It's that time of year! We're all making our final preparations and getting together with friends and family to celebrate. There are so many precious and magical moments during these few weeks that you'll probably want to get the camera out, but how can you make sure you 'capture the moment'?
Here are some of my top tips for taking the hassle out of photographing your family this Christmas season!
1 - It's not just about the big day
Remember to take your camera out and about and make sure the battery is charged! I often keep mine by my front door at this time of year so I can grab it at the same time as my handbag and coat. Most smart phones have great cameras too these days so there's no excuse not to capture your Christmas adventures. Visiting Father Christmas is always fun! In Cambridge, we loved Scotsdales for young children and in Bury St Edmunds, Ikworth House for older ones!
2 - Crank up your ISO
At this time of year, it's dark... a lot... and so its important to set up your camera to cope with these conditions. If you have a digital SLR camera, find out how to increase your ISO. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive your camera will be to light, meaning it will be able to take better quality photos in darker conditions. Just watch that it's not too high as this can cause 'grainy' photos.
3. Decorating the tree
Putting up the decorations is always fun and my children get super-excited that Christmas is almost upon us. This year, I tried some more creative tree-decorating pictures using my fairy lights. Don't be afraid to try a different perspective to capture the fun.
4 - Christmas light 'bokeh'
Bokeh is 'photographer's speak' for the gorgeous out of focus circles of light you get in the background when you focus on your subject in the foreground of a shot. Make sure your DSLR is set to aperture priority and choose an F-stop number lower than 4 and set up your short with the Christmas lights behind. Hey presto!
5 - Capturing connections and real story-telling moments
What often makes a good photo great is capturing a special moment or real emotion. Its about taking the shot as it happens rather than stopping the fun and asking everybody to pose. The trick here is to set your camera up for the light conditions beforehand. Often using the automatic function or shutter speed or aperture priority modes work well. And remember, nobody is going to look their best straight out of bed on Christmas morning, but those memories are precious!
6. Unwrapping presents
Once you set the kids loose on un-wrapping their gifts, its impossible to stop them in the middle of a paper ripping frenzy to pose for a picture. They're just too excited. Instead, work out beforehand where you want to be to capture the action so you're ready to click and get that reaction.
7. Include your pets
Pets are well and truly part of the family and we often buy them gifts at Christmas too, so don't forget to include them in your festive photos.
8 - Brave the cold and head outside
If you're out for a wintery walk on Christmas day (or any other day) then remember to take the camera. The colours at this time of year are dark - rich chocolates, mossy greens, beiges and greys - so dressing the kids in brighter colours can make photos stand out. Get down at their level to take your shot and don't worry about making sure everybody is posed perfectly for the shot - laugh and joke along with them to capture those real smiles.
9 - Lastly, and most importantly, PRINT IT!
Whatever you capture, don't let your photos sit on your computer hard drive gathering dust. Make sure you print them and make something tangible you can keep for years to come. I always make my yearly family photobooks in January as there are some fantastic post-Christmas deals available. Try Photobox, Blurb, or Bob Books January sales.
Louisa Williams is a family portrait photographer working in and around Cambridge, Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds. You can see more of her current work and enquire about commissions here and can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.