What does Christmas mean to you, family gatherings, faith, festivities or feasts?  There are many opportunities to take great photos and catch memories with our cameras.  I’m going to see you into the festive season with 12 tips to make sure your shots are great.

1. Keep your camera still

When you rush to catch your shot camera shake becomes a real risk. Take your time to hold you camera steady. Lean on things, lie down or use a tripod or a table top. Do anything you can to prevent camera shake.

sensible-holding

2. Check your settings before you shoot

Every photographer I know has taken a set of shots then realized that they’d left their camera set for the previous shoot. So get into the habit of checking your settings every time you turn your camera on.  If your shutter is running slow raise your ISO and/or open your aperture.

check-settings

3. Carry an extra light and use it carefully

Photography is all about catching light so it makes sense to carry some with you. You can use your mobile as a torch for small subjects. For portraits try a small battery powered ringlight  is easy to carry and will make a huge difference. You can scale things up with a speedlight or two if you need more power. Be gentle when you add light and increase it gradually, if you’re using a speedlight bounce it off a ceiling or wall to soften it.

 

4. Use presets to speed up processing

Taking your photos is only the start.  How many of us have unworked photos waiting to be processed?  It’s a long job but with a preset  you can make a huge difference to a shot with just a couple of clicks. Look around and pay for ones that look useful, they’re worth the money you spend on them several times over.

use-presets

I used a preset to bring about the changes in the right hand side of this photo.

5. Always carry your camera

Life just happens and you need to be ready to catch those beautiful moments. With the Christmas season you never know when a great photo could happen.

always-carry

I hadn’t planned to take this shot but am very grateful I had my camera with me ‘just in case’.

6. Don’t keep rubbish, learn from your mistakes then delete them

Digital photos cost nothing to take but that’s no reason to keep every shot you take. It’s ok to take several shots of the same subject but only keep the ones that jump out at you. This saves cluttering up your storage and makes it easier to find your shots when you want them.

 

7. Do your homework and look for inspiration.

Spend time looking at photo sites and read what people have got to say about pictures. Learn how they took them and what people think about them. There are always people on flickr  that will be a step further down the photography road to gain tips and ideas from.

flickr-2

8. Shoot in a raw format if possible

RAW files carry more data giving you more opportunities when processing your work. Shooting in RAW can make the difference between a ‘keeper’ and a ‘bin it’ shot. If you’re going to take the shot then it’s worth saving your work at the highest quality possible.

 

9. Use a ‘handler’ with children and animals

There’s a saying ‘Never work with children or animals’. Unfortunately you’re going to end up working with one, the other or, at worst, both. An assistant is going to be invaluable for this type of shoot.

handler

 

10. Shoot in black and white to show patterns and shapes

Black and white might seem like an old or outdated format but there are two really good uses for it. Firstly it’s a flattering style for portraiture. Secondly it’s great for letting you concentrate on shapes and patterns without the distraction of color. This helps you focus on a really good composition.

black-white-2

 

11. Don’t be afraid to use the auto settings on your camera

It really isn’t the cop-out that some people say it is. If using auto means you’ll get the shot and trying to set your camera with another mode means you miss it then auto is the mode to use. The same goes for scene modes, if you’re more comfortable with them then use them.

 

12. Always carry a spare battery, lens cloth and memory card

These are three lightweight things that can keep you shooting. A camera with a flat battery or full memory card is just a dead weight and a dirty lens is never going to get the quality of shot that you want. Is your lens clean?  It’s a simple tip but one you can easily forget especially with camera phones.

 

Finishing up

Just try it! It costs nothing to take a shot or two so experiment. If you don’t give things a try you’ll not push yourself forward and learn. Even if the shots are a disaster you’ll be able to sit down and work out why. If the shots work out well then you can still work out what went well and how to repeat it.