Exposed! :: Tips on Photographing Holiday Celebrations

At our little boy’s first birthday party I took some of the worst photos I’ve ever taken.

You see, my wife had asked if I could “just take a few photos as the birthday cake came out” while extended family sang Happy Birthday.

No problem!

It was a disaster!

This month’s edition of the Exposed! photo newsletter offers photo tips to help you manage your festive duties, take better photos and avoid common pitfalls.


The Challenge
I get asked regularly “How do I take excellent photos while:

  •  hosting Christmas dinner
  •  travelling with my girlfriend
  • skiing with friends?”

The simple answer is “Don’t!”


Juggling Duties
Would you write a report for work, build a model airplane or read a book while hosting guests at dinner? Probably not!

So don’t expect to juggle two challenging tasks with stellar results. How do you get good photos at family celebrations?

Tips for Festive Photos

Tips for Better Festive Photos

Photo Tips for Festive Photos
Below are some photo tips – this is your HOMEWORK this month!

1. Planning
Start planning your photos well before hand – who’s coming? What are the must get shots?

2. Dedicate Time
Arrange to clear your plate of any other duties while you photograph – EVEN if it’s only for 10 or 20 minutes.

3. Preparation
Prepare your equipment before the event. Have everything set up before you are expected to shoot. Double check your general settings before people arrive: RAW or jpeg, iso, white balance?

4. Verify
Double check you have a charged battery (and spare) and that you have enough memory cards.

5. Pre-set
Get to the celebration early and find the appropriate exposures for the light of the room. Pre-set as much as possible and do some test shots. Check what angles work. Take some test shots before you are expected to start shooting. Check the histogram and verify all works appropriately.

6. Relax!
Or try to. Take some big deep breaths and try to smile and have fun.

Following these tips will help get you better photos from your festive season.

Tips for Better Festive Photos

Tips for Better Festive Photos (this is not the birthday photo!)

Pro Perspective
So what happened at our little boy’s first birthday party?

Well, I was having too much fun at our boy’s birthday. I broke ALL of the rules above.

I played host AND papa AND forgot about photographer.

The afternoon was zany fun with kids, pets and general revelry. I did my best to keep up with papa and hosting duties. I didn’t pre-plan anything!

As I heard the chorus of Happy Birthday and saw the cake emerge I gasped when I realized my photo equipment was packed two flights of stairs above me. I sprinted for my camera and put it all together as I flew back down. The moment was almost over as I squeezed a few shots. “Oh, they’re fine,” said my wife.

She was being nice.

They were bad.

I know better.

When working, I follow the tips above. I goofed because I was in papa mode, not work mode. Do not fall in the same trap!! Follow the simple tips, above.


Final Frame
Take the time to do holiday photos right!

That doesn’t mean you can get away from all hosting duties. Dedicate 20 minutes and you can get fun, festive photos!

Take photos.
Have fun.
Happy Holidays!

Share some of your celebratory photos with us for our photo blog!