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Your Holiday Moments

Your Holiday Moments

by Russell Burden
Here′s How to Take Great Indoor Christmas Photos

The holiday season rolls around but once a year making it a special time. If your pictures don’t turn out, it’s not as if you can recreate the sincerity of each moment you intended to capture. With this in mind, step one in getting great shots is making sure your camera is in good working order and you’re familiar with its use.

So let’s assume you’ve checked out your gear, you have extra batteries and memory cards on hand, and this is the year you’ve vowed to get good Christmas photographs. Rather than settle for basic snapshots, why not endeavor to bring your holiday photos to a new level. With a little extra effort, you can turn those snapshots into fantastic pictures.


Photography is all about light. The better the light, the better the image. Knowing how to augment existing indoor light will help you attain better indoor photographs. Every Christmas I set up a holiday family portrait. To not detract from the day’s festivities, I keep it very simple. The main light comes from a north facing window. I use the fill flash feature on my camera to add a twinkle to the eyes. I set the flash to go off one stop less than the ambient light. If your camera doesn’t allow you to set a specific flash compensation, just set it for auto flash fill. My camera is mounted to a tripod, it’s set to ISO 400, and I hit the self timer. After the fourth exposure, we open the gifts.

Try to do your shooting during daylight hours as window light provides an even and easy source with which to work. If you have a room with a skylight, better yet. If you have to shoot at night, try bouncing the flash off a white ceiling to soften its effects. The light from a few candles provides a nice accent. Their warm yellowish cast adds a nice touch. Extra lamps can help augment the ambient light. Don’t use fluorescent lights as they will give a green  tone to the image.

With regards to composition, keep the background clean and simple. Choose one that’s not cluttered and can accommodate all the people in your group. Decorate the setting with holiday decor to make it more festive and colorful. Areas around the tree, a fireplace, or the mantle with the stockings are good candidates for a location.


The placement of subjects in the composition should go beyond, “stand there and look festive,” especially when working with large groups. Build layers and try to fit people together like pieces of a puzzle. Keep the formation balanced to create harmony with regards to what the subjects are wearing. Note what’s going on in the background to prevent overhead fixtures or other items from growing out of people’s heads.

Take your holiday images to a higher level using mood light. Candle light works well to create this effect when combined with daylight film. The amount of light a candle emits is low so you’ll need many. Even with this, a tripod and fast film are essential. Arrange the candles around your subject constantly checking if the model is evenly lit. Have your subject stay very still and make some portraits. Finally, while your camera is loaded with fast film and on a tripod, try making close ups of some of your favorite ornaments using available light. A fully lit menorah is a good light source to create these moody images.


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