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5 Tips for Taking Awesome Photos of Your Family Over the Holidays

Holidays reach across cities, states, and even continents—gathering our loved ones from near and far to be together again.

Day-to-day life is replaced with a certain magic in the air as we see the light of anticipation in our children’s eyes. Children go to sleep with smiles on their faces, thinking and dreaming of what will be under the Christmas tree, while parents try to assemble the new bike before sunrise. What better reasons are there to capture your family throughout the year?

Five Tips for Awesome Holiday Family Photos: How to Capture the Magic and Wonder of the Season


1. Identify the Three Storytelling Elements

You want to refuse to “say cheese” and instead look for the three different storytelling elements when documenting your family. Holidays can cause us to overshoot because there is so much we want to hold on to, from family gatherings to holiday crafts. But when we overshoot, we often feel that much more overwhelmed when trying to pick favorites to print. Instead, save yourself from having hundreds of holiday photos to sort through by first identifying what the storytelling elements are and then shooting for those.

2. Do The POV Dance

People often find one place to stand and take all their photos without ever moving their feet. Think of shooting as more of a dance. As you look for your three storytelling elements, consider the different points of view for what you’re shooting. Step back and go wide for the setting photos, but then get in close and tight when shooting defining details—and then repeat the dance all over again by getting up high or down low.

3. Meet The Resistors Halfway with a Plan

Every family has members who resist the group photo. Meet these resistors halfway by having a plan for the photos to happen at a specific time with a time limit to be grateful for their cooperation. When people see you being proactive and sensitive to their feelings, they’re much more apt to cooperate.

4. Find Inspiration from Magazines

If you were photographing your holiday for a magazine feature, what types of photos would you want to show? Look to your fa¬vorite magazines for inspiration. Notice how the people are captured. Are they looking at the camera or engaged with one another? Notice how the details are photographed. Did the photographer get super close and fill the frame or stand far away? Building an awareness of what captures your eye in a favorite magazine will directly impact your own shooting.

5. Increase Your ISO

Especially with fall and winter holidays, you may find yourself frequently facing low-light situations. Before shooting, increase your ISO [the level of sensitivity of your camera to available light] to 800, even 1600. This will let more light into your camera, helping you avoid the built-in camera flash or motion blur by giving you sharper, brighter photos.

Adapted from Your Family in Pictures by Me Ra Koh, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Watson-Guptill, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photo Credit: Brian Tausend from Your Family in Pictures by Me Ra Koh.

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