Tips on Capturing Holiday Photo Memories

The days are numbered before Christmas. I know I was BUSY with so many beautiful children and families this holiday season, that it felt good to set my camera down for a little while. But only for a little while! The magic is STRONG in our home this Christmas. My oldest is 7 and my youngest is 4 – the questions are curious, the hope is contagious and the love is pretty darn awesome. In our home, we are aiming to remember the reason for the season and the moments that come. I, personally, feel the stress, but am trying hard to ‘let it go’… (sorry, had to go there).

Photos, they come with the holidays like gifts and togetherness do. From family gatherings, Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, family is together, kids are ‘clean’ and there is a good chance for capturing moments to treasure for years to come. While our mom minds might be full, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind…if anything, number one is most important.


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#1. Charge your batteries NOW.

Make sure your camera phone is charged too. Clear off your memory cards, backup your older photos, make room for new! You can thank me later.

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#2. Lighting helps – a lot.

Turning off your flash, opening up the shades, turning on room lights, helps keep images more natural. If possible, have the main light behind the subject. The goal is to reduce those harsh, flashed-out subjects that come with a standard flash, as well as other problems like red-eye. (if you have the gear, and can bounce light off a white ceiling, go for it)

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#3. Ready, aim, capture, now!

If your child is opening a gift – or playing with a gift – for the first time – within a split second, the moment will change. There is often just a few brief moments when that “magic spark” appears. Having your camera ready (see point 1) is important, but even more so is being confident with your picture-taking. Be ready to press that shutter button at a moment’s notice. If your camera that suffers from a bit of a delay, then you will have to become even more intuitive and skilled at anticipating the moment. Either way, don’t be shy, shoot quickly and shoot often. You’ve cleared our your memory cards, right?! So go for it, take lots of photos – getting a great photo of the right moment is rewarding when sorting through a few extras.

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#4. Get Low!

Some of the best memories and moments around the holidays include the kids – and seeing things from their perspective. I love to see them grow and change over time. So here’s the tip: remember to get on eye level with the little ones!  Reasoning: It’s tempting and easy to shoot toward kids from your height, but this can create unflattering pictures that seem distant. Putting yourself physically at the same level as the kids offers a much more interesting view of their world, and makes for photos that are far more personal and memorable. Here’s a challenge: while the adults are visiting, sneak away to the kids’ area and capture a few photos from their level from their world.

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#5. Go for moments vs. posed photos.

Of course a few posed, ‘we are all together’ photos…but a great alternative with more lasting memories is to capture the spirit of what people are doing – talking, laughing, opening presents, sharing a beverage, these are the moments that last. By taking a documentary-style approach and shooting pictures of people just being in the moment, you will capture memories that will last for years to come.

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#6. Get the kids involved.

Sometimes we are so busy preparing for the holidays that it’s hard to take photos when the family is all together. Why not get the kids involved by giving them a camera? Find an old camera or give them a new fun camera for an early present.  My kids have a small pocket camera that they use. Real deal, not the kid kind (we have both, thankfully, but the real deal version offers the opportunity to learn and take decent photos!) If the child is interested, consider creating a few “assignments for the day” and see what images they capture.
Some ideas to photograph from a kids perspective:

Where is each grown up? Find everyone and take a photo, or two!
Be a spy! Take photos without anyone knowing.  
See how many smiling faces they can capture in a day.
Photograph detail photos of decorations, presents, food, table settings, etc.
Photograph all the <insert color here> in the room.

You might find that you have a talented kid and actually get in some photos yourself this season too! The child will also be creating their own memories to cherish. You could take it one step further and create a photo album of their works!

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#7. Know when to put your camera down.

This might sound counter-intuitive for blog post about holiday photos, but as a professional photographer, and a mom, putting the camera down and being IN the moment, rather than documenting the moment is just as important.  Rather than 100 photos of family opening presents, just take a handful and use the rest of your time to simply be with your loved ones and enjoy your time together. Consider passing the camera on to someone else and BE in the photo yourself, your kids will love this too. Try to be intentional when taking fewer photos, and the result will be more keepers that you want to look at years down the road instead of dozens and dozens of images of the same scene.


I wish you and your family a beautiful holiday season, filled with love, laughter, good cookies, and photos that capture a few of the moments.



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