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Close to home with Mary Beth Breckenridge

Tips for better holiday photos

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: December 10, 2013
A few years ago, I picked the brains of some professional photographers for a story on taking better pictures. With the Christmas season upon us, I figured it's a good time to revisit their advice.
Here's to better holiday photos. (Then again, as this photo from Awkward Family Photos attests, sometimes the goofs make the best pictures.)
-- Don’t tell your subjects to say, “Cheese!” It just draws attention to you as the photographer. Instead, try to capture candid moments when the subjects aren’t looking right at the camera.
-- Move in close to your subjects, so you’re right in the middle of the action. Get at eye level, which might require you to kneel or even sprawl on the floor.
-- Few people love being in front of a camera, so put your subjects at ease by talking to them while you’re shooting. Maybe pay them a compliment or crack a joke. Don’t make negative comments, such as looking at a completed photo and criticizing it in the subject's presence.
-- Avoid centering the subject – or the subject’s head -- in a photo. It’s more visually pleasing if the subject is off-center in a horizontal photo or the person's head is higher than the middle of the picture.
-- If you want to get both people and scenery into a photo – for example, your farmily in front of your house -- don’t line the people up in front of whatever it is you’re photographing. You’ll barely be able to see them in the photo. Instead, bring them closer to you, and shoot them with the scenery in the background.
-- Don’t leave the flash on automatic, because sometimes a flash produces too much light. Instead, learn how to turn off the flash and turn the camera to its highest ISO setting, which lets in more light.
-- Get in the habit of pausing before you press the shutter release button to look around the edges of the frame. That way, you’re more likely to spot an unfortunately element that might ruin an otherwise good shot, such as a tree branch that appears to grow out of someone’s head. 
-- On a digital camera, push the shutter release button in halfway and hold it there to allow the camera to focus. Then press the button all the way down to snap the photo. That avoids that annoying momentary delay between your pressing the button and the camera taking the picture.
-- Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. With a digital camera, you don’t have to worry about film, so take plenty of pictures. Look at the photos immediately, delete what doesn’t turn out well and make adjustments to improve the next shot



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