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5 Tips for Sharper Holiday Photographs

By Sean O'Neill
updated September 29, 2021
Courtesy <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/w00kie/332708046/"> w00kie/Flickr</a>

Holiday lights and decorations brighten up cities and towns, but capturing those images can be tricky. Or at least, it can be tricky to get your family to look good in them. Improve your shots in a snap with our five tips, gleaned from travel photographers and Budget Travel readers.

  • Frame the photo, and then "insert" your subjects Most people do the opposite, driving their families crazy while they stand waiting. In other words, when trying to get a photo of your family with, say, the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., frame the tree first. Then have your family step into the frame, as it were, and stand close together.
  • Get closer. As Life magazine and Magnum photographer Robert Capa once said, "If the pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough.'"
  • Be silly. Before you say "Cheese!" look up from the camera and say something silly to your subjects. The distraction of looking at your face and responding to what you're saying will relax their faces and often loosen up their frozen grins. You can snap the photo without looking through the view finder. Consider setting your camera to a "quick shot," rapid-fire setting that takes multiple photos at once. That will boost your chances of getting a shot with everyone wearing easy smiles.
  • Have your subjects wear bright clothes. Blacks, whites, and greys may look nice to the naked eye—especially to trendy residents of New York City and L.A., ha ha—but bright colors, such as red, yellow, and orange, "pop" in pictures. Brighten your wardrobe with a colorful hat, scarf, or sweater, and your pictures will brighten up, too.
  • Shoot at golden hour, for outdoor shots. Namely, dusk and dawn. For sites to help you figure out when golden hour will strike at your destination, try golden-hour.com or Twilight Calculator. (For details, see our previous blog post "Tools to find the "Golden Hour".)

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