
Use continuous (or burst) mode to capture the kids opening gifts. That way, you won't miss a single candid moment. If possible, use a tripod and set the camera to take pictures periodically. Some newer cameras incorporate intervalometer functions for taking shots at timed intervals. Otherwise, you'll need an intervalometer. Remotes for advanced cameras sometimes include intervalometers. Expect to pay upward of $100.
Keep portraits simple
Talk to your subjects while you photograph them. This will help them relax. Your photographs will reveal your subject's personality.
Don't be afraid to get on the ground. Shoot kids at eye level. You'll get natural shots with a better perspective of facial expressions.
Leave a camera on a tripod and photograph guests as they arrive. Guests can also take self-portraits throughout the day. Keep the background simple yet festive.
Plan group photos
A little planning does wonders for group shots. Start by scouting out a location where your guests will fit. Make sure the background isn't distracting.
Take group photos early on in the celebrations. Your guests will look their best.
Put tall people in the back or in the middle of a single row. Start shooting while your subjects arrange themselves for more relaxed photos. Use continuous mode to take plenty of photos.
If you want to be in the photo, use a remote shutter release. You can take multiple photos easily. Make sure the remote isn't visible in the shot.
Don't forget before and after shots
Take plenty of pictures throughout the day. This increases your chance of getting good ones. And take pictures before and after the celebrations. These shots will add to your memories.
Finally, don't spend too much time behind the camera. Take time to enjoy the holiday!
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about computers and the Internet. To get the podcast or find the station nearest you, visit: www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim's free e-mail newsletters, sign up at: www.komando.com/newsletters. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.