Breaking News Bar
updated: 12/3/2013 10:22 AM

Learn from the pros: How to take memorable holiday pictures

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Santa Claus listens to Owen Arnold, 3, of Riverwoods as he tells him what he wants for Christmas at Westfield Hawthorn Shopping Center in Vernon Hills. Avoid shooting the standard picture of everyone smiling at the camera and wait for the better moment when children interact with Santa Claus and capture a memory that will last much longer.

       Santa Claus listens to Owen Arnold, 3, of Riverwoods as he tells him what he wants for Christmas at Westfield Hawthorn Shopping Center in Vernon Hills. Avoid shooting the standard picture of everyone smiling at the camera and wait for the better moment when children interact with Santa Claus and capture a memory that will last much longer.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • ON THE COVER: Joshua Black sits covered in lights near the Christmas tree in St. Charles. When shooting photos using Christmas lights, make sure that your flash exposure does not override the ambient light coming from the lights.

       ON THE COVER: Joshua Black sits covered in lights near the Christmas tree in St. Charles. When shooting photos using Christmas lights, make sure that your flash exposure does not override the ambient light coming from the lights.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • There is something about putting a Santa hat on a pet cat or dog during the holidays that brings a sense of joy to your heart, no matter how much they hate them. Just shoot fast, at their level and try to fill the frame to get a better picture.

      There is something about putting a Santa hat on a pet cat or dog during the holidays that brings a sense of joy to your heart, no matter how much they hate them. Just shoot fast, at their level and try to fill the frame to get a better picture.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Brothers Justin, left, and Joshua Black of St. Charles pose for a portrait outside. When shooting family portraits for holiday cards, find a nice outdoor location with unassuming backgrounds and plan to shoot the photos earlier in the season rather than later when the weather turns nasty.

       Brothers Justin, left, and Joshua Black of St. Charles pose for a portrait outside. When shooting family portraits for holiday cards, find a nice outdoor location with unassuming backgrounds and plan to shoot the photos earlier in the season rather than later when the weather turns nasty.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Nathan and Erin Boucher of Tower Lakes play with decorations for a Christmas picture. Shoot from a completely different angle for a creative viewpoint and play with pictures in Photoshop or other computer photo editing programs by using the art features to make for an imaginative Christmas card.

      Nathan and Erin Boucher of Tower Lakes play with decorations for a Christmas picture. Shoot from a completely different angle for a creative viewpoint and play with pictures in Photoshop or other computer photo editing programs by using the art features to make for an imaginative Christmas card.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Christian Widelski, 2, of Lake Zurich, touches a light on a decoration at Lake Zurich's annual holiday tree lighting at Breezewald Park. Natural light makes for the best picture so try to avoid using flash at these events and move your subjects closer to the lights or candles. You will have to change your ISO to 1600 or 3200 for the low light exposure.

      Christian Widelski, 2, of Lake Zurich, touches a light on a decoration at Lake Zurich's annual holiday tree lighting at Breezewald Park. Natural light makes for the best picture so try to avoid using flash at these events and move your subjects closer to the lights or candles. You will have to change your ISO to 1600 or 3200 for the low light exposure.
    GEORGE LECLAIRE | Staff Photographer

  • Nathan and Erin Boucher of Tower Lakes dress up for a Christmas picture. Sometimes it's fun to be goofy and playful with kids by adding costumes to create an interesting picture for the holidays.

      Nathan and Erin Boucher of Tower Lakes dress up for a Christmas picture. Sometimes it's fun to be goofy and playful with kids by adding costumes to create an interesting picture for the holidays.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Erin and Nathan Boucher of Tower Lakes pose with Penny, their golden retriever, for a holiday picture. One of the most important aspects of shooting pets and children is to shoot at their level, even if that means laying on the ground.

      Erin and Nathan Boucher of Tower Lakes pose with Penny, their golden retriever, for a holiday picture. One of the most important aspects of shooting pets and children is to shoot at their level, even if that means laying on the ground.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Clare, left, and Addie Hankins pose for a portrait as they play in the snow. It is important to use a lens with a longer focal length, such as a 100 mm or longer, to shoot portraits to soften the background and accentuate the subject.

      Clare, left, and Addie Hankins pose for a portrait as they play in the snow. It is important to use a lens with a longer focal length, such as a 100 mm or longer, to shoot portraits to soften the background and accentuate the subject.
    Chris Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Rolling Meadows resident Joann Grasse spends the holiday with her sons Kyle, 3, and Nicholas, 8, soaking in the colors of the lights at the Rolling Meadows Christmas tree lighting festival. Move the subjects closer to the lights to get a warm glow on the family for a beautiful image.

       Rolling Meadows resident Joann Grasse spends the holiday with her sons Kyle, 3, and Nicholas, 8, soaking in the colors of the lights at the Rolling Meadows Christmas tree lighting festival. Move the subjects closer to the lights to get a warm glow on the family for a beautiful image.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • 17-month-old John Ryan of St. Charles gets a boost from his mother Maria to get a closer look at the tree lights during the annual Christmas Walk in downtown Geneva. The best light at these events come from the available light but that means changing your ISO to 1600 or 3200 to get the moment. The image may be grainier but it will still be a better picture than with a flash.

       17-month-old John Ryan of St. Charles gets a boost from his mother Maria to get a closer look at the tree lights during the annual Christmas Walk in downtown Geneva. The best light at these events come from the available light but that means changing your ISO to 1600 or 3200 to get the moment. The image may be grainier but it will still be a better picture than with a flash.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
By Gilbert R. Boucher II
gboucher@dailyherald.com

The holiday season is a great time to take pictures when everyone is in that joyful spirit. It's fun to take pictures during family gatherings, Christmas pageants and holiday festivals. Parents and friends love to pull out cameras to capture those memorable moments and, with a few tips, the photographs can be even better.

There is an old adage for photographers that "film is cheap," and in this day of digital cards this couldn't be more true. A big difference between professionals and amateurs is that pros shoot a hundred frames to get one great picture and amateurs shoot one picture and think they have it. I never understand why people don't just take 10 pictures at a time because little changes occur with each shot and that could be the difference between a bad image and a good one.

Photography is all about light. Sunlight falling through a window or a soft, cloudy day can do so much to help your picture taking.

Look at your surroundings and notice where the light is coming from and direct your subject toward it. Even holiday lights and candles can provide a nice glow and a wonderful moment.

I like pictures that are natural and I wish everyone would stop telling people to smile for the camera. Wonderful moments are made if you stand back, shoot and let them develop. I hate those pictures at the mall when the child is placed on Santa's lap and they stare at the camera. Smile! Ugh! The best picture is a moment later when the child is aglow asking for their favorite toys and giving Santa a big hug.

Taking beautiful portraits is a little more difficult because it is very awkward for the subjects and very few are comfortable with having their picture taken. A few techniques can improve these images.

Try and shoot someone on a cloudy day when the light is not so harsh. Always pay attention to the background and keep it clean so that there are not any distractions behind them. Far away trees or bushes or lakes are great for backgrounds. Use a long lens, such as a 100 mm or longer, and a low aperture, like f/4 that will reduce the depth of field, and together they will make the background softer. And then shoot lots of pictures. I like to talk to the subject about something funny to distract them from what we are doing.

I prefer shooting with natural light but sometimes you have to a use a flash. Direct flash is terrible indoors. This is a little bit more advanced, but if you can get a flash that tilts upward toward a white ceiling, this will greatly improve your pictures. Attach a white card to the back of the flash so that it bounces a little light at your subject and you will see a world of difference.

The secret to photographing children and pets is to be at their level and to see the world as they do. Get a little dirty and sit or lay down on the floor and enter their world and perspective. Also, shoot fast and shoot often because it takes a lot more pictures to get one that captures their personalities.

Sometimes it's fun to be silly. Grab a Santa suit or reindeer antlers and just have fun while shooting in front of a Christmas tree or out in the snow. Be creative and throw a puppy in an oversized present or stocking and see how they play.

If you get out of your comfort zone as a photographer you will find that the world will open up to you. Take close-ups of a person's hands or feet, shoot upward by laying down and downward by standing on a chair, take pictures of just a persons face, or eyes or mouth. Let the subject move in unconventional poses or wrap themselves around in the scenery around them. Anything to shoot differently.

I discovered a photography book recently and I have been recommending it to everyone. It is titled "The Unforgettable Photograph" by George Lange and it offers 228 ideas, tips and secrets for taking great pictures. The author takes little tips, like those offered here, and uses his pictures to illustrate the concepts. It is a great gift for the holidays.

Share

Interested in reusing this article?

Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.

The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.

Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Name * Company Telephone * E-mail *

Message (optional)

Success - Reprint request sent Click to close
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here