Holiday Photo Tips

Tis the season for holiday decorating, overeating, over spending and family gatherings.  If you’re like most Americans, you will most likely be toting a camera around with you on these occasions.  How do you capture these moments and what are the best tips from the pros?  Lucky for you I have some great tips for even the most beginning novice.

You don't need the whole tree in there to get they're in front of the tree.

Don’t have a super fancy DSLR?  No worries, the point and shoot cameras that are available today take some really amazing pictures. Even I don’t carry around my big pro camera to family functions, I carry my small Canon Powershot.  The first tip I tell everyone is to READ YOUR MANUAL!  Get to know your camera and the different settings.  For example, you should be able to switch between having the flash fire automatically or turn that baby off.  If you want a moody shot of the neighborhood Christmas lights, you obviously don’t want the flash going off automatically, you need to know how to turn the flash off.

Decide what is your subject.  This is a HUGE one that I tell people all the time, especially my parents.  Every time my parents come back from a trip there are always pictures of my mom, about the size of an ant, the huge skyline, the trees, cars, etc all in one picture.  What is the focus?  If you’re going to do a scenic photo, take the people out, if you want a photo of a person, make them the star and don’t worry about all that scenery.  Too often I see holiday pictures with the huge Christmas tree, the stockings hung, and the kids in about 1/4 of the photo.  Trust me, if your kids are the star of the photo and take up 75% of the frame, the viewer still understands and sees they’re in front of the Christmas tree, you don’t need all 8 feet of the tree in there.

Get creative with your shots!

Be creative. We always try to do something different with our holiday pictures, whether its a fun picture of the kids wrapped up in a ton of Christmas lights, just a picture of their feet in front of the fire, or funny angles of their toys.  That’s the joy of the digital age, you can take as many pictures as you want, so go ahead and be creative!
And finally… edit edit edit.  I am a AVID believer in editing.  We have way to many pictures stored on our hard drives these days.  We didn’t use to have 150 pictures from Christmas, maybe a roll of 36 exposures right?  Just because we took the picture does not mean we have to save it.  We don’t need a picture of every toy that was opened, or the back of the kids when they were playing with their cousins.  Instead edit the pictures down to a solid 30-40 pictures that represent this holiday season best and get them into an album of some sort.  Whether is an online album to share with friends and family or a printed album get them off the computer and into a place that your children can look at!  Don’t hand them a hard drive when they’re all grown, get these memories in print.

The Photo Addict runs a retail photography studio location in Fullerton, Ca.

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Toddler + Breakable Ornaments = ???

Mouse is one inquisitive dude. He is constantly exploring, testing, and problem solving. Train Guy is pretty positive he’s going to grow up to be an engineer because of the way he observes everything and then takes it all apart to see how it works. So it’s no surprise that he was absolutely enchanted by the Christmas tree, and by “enchanted” I mean “desperately wanted to figure out how that thing lights up and how all of those pretty ornaments feel in his hand.”

Bad cell phone pic of Mouse's creative problem solving

Like here’s an example of his problem-solving capabilities. We have some portable fencing that we use for our dogs on camping trips. We thought we would set up the tree all nice and pretty, and then surround it with the dog fence and make it Mouse-proof. It seemed like a great idea, and at first it totally worked. Mouse saw the tree, and after several rounds of “Wow! WOW!” he proceeded to conduct a very thorough investigation of the fencing to figure out how to get around it. Finding nothing, he quite simply resorted to hopping onto one of his ride-on toys and ramming the fence outright. I was laughing so hard all I could get was a crappy cell phone picture, but I had to admire his creativity.

I’m pretty damned proud of his sense of adventure and desire to learn and experience everything around him, but sometimes it’s not the safest course of action. Still, I wouldn’t change his natural sense of curiousity for the world.

Anyway, Train Guy and I collect Christmas ornaments and have gathered many from all over the world. Putting the truly breakable ones on the actual tree was clearly a bad idea, but I still wanted to display them.

From L to R: an antique ornament handed down from my grandmother, a Waterford crystal Snoopy, and a hand-painted ornament from Germany

Then I had a brainstorm. Why not buy a garland, string it up out of reach, and then hang our nice ornaments from there?

I headed over to Michaels to grab an artifical garland as well as a string of lights to make it all snazzy. Oh, an important thing to know is that I have these bursts of creating brainstorming quite frequently. A good 50% of the time they don’t work out at all. About an additional 25% they work, but not quite like I imagined them. I often run into several roadblocks along the way. This was no exception.

My first challenge was the fact that the garland was 9 feet long while the string of lights was only 7 feet. Yes, I could have purchased a longer string of lights, but these were on sale and I’m pretty cheap, so I bought two strings, thinking I could double up and make it all nice and pretty. Problem solved!

Back at home, I hit problem #2, which was that the two strings of lights I’d purchased did not, in fact, connect end-to-end to make one long continuous string. That would be the expensive lights I put back on the shelf thinking I was so clever by getting two cheaper strings. And since we only had one outlet to work with, I had to figure something out. I thought about cutting the end off the garland to make it shorter, but it’s made of this thick wire and I wasn’t sure where the wire cutters were in the first place (the garage, I presume, except the garage is sort of a hazardous area right now).

Voila!

But then it occurred to me to just bend the edges back, one foot on either side. And voila! A 7 foot garland to match my 7 foot light strand. Now I have to take the unused lights back to Michaels, but oh well. I worried about additional setbacks, but much to my delight, there were none! I managed to string the garland across two windows in our dining room, hang my nice ornaments out of reach, and they all looked quite good.

Go me!

So if you’re looking for a way to display breakable ornaments out of reach of toddlers, or just have extra ornaments you want to show off–here’s your solution!