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3 Tips for Taking Great Photos this Holiday

Hanukkah is already over and Christmas is still two weeks away, but we wanted to share a few tips for taking photos during the holidays no matter what or when you’re celebrating.

There are a few elements that tend to come with any celebration. We like to snap-snap away and take photos of everything from grandma’s latkes to our impeccable Target holiday decor to our pets dressed in ugly sweaters to the smiling faces of our kids/parents/friends/loved ones. Whether you’re shooting photos right from your smartphone or doing the thing with your fancy DSLR, here are 3 tips to help you capture memories in the most beautiful way this season.

Image by Unsplash


‘Tis the season of lights and that can mean great things or not-so-great things for your photos. If you only remember one tip, forever and always, be it that lighting matters! Whatever you are shooting - your kids, your Christmas tree, your dinner table - must be well lit, with light coming from the front.

This allows for the camera (and our eyes) to focus on whatever you’re hoping for us to see and for enough detail to come through. Natural light is always that much more pleasing to look at, but since it’s the season of 4pm sunsets, indoor lighting is just fine! Just make sure position your “subject” so that the light is shining on whatever part of them you’d like to highlight in the photo, like their smiling face. Light should never be coming from behind them.


01 As the photographer, stand with your back to the window or light source. This means that light will be shining on your subject!

02 Twinkling lights are gorgeous, especially when blurred out of focus. They then become what is called bokeh. If you are taking a photo of your family in front of a Christmas tree or another spot with many twinkling lights, have them take one big step away from it and pose there. Turn off any lights that may be behind the tree and your family so that your camera can focus.

03 Holiday lights can be your light source!

04 Remember that flash on your camera/phone? Use it!


It’s pretty simple: the subject of your photo (i.e. adorable crawling toddler or nutcracker cupcake) should be the center of our attention! Obviously they should be in focus, but what turns a good picture into a great one is the composition. Here are some very quick tips on composition: Don’t cut off heads or feet - get the core of your subject in frame. Bring your camera to eye level - by doing so, you create perspective that mimics your own eye. Move back - you can always crop!


01 An easy thing to remember is to shoot at eye level. This often means that there is room left at the top of your frame and that you are shooting level or parallel to the floor. If you are shooting kids or pets, get on their level!

02 Professional photographers often use the golden ratio or the two thirds rule. This site is great at explaining what that means.

03 Simplify your scene. Try not to capture too many things or too much action in your frame, with a risk of things looking chaotic or messy.


Be a fly on the wall! Posed pictures are great, but candids are the most fun and really tell a story of who or what you’re shooting. By keeping in mind lighting and framing, any person or thing can look amazing and become a memory for years to come. Throw perfection out the window and simply capture the scene as you see it.


01 Look for people smiling, laughing and having a great time. Emotion reads so well on camera and helps you tell the story of that celebration.

02 Tell guests prior to your gathering or celebration that you’ll be taking pictures. That way, when you’re walking around with your phone or camera in hand, you won’t have to stop and explain yourself.

03 Go beyond the obvious - looking for hands gesturing wildly, or a candle flame dancing, or a perfectly placed coffee mug. These moments round out the story and bring out emotion in a way that standard smiles cannot.

Alisa Hetrick