The secrets of successful festive snaps

Learn these rules, then break them, to create the most memorable pictures, writes Joel Chant

Christmas time is a great opportunity to be creative and capture some happy memories with your camera. So it's a good idea to always keep it close at hand. They say the best camera is the one you have with you at the time. Most households have a camera these days. Many have modern digital equipment, as well as camera phones. When used correctly, these can take good quality photos to enjoy for years to come. Whatever you do, the rules, once learned, are there to be broken. Study photographers you admire, learn from them and develop your own style.

Timing is everything in photography. The famous French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson coined the phrase "the decisive moment", which refers to the split second in which you've timed the photo perfectly to capture a great image. If you bear this in mind, you will not only anticipate, but take better photos. Have the camera ready and look for images. Once you start looking you'll see pictures. All you have to do is raise your camera, frame it and shoot. That is, once you have set the ISO and exposures correctly for the environment in which you are photographing. Take a few practice shots, check them on the camera, adjust your settings and you'll be ready for action. If you are prepared, you'll get good results. Often you'll find the most appealing shots you take will be the observed moment where the subject is not aware they are being photographed, especially with kids who might otherwise become self-conscious.

For a posed group photo, it's worthwhile shooting several frames in case one member of the group blinks. It's important to get all faces looking to the camera and smiling, so interact, talk from behind the camera, make them laugh and you'll get the expressions you're after. You could also put the camera on a tripod, leave a space in the group, set the timer, and dash into place to be a part of the photo.

It's also worth trying a less staged version by asking the subjects to toast their glasses, meeting each other's eyes rather than making contact with the camera. This can also reduce the risk of red eye. If people are looking at the camera and you have a detachable flash gun, bounce the light off a white ceiling. If not, switch the camera to its red eye reduction setting. You could also turn off the flash and use a medium to high ISO setting if it's bright enough. Afterwards software such as Photoshop can be used to correct colours or sharpen the image if you didn't get it quite right.

Better still is to shoot using the fly on the wall technique, which lets you photograph your family while they are at ease. Smiles and laughter look most natural when the subject is caught unawares. Your family and friends should be used to seeing you with a camera, so won't be too self conscious if they see you with it. Stand back a bit from the party, observe what's going on and be ready to raise your camera when you anticipate something is about to happen and you'll capture the moment. Be it joy on the children's faces as they open a present or the surprise on people's faces at the pop of a champagne cork.

Photos of children look best when taken from their level, so you're not looking down on them. You will find the picture works well from their perspective and they interact better with the camera. Children can be camera shy, but if you make it fun you'll be rewarded with some great pictures for the family album. Catching your kids off-guard while having fun will result in less self-conscious images. Look for them becoming absorbed in what they are doing. If you can zoom in on their face, your picture will benefit from a frame filled with their beaming smile.

Everyone will be glad to get some fresh air after festivities at home, such as walking in the park on Boxing Day, and this can make some great fun shots. Have the camera ready and you can shoot fun photos of the family wrapped up warm in hats and scarves, throwing snowballs or running with the dog.

Experiment with a few techniques. Even compact cameras tend to have zoom lenses, so you can shoot some of the family from a distance walking towards the camera, as well as some wide shots from in front of, to the side or even behind everyone. Try a little blurred flash. Use a slow exposure combined with flash so the subject remains sharp but the background is a blur, thus indicating movement. You might also try this when "panning" – move to follow the subject and photograph them as you're both moving. It gives a great sense of drama and can be very effective. Again, using digital, try a few and perfect your technique. You can review what you've tried out and reuse the techniques that work for you.

Often these days, digital photos stay just on the home computer. Why not select your favourite photos and have them printed out, as an album or have a book produced? Many high street labs offer the service. You can also display your photos on digital picture frames or email them to friends and relatives.

The main thing to remember is to be ready with your camera, have the settings prepared for the situation and enjoy taking the photos and the wonderful memories they capture.

www.joelchant.com

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
News
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    SThree: TRAINEE RECRUITMENT CONSULTANT - IT - LONDON

    £20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £50k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 bus...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

    SThree: Graduate Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'