Take Great Holiday Party Photos!

Photo by Picjumbo

By Maggie Kornahrens–

There will be a plethora of cameras and smartphones at every party and soiree in the coming weeks and if you want to capture the spirit of the holidays in fresh and exciting ways, be willing to branch out of the ordinary. Cameras these days are advanced enough so that anybody can shoot great family party photos. Here are a few tips that can take your holiday pictures from ho-hum to ah-ha.

Keep it Simple. Holiday pictures don’t require a fancy DSLR to turn out frame or refrigerator worthy. Plenty of compact point-and-shoots and smartphones are out there that will do a fine job– compensating for lighting indiscretions, balancing color and even adding some cute effects.

If you have a camera that does a lot of setting adjustments automatically, then find a good setting that works for you. Indoor, Low Light, Party, Candle and ISO Priority settings will usually handle all the weird lighting you’ll find.

If you have the know-how when it comes to getting the settings right, then tweak them to your heart’s content. Otherwise, choose settings that work for you and stick with them. Fumbling with modes and settings can cause you to miss  great candid moments.

Photo by Matan Segev

Try to Avoid Using Flash. Holiday lighting can be particularly frustrating to navigate with tree lights and other ornamental illumination. Regardless of what type of camera you use, avoid using the flash if at all possible.

Flash is what causes red eye and, while that is something that can be fixed post-production or even from within your camera, flash can also show up reflected in picture frame glass, mirrors and bouncing off your subject’s spectacles causing general photographic chaos. Worst of all, you end up with pasty-looking faces without much detail.

Capturing the Essence of the Family. A family is a diverse and wonderful thing. Keep it natural, free-flowing and organized. Tight groups of people create their own framing. Plus, people by themselves are interesting enough to look at.

Get a few people– like parents with kids, or groups of cousins or just the grandbabies and photograph them with a fairly neutral background. If a not-so-distracting background isn’t present, focus the camera only on the faces so it blurs out the distractions. Just the hint of lit tree branches or a holiday symbol like a pumpkin or wreath, for example, will be enough to tell the viewer what the celebration was.

Photo by Norbert Mereg

Capture a Unique Perspective. Different angles can make the shot just right. Don’t stick to eye-level composition. Taking a bird’s eye view approach to the subject can keep it fresh and interesting. Or try shooting up from a low angle. Fake your own studio. Clear a space on the living room floor, lay out a festive solid color sheet or blanket, wrap a baby in a scarf, blanket or holiday themed outfit and take a few shots looking down.

Of course, this doesn’t apply just to babies and living room floors; take the camera outside and have the kids pose in the grass or snow below the back porch. Again, holiday pictures don’t have to be all green and red or whatever. A hint of holiday, like a seasonal lawn ornament in the background will suffice.

Break Out Those Embarrassing Props. I’m not suggesting everyone don an embellished holiday sweater, but I am suggesting you utilize this time to force everyone at the party to wear a Santa hat or other suitable garment. Holidays are one of the only occasions where is it excusable and almost required that you get caught up in the spirit of the season.

Photo by Luster

Visit your local Dollar Store, pick up a few props and create your own scene. As stated (and possibly overstated by now) just a hint of holiday will do. There is no reason you have to be holding presents under the tree wearing a Santa hat holding a banner wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Subtlety  sometimes can make a more powerful image.

And if You’re the Subject… The easiest way to look your best in holiday photos is to dress sensibly, look natural and go with the flow. Solid colors always look good in photographs, especially when there are decorations and busy backgrounds to compete with. You want to stand out, not blend in.

If you do, in fact, pose straight on for a camera, don’t do it with your whole body. Turn slightly to profile your body while looking straight at the camera– you’ll look slim and glamorous that way. Keep your head held high. Want to avoid the droopy chin look (don’t we all)? Push your tongue up to the roof of your mouth; doing so engages the muscles in your neck keeping everything tight. Pushing your tongue up against the back of your top teeth will also ensure you don’t force a smile.

Photo by Matan Segev

Print Photos on the Spot. You can be the hit of the party by setting up your printer and outputting your photos on the spot. Many printers are lightweight enough to take them along or just buy a cheapie (many are now under $50) and bring it with you. Use Red River’s Ultra Pro Satin. A 100 sheets of 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 sizes cost only $20 to $25. They’ll print out lightning-fast and everyone will have a great memento to take home.

Happy holidays to you all!

About the Author: Maggie Kornahrens loves photography and writing and currently works as a marketing specialist in Knoxville, TN.

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