Holiday Photo Tips

Unless you’re getting formal holiday photos done, the preservation of your holiday memories is up to you. And there are definitely some challenges this time of year when it comes to capturing memories. From being super busy and just forgetting to all the excitement and chaos and trying to corral people to having different people in our spaces! Then there are the lights! So here we are with holiday photo tips.

Whether you’re using an actual camera or your phone, these tips will help you to get the most out of your shots.

Side note: Are any of you using actual cameras? It feels like I rarely see someone who’s not a professional photographer ever have one on them. If you’re interested, here’s a review of the best beginner level cameras for 2023.

Before we begin our holiday photo tips, we’ve written a basic photography tips for your phone camera blog that always applies so you could start with that.

Onward to the holiday photo tips…

holiday photo tips

Why you need to think about this ahead of time.

On the day of Christmas, or any party leading up to any of the winter holidays, it can be difficult to even remember to take photos. Then add in all the other variables — cranky children (and adults), too many things going on at once, demands from humans or animal family — and whoa… It’s no wonder we have a single preserved memory!

But again, we’re here to help.

Our first holiday photo tip: Try not to put so much pressure on yourself. Any photos will work to bring back memories and laughter. Imperfect is always better than stressing out over being perfect.

That said, consider the following.

How to deal with all those holiday lights!

All the twinkle lights, indoors and out, are probably one of the best parts of the holiday. Who doesn’t remember driving around to neighborhoods that were known for their light displays? And who doesn’t have memories of sitting under the Christmas tree and squinting for a great light show? (Of course, having astigmatism helps too. HA!)

The lights also seem to help a lot with what can be quite a dreary time of the year. So win/win!

But to capture them in photos is another thing altogether.

  • The first mistake people make with outdoor lights is to shoot when it’s very dark. If you shoot at dusk, you’ll still get some sense of the background and the lights will glow and look lit. The best time is when the sun is setting or a half hour after it’s set.
  • Use a tripod if you have one, but if you don’t, no big. The tripod can just help you not to get the blur, of course. (But hey… sometimes a bit of blur is fun.)
  • To make yourself into a sort of tripod, brace yourself. Hold your elbows tight to your body. Let out an exhale and snap!
  • Don’t use your flash. This will wash out the colors of the lights you’re trying to capture.
  • Focus on something in the foreground and you’ll get that lovely bokeh effect on the lights in the background. (Here’s an example of bokeh.)
  • Avoid zooming. If possible move closer to your subject instead. (This is good advice pretty much all of the time.)
  • You could play around with Apps to up your game (though we recommend you do this ahead of actual events and holiday gatherings to avoid stress). Here’s a list of great camera apps, including the highly recommended Camera+.

hoiday photo tips

Holiday Photo Tips

  • If you really want to just sit back and take in what’s happening around you and not think about photos, have you ever considered setting up a tripod at the edge of the room and turning on video recording? Later you can easily snag still photos from the video by simply pausing it and taking a screen shot.
  • Emphasize capturing candid photos. They tend to carry more meaning. And we’ve all been at family gatherings where there’s that one person who is constantly yelling for group photos. Maybe just do that ONCE. And try it at the beginning of the gathering when people aren’t quite exhausted yet (and all the littles are clean and awake).
  • Set your camera to burst mode so that you can capture a bunch of photos all at once during big moments. Maybe you know someone is about to open an extra special gift, for example.
  • Get closer to people when something extra fun is happening and try using portrait mode to elevate your photos to that next level.
  • Fill your frame with what’s important — the people around you.
  • Take a few moments, perhaps before everyone arrives or wakes up, and walk around taking photos of details.

Ideas for Fun Holiday Photos

  • Set up a “photo booth.” Just create an area where you can ask everyone to sit for a moment so you can get a fun Christmas day portrait. Have a comfie chair in front of the tree or backed by other festive decorations. Maybe have some Santa hats or silly headbands at the ready. Or have strings of light that people can wrap themselves in. Have a tripod set at the right distance so you can do this easily throughout the day.
  • You can also set up the camera on a tripod at the edge of your space and create a timer that goes off every five or ten minutes and capture spontaneously whatever is happing over the course of the day.
  • Action photos are super fun: if you’re having a white Christmas, go outside and build a snowman, make snow angels, have a snowball fight. You’re bound to capture some favorite photos.

Final Holiday Photo Tips

IMPORTANT: Make sure you, the person who is “in charge” of photos, gets in the frame frequently. Don’t be missing in your own photos.

And if you really want to do it right, make a list of photos you want to capture over the weeks leading up to the main events. There’s nothing like being prepared.

And finally, makes sure your phones are fully charged, and keep an eye on your battery level. It’s not a bad thing to have a quick charger at the ready. Here’s a reasonably priced power bank for charging your phone on the go.

Merry, merry, and happy, happy to you all!