(RNN) - Family and friends will be gathering together during the holiday season for dinners, parties, and gift exchanges and many will document the festive season.
To get that perfect memento of the season, here are few things to keep in mind before clicking away.
No matter how complicated or simple your camera is, the best way to learn all the bells and whistles is to sit down and give yourself time with the manual. If you can't find it, go online.
Reading the manual also will tell you how best to use the flash, the time/date stamp, and how to turn on red-eye reduction. If you have a basic knowledge of how the camera functions, taking creative photographs will be much easier, and your relatives' cheeks won't get tired from holding the smile while you fiddle with the camera settings.
If you're traveling, Digital Photography School suggests packing extra memory cards, extra batteries or a battery charger and take into consideration the conditions of the room where you will be shooting.
"Is there enough light? Will you need a flash? Are the backgrounds too cluttered and distracting?" writes Darren Rowse, the author of the article 16 Digital Photography Tips for Christmas on the Digital Photography School website.
Also, make a check list of whom and what you want to photograph during the event.
Some point-and-shoot cameras have settings for different types of light sources. Don't use the daylight setting if you're photographing Christmas lights or candle light. Florescent lights can leave a green cast on the image if the camera is set on daylight, so be sure to use automatic light/white balance settings or the proper lighting settings.
Don't just photograph the event, take pictures of the preparation. Rowse suggests photographing food preparation, decorating, gift wrapping, setting the table and even kids throwing a tantrum.
According to Kodak.com, "If your subject is smaller than a car, take a step or two closer before taking the picture and zoom in on your subject. Your goal is to fill the picture area with the subject you are photographing. Up close you can reveal telling details, like a sprinkle of freckles or an arched eyebrow."
But be careful in getting too close to the subject of the photograph, depending on your camera, the photo may be out of focus.
If your camera has it, try the macro setting if you want to take photographs of something up close. "Ornaments on the tree, table decorations, sweets in the bowl on the table, a nativity scene on the mantel piece, holly above the doorway – sometimes it's these small things around your party that are the real ‘money shots,'" Rowse writes.
This can be tricky because holiday gatherings can be chaotic, so take a deep breath.
Watch your background. Aunt Marge may be smiling pretty as you photograph her, but if she's standing in front of a shelf with lots of knick knacks, it may seem as if an elf is growing out of her head. Also, watch out for that mischievous cousin who likes to make bunny ears behind the photo. If the photo is a portrait, move the person you are photographing to where you want them in the frame.
Yes, the giant "Merry Christmas" sign is neat, but if you're only getting "err" and "istma" behind your mom in the photo, it's distracting. The eye automatically tries to read whatever letter or number is in the picture.
"Bring your picture to life by simply moving your subject away from the middle of your picture," according to Kodak.com. Photographers call it the "Rule of Thirds." Kodak.com explains it this way: "Start by playing tic-tac-toe with subject position. Imagine a tic-tac-toe grid in your viewfinder. Now place your important subject at one of the intersections of lines."
Get down low, especially when photographing children. Young kids tend to play on the floor, so get down there with them. "Expressions will look more natural, your flash photos will be more evenly lit from nose to toe, and the background will probably look a lot better, too." writes Kodak.com in Top 10 Tips for Photographing Children.
"Ignore the impulse to force your subjects to always pose staring at the camera," reads the Kodak.com article on Photographing Children. Sure, it's nice to have the setup photographs where everyone is smiling at the camera, but don't discount the candid photos. The joyful expression on the children's face when they open up a gift is 20 times better than having them smile and hold up the gift. It might take a little more patience to photograph children, because they do not sit still for very long, so be prepared to move.
Many of today's phones have the ability to take photographs. The same principles in using a camera apply to cell phones cameras. With the rise in popularity of smartphones, camera accessories are now being sold – including phone cases that offer lenses for the phone's camera.
Most smartphone owners use "apps" to create a special effect on their photos. A good place to start is www.iphoneography.com or droidphotography.blogspot.com, depending on what type of smartphone you own. Each website writes about the apps and accessories for the iPhone and Droids.
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