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3 Photo tricks for great holiday pictures

The holidays are a great time to capture your family members and to create beautiful memories. It’s also a chance to totally screw up your pictures and make yourself very frustrated. Here are three of our top tips when it comes to holiday pictures:

(1) Don’t get too close

When a picture-worthy moment happens, many parents have the tendency to dive right into the action. Did you know that the lens on your camera needs to be a certain distance away from the subject in order to focus properly? This is called the “Minimum Focal Distance” and the exact distance is usually printed right on the lens itself. If you get too close to your subject it will be blurry. The background will be sharp instead. Not ideal!

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If you find this problem happening to you, try to take a step back and refocus the camera on your subjects. You may have to move yourself nearer or farther from your subject to get the exact shot you want. A good rule of thumb is to start no closer than an arm’s length away.

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(2) Keep it candid

Want to make your child uncomfortable in front of the camera? Ask them to smile. It’s a surefire way to elicit a horrible grimace or strained expression. Your kids are trying to please you but they all too easily feel the pressure of performing for the camera. If your child “smiles” with barred teeth like a growling dog its an instinctive expression in response to stress.

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The solution lies in psychology. Yes, obviously your child can see you have your camera and you are taking a picture.

Divert their attention back to the activity they were doing and underplay the fact that you are taking a picture. This will lower the child’s expectations of having to please you.

Favorite tricks:

• Ask questions about what your child is doing. “Are you reading to your bunny?” “Does he like the story?”

• Genuinely compliment your child. “Oh, I love to see you snuggling with your teddy bear. You look so happy.”

• Ask a nonsense question. “Is our dog purple?”

• Make an intentional mistake. Sing a well known song and screw it up. “The itsy bitsy spider went up the chimney.” For bonus points, keep it going and make the rhymes even more ridiculous. “Down came the rain and washed the spider flimney!”

• Be a little rude. “Did Dad fart?” Fart jokes always work.

Hold the camera at your chest, not your face. Get your settings right then simply lower the camera down a few inches, give your kid a big silly smile, and fire away. Your child will be able to make eye contact with YOU, not a big black contraption!

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Give yourself enough light

Digital cameras use a computer sensor to record light when they take a picture. The sensor is not as powerful as the human eye. Even though we can see pretty well in a dim room lit only by Christmas lights, our cameras cannot.

The result is usually a grainy, dark, yellow picture. Even turning on a few overhead lights is not enough to solve this problem.

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You can try your pop-up flash, but this is strongly discouraged. The effect will be to make a high contrast image with harsh shadows. Your child will be too bright and the background will be too dark. A separate flash unit that you can angle at the ceiling is another alternative, but not everybody has one of these in their camera bag…

If you really yearn for great images by your Christmas tree, try to capture them during daylight hours. As you can see, the lights on a Christmas tree will still glow during daylight.

For best effect, position your child with a window to the side or in front of his face. Avoid having a window behind your scene since the bright light will make a silhouette.

“But what if I want to take pictures at night," you ask? Well, that’s up to you. The average DSLR camera is wonderful, but it cannot see in the dark. We think that working within the limitations of our equipment to get family photographs is the way to go. We’d rather not waste time with dark, blurry pictures —- we’ve got presents to wrap and good tidings to spread — no time for trying to achieve the impossible!

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You can take great pictures of your kids year round. We teach parents how to use their cameras!