About the author: Jane Burkinshaw is a professional photographer and passionate about all things photography related. Jane specialises in portrait photography and runs photography courses.

Taking great pictures over Christmas

We had our first Wincham / Pickmere photography group last night and talked about how to get good shots over Xmas, without getting too technical. Hope you find them useful.

“The best camera is the one you have with you at the time”.


Always have your camera near you so that if something happens you are ready to grab the shot. Taking great photos often isn’t about knowing how to use all the different settings, but more about OPPORTUNITY and being able to SEE THE IMAGE.

Take a few practise shots, check the results, adjust settings if necessary and you’ll be well prepared.

The best shots of people are often the candid ones, especially children. Get them used to you taking photos all the time and they will be less self conscious.

For posed photographs help make people relax by talking to them, make them laugh. Try getting people to say “Cheeky Monkeys” or “Smelly Socks” and after you’ve done one shot get people to tickle each other or hug.

If you want a more informal group shot ask people to toast each other, meeting each others’ eyes rather than looking at the camera. This can also reduce red eye. (But don’t worry about red eye and don’t use “Red eye reduction” setting on camera as the double flash is off putting and it takes longer so you can miss the moment. Sort out red eye on the computer afterwards.)

Get people really close together, heads nice and close and all on the same plane (i.e. not some further in front or behind the others as you could risk some being out of focus).

Take several shots of groups in case anyone had their eyes closed.

Fill the frame when taking pictures of people. Use the zoom on your camera to catch candid shots of the kids—they won’t know you’re taking the shot and zooming in has the effect of blurring the background, making the person stand out.

Try different angles—get down to the same level as your children or shoot from low down or high up. Tilt the camera slightly and take the picture on an angle. Experiment.

At night time or in low light try using the night portrait setting on your camera to capture the lovely Christmas lights / candles etc behind or near your subject. Make sure the flash is on and select night portrait. The camera fires a quick burst of flash but then keeps the shutter open for a moment longer to allow light in. Hold the camera steady or you’ll risk camera shake. Rest the camera on a level surface if possible. Try taking pictures of the children by the Christmas tree like this. Or of the Christmas pudding as it is aflame.

If you want to take a picture of Christmas lights in a town or garden etc, rest the camera on a wall, make sure the flash is off and press the shutter. You can do this in AUTO mode. If the picture is too dark, use the TV mode (Might be “S” on some cameras) and slow down the shutter speed. Experiment until you are happy with the shot.

If you are taking pictures of people on a bright sunny day outdoors, use the flash to avoid harsh shadows. Overcast days are actually the best for photographing people. Snowy overcast days are great as colours of scarves, hats etc look really intense against the white snow.

On cold frosty days look for interesting details and zoom in close—use the MACRO setting. Frosted cobwebs, reeds, teasels etc look magical covered in frost.

Landscapes—use rule of thirds, try to lead the eye, have a clear focal point.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!
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