It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
I LOVE everything about the magic of the holiday season. That is, until January 2nd rolls around and I’m immediately ready for spring.
Winter in Chicago seems to never end. Sunset at 4:00 in the afternoon, wind so chilly that you don’t dare bring your camera outdoors for fear that your fingers may break off.
What’s a photographer to do? Put our big girl pants on and embrace it.
If you’ve learned anything about me throughout this series, it’s likely how much I love sun-filled images. But unless you’re fortunate enough to live in San Diego (anyone want a house guest?), we need to learn to embrace photographing indoors for part of the year.
So I’ve put together 3 quick tips for capturing your families during the cold, winter months.
QUICK TIP 1: Take the time to capture the Hallmark moment.
Want your pictures of Christmas Eve to look like something out of a Hallmark commercial? Yep, I do too. Note: These two pictures were taken about 4 months in to my photography journey. I DID NOT get it right the first time, nor are they perfect. But they are perfect to me. Lesson? Give it a try even if the instructions sound difficult. Read back through the previous tutorials – you can do this!
Now why do they look so different?
Picture 1 was taken in Automatic mode. With the flash on. Which means… I let the camera do the thinking for me.
Remember, you’re smarter than your camera. I repeat, you are smarter than your camera!
Now why did my “camera’s brain” fail? My camera tried to get most everything in focus. The tree is SORT OF in focus. My little one… SORT OF in focus. And it tried to read what is admittedly a tricky lighting situation.
The result? Baby girl is very underexposed. The tree/lights are well exposed. Problem is… I want sweet little first Christmas girl to be the highlight of the photo… and she’s not.
So let’s look at photo number 2… taken in Manual mode. How was this achieved?
Step 1. Create some distance between the baby and the tree for depth of field. That will help create that beautiful bokeh in the Christmas lights!
Step 2. Set your aperture to be wide open (remember, that means LOW numbers.)
Step 3. Meter and set your exposure based on your subject’s skin… not the tree!
Step 4. Finally, adjust your Shutter Speed and ISO accordingly to keep your aperture at a low setting, but your subject properly exposed. (My final settings for this image were: ISO 800, aperture 2.5, shutter speed 1/200 sec).
If you’ve read this far and everything above made sense… give yourself a high five. That means, you’re really starting to understand manual mode!
If you don’t get it the first time… keep playing with your settings. You have the knowledge to do this! Read back through the earlier posts and give it a try!
QUICK TIP 2: Practice using and learning to love window light.
I don’t use flash. Ever. Which means when winter rolls around, I depend on the light that comes flowing through my window during the day. ALL of the following pictures were taken using nothing but window light. Play with different angles… you may love the result.
Window light scenario 1: With my back to the window so the light is ON my subject’s face. This will create the most even lighting across your subject.
Window light scenario 2: Window light coming in from my side, hitting my subject’s face on the side/at an angle. It creates beautiful shadows and depth.
Window light scenario 3 (the trickiest): With my camera facing the window with the sunlight at my subject’s back. Tip: Make sure you’re exposing for your subject’s SKIN in these situations. Otherwise, your camera will read the light behind them and underexpose your subject.
QUICK TIP 3: Embrace cabin fever (and the perfectly imperfect photos that come with it).
Wintertime is a good lesson for remembering – you can’t control everything. Capture the moments and the memories despite the imperfections. The lighting may be horrible. Your photo may be grainy. Your color balance may be off because of wonky overhead lighting. Who cares? These are your memories. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you’ve practiced or how much you’ve learned. It’s okay if your photos are perfectly imperfect. In fact it’s more than okay… it’s wonderful because they are YOURS.
Happy holidays everyone!
This is post number 5 in a series of posts on how to take better pictures. To check out the previous posts see below:
- 3 Steps To Better Pictures Without Changing A Single Camera Setting
- Introduction to Manual Mode: Discover Light in a Whole New Way
- Understanding Aperture: Getting Some of That Buttery Goodness
- The Rule of Thirds
Make sure and PIN this to your photography board for future reference…you know…so when you bust out your camera and completely forget what Jessica just taught us. For that time.