Thanksgiving or Christmas pictures may have been hard for you to accomplish in 2014. I know how stressful it can be to get everyone together, but it doesn’t mean it has to be that way every year. Truth be told, you don’t have to hire a professional photographer to capture some amazing memories. So I thought I’d put together a few tips for DIY holiday photos that you can implement on your own.
While there are tons of awesome ideas on Pinterest, the little nuances can make a big difference. When you understand camera angles, lighting and placement, it will do wonders for your photos. But not everyone has the time or money to learn basic photography skills.
So let’s discuss some easy ways to better capture the family this season.
Manageable Holiday Portrait Pointers.
When you think about it, most of us don’t follow through with taking holiday pictures because of the amount of time it takes to prepare – especially if you have a big family (like we do). Getting the kids look cute and putting yourself together can be rather daunting. This in itself can take hours and you don’t want others to feed off your stress.
All you really need to capture successful DIY holiday photos at home is a simple set up with relevant props. Truth be told, memorable photography really has nothing to do with a spectacular display. Whether you have a nice camera or you’re using a smart phone, you’ll be just fine.
The Benefits of Simplicity During Christmas.
Basic settings not only help you save money, but they keep your prep low – so you can spend more time with friends and family. So keep it simple. Even my photoshoots don’t involve a lot of fluff. A solid background with a little bit of Christmas flair (like colored lights or a tree) is usually enough to create adorable pictures for social media or mailers.
The people in the portrait, how they match and mesh together, is really all that matters. If you already have the house decorated, then take advantage of this. Don’t overthink it and simply set a time that’s convenient for everyone involved – then stick to it!
Inside or Out DIY Holiday Photos?
In Mississippi, the timing of your photoshoot will probably dictate where you take your pictures. But if you get a good head start on season’s greetings, you can take advantage of the outdoor climate in October and beginning of November. Falling leavings, changing colors and warm attire really bring holiday portraits to life!
If you do end up venturing into the cold, avoid shooting in the middle of a sunny day. Although it may be warmer, it’ll be too bright and shadows will lower the quality of the pictures. Cloud cover is more ideal. Outdoor photography can be frustrating for everyone involved if you’re unaware of what the elements can cause.
A few years ago, we took our pictures outside in the backyard and I chose a location under trees. We used the shade well and the wind even added a cool effect.
Let's Stay Focused on Indoor Placement.
Finding space in the comfort of your home tends to be a lot easier to do on your own. So if you’re looking for a place to start, find an area with a good source of natural light and minimal distractions. Just like the good ole outdoors, you’ll want to avoid direct sunlight so nobody is squinting.
For my DIY holiday photos, I chose a wall right off my dining room. Since the sun was pouring in the window, I pointed my blinds towards the ceiling. This helped soften the light from above while I used a fill light to brighten the lower half of the pictures.
Last but not least, consider those that you’re photographing. If it’s just a bunch of adults, you won’t have much to worry about. But if there are some littles running around, you’ll want to keep them entertained and attentive. Setting up your own holiday photography studio can be super easy when you think everything through before getting started.
How I've Captured Christmas Photos in the Past.
I remember when my son was 1 years old. He absolutely loved everything about the holiday season. From walking the neighborhood and seeing the lights to listening to Christmas stories – he was all about it! Now that he’s two, I knew he’d be perfect for a little mini session for this blog.
After setting up some themed stuffed animals and an old wicker rocking chair, I rolled wrapping paper from the top of the ceiling and onto the floor. This created what’s called a zero gravity backdrop that keeps the subject in focus during your DIY holiday photos.
In order to keep him from ripping or crinkling the paper, I taped it to some big cardboard cutouts that he could stand on. While he read his books and played with his animal friends, I snapped away. As you can see by this cropped photo, you can’t even tell we’re in the comfort of our own home!
At first, I was really nervous how the pictures were going to turn out. But as you can see, less is more! Even though dozens of my photos were discarded, a few turned out great! That’s all you really need to make your DIY holiday photos worth it!
Editing Your Christmas Pictures.
Now that you have your final photos selected, getting them edited and enhanced is step number 2. Since I do this for a living, I have access to a number of programs to ensure my clients get the look and feel they desire. While I usually work with Lightroom (monthly subscription), there are tons of other programs that can help.
As a matter of fact, most smart phones comes with editing capabilities. You just have to learn how to use to features together in order to bring out the best in your DIY holiday photos. Just don’t go overboard and take away from the moment-in-time :).
Like I mentioned before, cropping your photos will eliminate unwanted portions of the image – but cloning certain background patterns can also fill in areas where your angle was a little off. In some of my pictures, I extended the wrapping paper to ensure my son was front and center. You can easily learn how to do this by watching online videos.
How I Edited My Christmas Portraits.
After centering, cropping and cloning some of the images, I used an auto coloration process (auto enhancement on smart devices) to bring out the natural colors. When you photograph people indoors with the lights on, pictures tend to be more orange or yellow.
Bringing in some blue is key to fixing this. Setting the white balance on your camera or during post production edits also helps with this. If it looks more natural before the enhancement, then leave it the way it was.
I also want to make sure that the focal point (my son, rocking chair, and stuffed animals) stood out from the rest of the photo. So I outlined them and gave the wrapping paper a mild Gaussian blur. Slightly brightening the focal point afterward really made the DIY holiday photos pop. I really like using this type of editing style for my wedding clients.
What Else Can You Make Edits To?
Now that your pictures are looking much better, you’ll want to pay attention to the small details to clean it up a bit. One thing I wanted to stand out more in my pictures was my son’s baby blue eyes. So I used the selection tool to eliminate the glare by adding a high pass and soft light filter. It wasn’t a dramatic difference, but was enough to give them a little more sparkle.
I went on to take care of any blemishes. Using my spot healing brush, I corrected a red mark above his right eye lid and cleaned up the nose on one of the stuffed animals. It looked like a hot chocolate stain and stuck out like a sore thumb. This is something you can learn how to do yourself instead of paying someone hundreds of dollars.
Once your DIY holiday photos are just right, you can add some final touches for the season. Inserting “Happy Holidays”, Christmas graphics or adding a border can make it a little more festive. I liked the way my picture looked in color, so I simply used a mild vignette as my final touch.
Confidently Photograph the Holidays!
Remember you don’t have to be a professional to take good pictures. You just need to harness a little creativity and truly enjoy the process. After being in business for almost 10 years now, I can honestly say I love what I do. So let me know if you need any help leading up to Christmas!
My studio is always open for those of you in Olive Branch, Mississippi!