Capturing Christmas Morning
Do you remember Christmas morning when you were a kid? I was an odd duck, I think; I waited. I didn’t run downstairs at 3am to peek and start ripping open presents. The anticipation, the element of surprise – that was always my favorite part! I would lie in my bed and wait until I heard my parents get up before getting out of bed. I prolonged every second of it. Maybe that is one of the reasons I like photography so much; I am able to at least relive moments, even if I can’t really make them last in real time. Now that I have kids of my own, the anticipation and excitement has shifted; now I can’t wait to see the looks on my kids faces; their excitement and wide-eyed wonder and innocence. To capture that on camera so that I can remember it always is a priceless gift that technology has given to us, and even more so with the birth of digital photography.
A friend of mine asked if I could do a guest blog post for her blog, www.chuckandwelly.com, about photography tips for Christmas morning. Of course I was happy to oblige! Children are possibly the most difficult subjects to photograph- especially on Christmas morning! All that excitement makes them act like they are on speed and they most certainly do not want to sit still and pose for pictures. I love lifestyle photography and I definitely recommend taking that approach, a more journalistic approach, on this occasion. For one, it helps you to better capture the real emotions of the day and for another, it creates a little more of a relaxed atmosphere! Kids don’t really do a great job at hiding their emotions; they wear their hearts on their sleeves, and if you are keeping them from playing to take posed photographs, they will let you know how they feel about it. ;)
Before posing (or lack there of), however, comes LIGHT. Light is the number one thing to consider before you start worrying about anything else. If you don’t have proper lighting, no matter how well you have framed something or how special the moment was, you won’t have anything to show for it. This is where your camera’s capabilities and your goals come into play. The photo below is one I took the night that we decorated our tree. I wanted to capture the mood and tone of the low lighting in the room; the glow of the tree and the fire are both warm tones, so I kept this photo darker and a warmer (more yellow/orange) than I might normally do. No flash and a high ISO helped me accomplish this.
On Christmas morning, however, I’m going to let in lots of light! I want the expressions on my daughter’s face to be crystal clear in the photographs. The lowest you should photograph children is 1/125 of a second – they are quick movers, so the faster the better! Letting in lots of light will make it easier to have a quick shutter speed without a lot of “noise” in your photo. I like to avoid flash if possible, especially pop-up or connected flash that comes attached to a lot of cameras; this takes away a lot of the control you have over your pictures/ However, the reality is that you might need to use it and you might not have options when it comes to the kind of flash you can use. Flash that is shone directly on your subject will create shadows behind them; the closer you are the stronger and thinner the shadows are. There is also more of a chance of washing out your child’s face if you get too close with flash (loss of detail). One more point on light; try as much as you can to avoid having multiple temperatures of light in the room! The white balance (which sets the tone – warm vs cold) of the image will be odd. Your camera will have a hard time figuring out what to adjust for, bless its little heart.
Get down to your kids level – you’ll be better able to really get them if you are level with them. It will let you see more of what they see, put you into their world. It makes for much more interesting photographs than photographing the tops of their heads from where you are sitting on the couch or standing in the corner. ;)
Remember that what you see in the frame is the cropping you will get in the photograph. Get some closeups of their faces, as well as some pull-backs with the whole scene. Try to keep the “Rule of Thirds” in mind while photographing; putting them in the center of a photo all the time tends to make the photographs less interesting.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to break rules and make sure you have fun!! Christmas morning is a time for family, love, laughter and merriment; revel in the joy of these moments. Don’t forget to sit back and take it all in without the camera. ;)