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  • Writer's pictureGiovanni Rusconi

Photographing at Christmas

Christmas, or also Christ's Day, is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and together with Easter and Pentecost one of the three main holidays of the Christian liturgical year. During Christmas the family gathers, so much so that the holiday is associated with the highest travel rates throughout the year. The camera is part of Christmas like the decorated tree, lunch or dinner, music, gifts and much more. Photographing at Christmas is part of all of our lives.

To get beautiful photographs, read our Christmas photography tips.

Every family's Christmas traditions

Each family has its own fixed customs, which are usually passed down from generation to generation. Furthermore, if you maintain the same customs for Christmas year after year, you are required to constantly revisit the indispensable images of tradition, which also constitute an important historical document.

Although the pre-Christmas period is usually very busy, the suggestion of the illuminated tree and the celebration of this day together with family and friends are even more unrepeatable moments.

A group photo at the Christmas tree is just as obligatory as the presentation of gifts, the festively decorated table, or for example, playing instruments. The greatest art for the photographer lies in capturing this mood in his photographs.

Lighting in Christmas photographs

When using the camera's internal flash you need to ensure that the lighting mood is not excessively overexposed. Those who cannot do without the use of a flash or want auxiliary light should carefully dose it depending on the festive occasion.

On low light occasions, as the automatic settings recommend, it can't hurt to set the night shot settings. Take the camera settings and – if possible – a flash exposure compensation.

Help yourself find the right light by taking several test shots and checking the monitor in advance to find the most suitable exposure.

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The use of flash

If you photograph with flash units, it can be very useful to use diffusers that soften the impact of the flash and reduce the contrast of the illuminated areas with the shadows. The result is soft photographs by candlelight.

The photographer can also choose to take photographs with the flash aimed at the ceiling, so that the light bounces and avoids the front lighting option which could be excessively harsh and cause abrupt overexposure.

More and more cameras offer settings to combine longer exposure times and the use of increased or reduced flash when necessary. This allows you to absorb as much natural light as possible from candles and other light sources in the room, even when taking handheld photos is barely allowed. The automatic flash settings work very well if you use the flash that is not built into the camera, but a flash purchased separately: for a small expense you can get incredible results with the ettl settings offered by non-built-in flashes.

Increase the ISO for faster shutter speeds

With each camera the ISO sensitivity option must be taken into consideration. By increasing the ISO sensitivity, when using fast lenses, the Christmas tree lights may be sufficient to guarantee correct lighting and the use of the flash can be avoided.

It should be noted that as the ISO sensitivity increases, the corresponding image noise also increases, and the images taken will have a grainy background. The effect can also be voluntarily sought to guarantee a vintage effect to the photographs. The most modern cameras instead allow you to increase the ISO while maintaining an almost invisible noise except at macroscopic enlargements.

Stabilizers and tripods

Many cameras also have elements called motion stabilizers that compensate for hand shaking on the vertical and horizontal axes. Even with the best automatic anti-vibration tool, however, in a dimly lit Christmas living room the need to use longer shutter speeds makes the stabilizer no longer sufficient: the camera must be placed on the tripod, which also has the great advantage of being in able to allow you to choose the perfect composition for the photo.

If you use a tripod it is also advisable to use the remote switch, a smartphone application or the self-timer function (from 3 to 10 seconds) in order to further reduce vibrations as the shock caused by pressing the shutter button is avoided . This also allows the photographer himself to appear in the Christmas shot!

Then, if the camera also has a continuous shooting mode, you should use it – in any case it is a great shot for the whole family, offering, for example, in the next year for self-made Christmas cards .

Replacement batteries and memory cards

A naturally relaxed shot presupposes that the camera batteries are fully charged: it is very unpleasant to carry a camera and find yourself unable to shoot for such a trivial reason. Spare batteries are easily available and it is advisable to bring spare batteries for the flash too, although the duration of these is usually sufficient for any type of shooting.

You must also think about replacing memory cards, because nothing is more annoying than once you have to copy the data onto other images already taken and proceed with a selection of shots during the party, simply because the memory card is full.

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