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Holiday Photo Tips 
from the Staff at Vivid Light

A nice shot of Gary's kids JoJo and Jesse but they're obviously posed

It's amazing how many great photographers are reduced to taking snapshots on Christmas morning. For some reason we're not in photographer mode so when we get our pictures back from the lab we're less than thrilled. So here are some simple tips for Christmas and New Years that will help beginners and experts alike enjoy the holidays a little more.

1. Get Down!

How many times have you seen Christmas photos where you get a great view of the top of the kid's heads or their faces are frozen into fake smiles? How do you get candid professional looking photos?

First set your camera to it's widest aperture (smallest f-number) or choose portrait mode if you're shooting in one of your camera's auto modes. When the kids start tearing into the presents get down on the floor so you're at their level. Now you can capture the looks on their faces as they open their presents - and those looks are priceless!

Catch them now. They grow up way too fast.

2. Use a little fill flash

Moose's son Jake

Very few homes are so brightly lit that you'll get great detail on your kid's faces as they're tearing into those presents. A little flash will go a long way toward filling in the shadows so you can see detail in their faces.

The pro tip here is that if you have flash exposure compensation as one of your camera (or flash) options you can get more natural skin tones by dialing down the flash by one stop ( -1 flash exposure).

3. Keep quiet!

As a parent it's easy to fall into the trap of yelling at your kids to "look here!"

After they look up and get a face full of flash a couple of times you'll start getting photos of scowls instead of smiles. If they're not looking directly into the camera the flash won't be blinding and the kids will learn to ignore their goofy parents with their camera - and you'll get better shots as a result.

Remember Christmas is about the kids not the camera. Capture the moment quietly and let the kids take center stage - after all it's their day.

4. Red eye reduction

It sounds simple but you'll need to remember to turn on red-eye reduction so your kids and pets don't look like aliens. Well OK some kids will STILL look like aliens but we can't help that.

5. Use faster film

Lighting is usually a little dim indoors and most houses are lit with normal light bulbs. Your best bet for shooting in these conditions is to use a faster film - 400 speed is a good choice - and to use negative rather than slide film. The lab can easily correct for the color cast of the lights and the additional exposure latitude of negative film is far more forgiving than slide film in dim lighting. This will prevent blurry pictures.

6. Digital shooters choose a faster ISO setting

Many digital camera owners forget that they can change the ISO setting on their cameras. Choosing a faster (numerically higher) ISO setting means faster shutter speeds and fewer blurry images. That means that there will be a lot more images that will be suitable for your desk and for grandma's fridge!

7. Digital shooters choose the right white balance

White balance is a term that scares a lot of new digital camera owners. So most want to leave their digital cameras on auto white balance. But in most digital cameras, especially the point and shoot cameras, auto white balance won't always correctly balance indoor lighting.

Pull out the manual and change the white balance setting to incandescent or indoor lighting. It's usually represented by a little light bulb symbol. Now the skin tones on those smiling little faces will look natural and you'll look like the great photographer that we know you are!

8. Get the kids involved

Get the kids to take some pictures of you and of each other. This works especially well with digital cameras. You might be surprised at what they come up with. Kids literally have a different perspective on the world and their images may surprise you.

This works especially well with digital cameras where they can see the results of their efforts immediately.

9. Hook your digital camera to the TV

Want to capture the moment for when Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop arrive?

Get all those great shots of the kids and then hook the video connection on your digital camera to your TV (or VCR/DVD player). Now when the grandparents arrive you can put the camera in play mode and let it cycle through the images from the morning's festivities. This is a lot faster than getting prints made and waiting until New Years Eve to share them.

10. Batteries

Make sure you have fresh batteries for your camera. If you have a separate flash unit make sure you have fresh batteries for it as well. If you're using a digital camera with rechargeable batteries make sure you put it on charge the night before Christmas.

"Twas' the night before Christmas and all through the house the batteries were charging…" Ok it was a stretch. Give us a break it's the holidays.

11. Do a Pre-flight Check

When you're putting the toys together the night before pull out your camera and get it ready to go. That means load the film, add fresh batteries, make sure red-eye reduction is turned on, and all the camera's settings are what they should be. Do it the night before when things are quiet and it's a lot less likely that you'll forget something or accidentally choose the wrong settings.

12. Watch for Quiet Moments

The kids will have their motors running on high for most of the day. Later on when their bellies are full and they're winding down you'll find some great moments hiding in the quiet times.

13. Mugging for Photos

Most photo labs have a variety of novelty items that can be made with your photos. These range from coffee mugs, to t-shirts and mouse pads.

These novelty items can make interesting holiday gifts for family and friends. Just make sure you allow yourself plenty of lead-time around the holidays since these are popular gift items.

14. Personalized Christmas Cards

Another popular item offered at photo labs the past few years are personal photo greeting cards. Take a picture of the family, the kids, or your poor dog wearing those silly reindeer horns and you can have it put onto greeting cards with a personalized greeting inside. It's getting late in the season though, so if you want to do personal photo cards you'd better get down to the lab right away!

15. High Tech Picture Frames

A unique item that we first saw last year is the digital picture frame. There are a couple of varieties and manufacturers now. The idea is that they can store and cycle images either by the minute or daily. Some can even be hooked to a telephone line and they'll connect to the Internet each evening and download any new images that you post to a dedicated Web site!

You can send one to family members and as you get new photos of the kids just load them on the Web and your family will see them wherever you or they are in the world the next day!

16. A Pre-New Year's tip

Tempted to take your camera along on New Year's Eve? This is one night we'd suggest leaving it home in favor of a disposable camera.

New Year's Eve is amateur night and people drink a lot more than they normally would. The resulting good times can mean that your camera winds up in pieces or floating in the punch bowl. Maybe we should change that recommendation to a waterproof disposable camera…

17. New Year's Eve Tip - How to make money with your camera

We all know that photography isn't the cheapest hobby in the world. Here's a way you can finance your next camera purchase.

Take your camera to the New Year's party and take lots of pictures (this works especially well at office parties). You're bound to get a few that the victims, um subjects, won't want to see the light of day. Now depending on your negotiating skills and the potential for embarrassment you'll be able to buy yourself anything from a few rolls of film to a whole new camera outfit!

Just kidding!

Everyone have a safe and happy holiday, 
Best wishes from 

the folks at 
Vivid Light Photography!

Now get out and shoot!

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