For many people, the holidays mark the only time of the year where the entire family—brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, parents and grandparents—are able to gather under one roof. Looking to make the most of your family photos this holiday season? Here are 4 fun holiday photo ideas to help you capture the spirit of the season this year.
Take a Tour around Town Hunting for Christmas Lights
Just because it’s cold, doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun outdoors during the holiday season. Many people string up holiday lights around storefronts and their backyards, and some even go the extra mile to make splendid technicolor holiday displays. Grab the family, get in a van and head around town snapping photos. Don’t have too many fantastic lights in your hometown? Why not try one of these festive locations for some amazing holiday shots? Try the Garden Lights at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Christmas on Main Street in Silver Dollar City, or the Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, CA were all ranked in the top ten for best public light displays in America by USA Today.
Use Depth of Field to Bring Holiday Decorations to Life
The holidays are a great time to practice playing with your camera’s depth of field to bring your subjects, like miniatures, ornaments and other inanimate objects to life. Using a shallow depth of field places emphasis on the subject, with the background fading into aesthetic blur. To achieve this artistic effect you’ll need a fast lens. What makes these lenses fast is the larger aperture (smaller f-number) which lets more light into the camera sensor allowing the camera to use faster shutter speeds. Look for lenses with a maximum aperture of f/4 or more like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 or the Nikon 50mm f/1.8. As these lenses have a short focal length, you’ll have to get in close to reduce your depth of field. For an easier time consider investing in a fast macro lens like this Sigma 105mm f/2.8. The holiday moose above was taken with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 lens. Regardless which lens you own, remember to be mindful of the depth of field and you’ll have a blast taking photos of toys, ornaments and dolls this holiday season.
Obligatory Matching Holiday Sweaters Pic
It’s a long standing joke in the world of sitcoms that matching sweater photos are terrible, but in the real world, a well composed family portrait around the holidays only gains in value over time. While some in the family may protest or cringe at the thought of matching holiday sweaters. Even the most rebellious of teenagers will become an adult one day, and they’ll be grateful that you took the time to gather everyone over the holidays to preserve a piece of their youth in a family album. That said, it may ease said protester’s fears to learn that the awkward family photo has gained new life in social media as a funny rite of passage for being an American, with the search trend for “ugly Christmas sweater” peaking in the last December. Turns out people are wearing them precisely because they are ugly—so get your ugly Yuletide sweater on in this craze the whole family can get into.
Light Paint the Holidays
Ever wonder how people create those crazy photos where they paint messages and draw pictures using light? It’s called light painting and involves using a handheld light to color parts of a scene while filming with an incredibly slow shutter speed, at least 30 seconds long. All you’ll need is a tripod, some holiday lights, and a DSLR camera. Wait until nightfall or find a dark room where you can compose your shot. It may seem counter-intuitive for shooting in the dark, but for this art form you’ll need to turn off any image stabilization, long exposure noise reduction and set your ISO incredibly low in the 100-200 range. Pick an aperture around f/5.6 and adjust accordingly to your desired depth of field. Set your shutter speed to 60 seconds which is ideal for a night under the full moon. Finally focus with the flashlight and lock your focus. Then use the light source to “paint” a pattern around your subject as you take the shot. You’ll need a remote or a friend to help you capture the image. You’ll need to be familiar with shooting in manual mode, but with a little practice, you’ll be painting fun holiday patterns in no time.