These photography tips were provided by Ken Kobre, Professor of photo and videojournalism @San Francisco State University. He is also the creator of the Light Scoop.
The automatic light meter inside your camera that automatically measures exposure can be fooled if the room is dark and the Christmas tree bulbs or Hanukkah candles are burning brightly. To bring out the lights on the Christmas tree or menorah, put your camera on manual (m) and then set your shutter dial to a slow speed like 1/15 sec or even 1/8 sec. This slow shutter speed will let the lights from the tree or candles come out brighter. Remember to hold the camera very still or rest it on a desk, monopod or tripod. Note: many cameras have an anti-shake setting that can also help you get sharp pictures when using slower shutter speeds.
If the room light is very low, try using flash. Set the flash setting on “moon” or “city scape.” This setting will keep the shutter open longer and pick up more available light coming from the tree or candles. You can use this setting in combination with Professor Kobre’s Lightscoop® for best results with the pop-up flash on 35mm SLRs. Bouncing the pop-up flash with the Lightscoop will result in an even more natural-looking scene — no harsh light.
If you have young children, try getting down on their level to shoot. Witnessing the world from their perspective will add a refreshing point of view to your pictures. Notice how adults, no matter how tall they really are, start to appear gargantuan from a child’s perspective.
Avoid the awkward delay that occurs with point-and-shoot cameras between the time you press the button and the shutter actually clicks by framing your picture the way you would like it and then pressing the shutter half-way down. Keep the button partially depressed until your subject reacts in some fun way… with a smile or intimate touch. Only then, at that critical moment, press the button all the way down. Now the shutter will click almost instantly. Using this technique you can get more candid pictures and avoid having to tell your favorite aunt to “hold that smile.”
If you are taking a picture of your husband trying out the new iPod® you just gave him, be careful that the background behind him is not distracting. If he is sitting in front of a window with bright light pouring in, or if there is an ugly patch of boldly printed wallpaper behind him, the bright light or distracting wall can pull attention away from his contented face as he listens to his favorite song. The solution: With your camera framing your subject, move around your man until all distracting elements disappear behind him. Then—and only then—take the picture.
With a digital camera, shoot a lot. It won’t cost you a thing but a bit of time if some of the pictures don’t come out. Just delete the bad ones and enjoy the good ones.
While your child is opening presents or engaged in any other activity, don’t be afraid to keep shooting — again and again — to capture the perfect moment. While the first or second picture you took might be great, the next one might be even better.
No. 7 brings up another fact. While loved ones are decorating the tree, wrapping gifts, or preparing candles, they are likely to be relaxed and engaged — and less likely to pay attention to your camera. What a great time for candid pictures instead of frozen smiles.
Don’t miss the moments when the cleanup starts. The boxes on the floor and wrapping paper on the couch can reveal as much about the holiday as the pictures of the formal present-opening that took place a few hours before.
When framing a shot, remember to come in close enough to your child’s face to avoid wasting space on the edges of the picture. The closer you get, the bigger the child will appear in the picture and the more the child’s smile will radiate the memories of the holiday. If you’re using flash, bounce it. This lets you come in as close as you’d like. You can tilt most external flashes to the ceiling — or use the Lightscoop® to redirect a pop-up flash to a ceiling or wall. Little eyes won’t be startled and, in the final picture, that precious face won’t appear to be “nuked.”