There are so many tutorials about taking holiday photos, and truthfully, a lot of the tips kind of stress me out, so I thought I’d chime in with mine. I love taking candid photos – I don’t fuss a lot with staging or props. My focus is always on capturing the moment, and of course, putting my camera away so I can enjoy the moment. (Totally guilty of keeping the camera out too long, too. Not claiming to be perfect.) In the quest for a great picture… it certainly takes quite a few outtakes to get one that’s worthy of a photo book, frame or Facebook. However, there are so many things to think about with photography, and keeping it as simple as possible will help you focus on the activity rather than the technical aspects of your photos. Bottom line: I’m not a professional photographer, I’m a mom with a camera that loves photography as a hobby to capture the childhood moments I never want to forget. I doubt my son in 20 years is going to look back and think “the exposure on that photo is way off. Wish you’d used a faster shutter speed. And why didn’t you remove the clutter from the background?” I think it’s tough with blogs and social media – so many people have access to DSLR cameras and take incredible photos, and it’s hard not to compare ours to theirs. In my opinion, photos should have meaning, which is why I love candids. And just have fun with it!
Here are some tips on taking candid photos:
1. If you’re using a DSLR or manual mode camera, take a minute to fix your settings.
I want to focus on composition and capturing the moment, not the technical settings of my camera, so I keep it simple. I use the Fuji x100s, which is being replaced by the Fuji x100T this holiday season, for nearly all of our events. Fantastic in low light, I rarely need a flash, and it’s not as bulky as a DSLR so I carry it in my purse everyplace I go. I also use the Canon t4i, an entry-level DSLR, that I love as well when I need a zoom lens or need to shoot faster.
I pretty much use the following settings: Basically, Aperture Priority mode. I have the camera set to an ISO max of 1600 and then keep the ISO in auto mode. I typically keep the shutter speed in auto as well, unless I’m shooting action shots and need it to be 250 or greater to freeze a moving child. Flash off. White balance in auto in most situations, sometimes I’ll set that if the lighting is particularly yellow, but that’s an easy fix in Lightroom. I shoot RAW. The setting I do switch around is the aperture and of course the focus. When you’re clicking quickly, not having to be concerned with all of the settings on every single shot is key to getting a pretty picture. My goal is to capture a cute photo for memories, one that shows the place and what we were doing.
2. Find the great light.
All of the windows were behind me in this photo, and it’s such a well-lit room, I knew the photos would be pretty. I know enough about lighting now to be able to tell where I should be shooting, and when I’ll need a flash to fill the light. Post processing can help some, but with any photograph, if the exposure settings are spot-on and you have great light, you’ll end up with a gorgeous photo. You want the light to be hitting your subject, not glaring into your lens. Have your back to windows, the sun, etc. if possible and go to the shade if it’s sunny outside to create lighting without harsh shadows which is best for a pretty photo.
3. Capture the details – your subject doesn’t always need a face.
I love capturing some of the details – not only is fun to take a picture of something like a gingerbread house that isn’t moving or talking back to me, those pictures look pretty in photo books and are also part of the memories. For example, I took a lot of “detail” shots at Disney like our dinner at Morocco in Epcot even though my dad thought I was a weirdo, he commented later that he liked those shots in the book because they were a fun part of our experience.
4. Composition: Try different angles and Think (but don’t overthink) the background.
I adore this photo of Thomas looking up at Santa, and I didn’t need to have Santa’s face in the photo because his large red sleeve and beard frames the shot. A lot of photographers will stage photo shoots and remove photos from walls, etc. but I like to hop around and definitely try to steer Thomas over to a spot with a good background – but again, my goal is to take candid shots. I should be the one moving, not forcing my subjects to stop what they are doing for the purpose of my photo. Also, that doesn’t go over so well or make much sense to a 4 year old.
5. Get IN the photos.
Get in front of the lens! Remember to hand your camera to someone else – your kids want pictures with you. I got magnets for our fridge from Instagram photos on Sticky9 (I’m obsessed with these! Use code FRIENDZCDN to get 15% off!) and my son said, “mommy, I want a photo with you in it!” because they were all of him solo or with other people. Our kids will want memories of their mommy, too.
6. Do a little (not a lot!) of editing.
For a long time, I didn’t have Lightroom and didn’t focus on the processing of the photos. Now I love to give them a boost but really like to keep them natural. I really like to brighten up the photos. I use mostly presets from Pretty Lightroom Presets and Nicolesy. I don’t really like over-processed images. My goal is to make them bright, balanced, and real. Sometimes I worry I may be getting to much into the post processing and my photos are looking a little too processed… mostly, because I am not an expert in processing so I just adjust until I like the final. I choose my favorites and just edit those photos.
7. Get a Good Storage Solution.
Oh my goodness… I’m a photo hoarder. There. I admitted it on the internet. I do not delete. I shoot in RAW which means the photos files are ginormous and I have a 4TB Seagate external hard drive (on sale now for $125!! Good deal on Amazon! You can’t have too much storage!) to store my photo collection. Recently, I decided that I really need to also export the finals as JPGs so I have easy access to the final edited photos for photo books, sharing, etc. rather than just share the edited photos online. This workflow has not been perfected. Would LOVE some tips from y’all, if you are a photo hoarder like me!
8. Share & Get prints of your photos.
GUILTY of rarely printing photos. I use a local printer, 803 Labs, that is fantastic. Shutterfly, while convenient, does not even compare. I’m sure there are online printers that will print high-quality photos but I like to support local businesses. They will deliver by mail but I pick them up. I love Flickr, but I have a few reservations about who has access to my photos and I haven’t figured out all of the “creative commons” settings so people can’t use them, and usually share more photography style photos and not as much personal. I am very comfortable sharing on Facebook so I can check how many likes and comments I get about how cute my son is!! However, my mother is NOT on Facebook so I haven’t found a great system to share with her. Suggestions, anyone? I get photo sharing anxiety. I love Flickr’s layout the best and it’s so easy to share, however, I don’t want people stealing my photos.
More photos for your viewing pleasure:
↑ This picture above was taken because it was pitch black and there were no details to capture. However, I love the bokeh and the silhouette and the fact that I captured him in action eating one of his friend’s Chick Fil A nuggets that she shared with him because his own mommy didn’t bring snacks.
↑ The wreath hanging at the place where we got our Christmas tree with all of the trees in the background. This one does have some funky editing but sometimes I think that’s fun to do.
↑ Try as I might, those two would not turn around and stand in one place so I get their faces lit by the tree, so I got a dancing shot instead. Memory captured. Plus it’s a fun photo!
↑ Look! No hands!
↑ Proof I was there.
↑ Cookie creations.
↑ Fact: Sticking your tongue out improves concentration and precision. I think I do the same thing when I play tennis.
↑ I know, I know. My child is extraordinarily adorable. Another reason to take lots of photos!