Today, we couldn’t be more excited to be sharing these holiday phone tips with you from Rachel Johnson, a good friend and a super talented photographer out of Utah County! She has three gorgeous little girls (you’ll see, just wait!), is a crockpot afficionado (like 5 times a week crockpot user!), and listens to Harry Potter audio books while she’s editing (she’s been through all 7 books at least 10 times. go. girl.). You can see more of Rachel’s incredible talent on her website and Facebook page.
As a professional wedding photographer, Christmas time is beyond crazy at my house. I work a lot during those 2-3 weeks between college semesters, because that’s when a lot of people get married. Over the last 4 or 5 years, I feel like have become so busy and stressed with work that all of a sudden I wake up and it’s the middle of January and all I have to show for the holidays is way too many toys and a zillion fake pine needles that refuse to ever be vacuumed up.
I’m working hard to slow down and take back the magic of the season. And I know I’m not the only mom out there who feels this way. But guess what’s great? We live in a time were we can document everything. I might feel like I’m sleep walking through December, but I can take pictures along the way. And when January comes and I start looking through my pictures, I realize something amazing. My kids had a wonderful holiday season. They were in awe when we went and saw the lights on Temple Square. And they were delighted when we went sledding. They were thrilled/terrified when they met Santa. And they were so excited when they got to participate in acting out the Nativity. Sometimes I don’t realize that I’m doing a great job being their mom. But being able to relive those priceless moments reminds me that I really am.
So, I want to give you tips to getting great photos of your family this holiday season, with nothing more than your cell phone. These tips will help you take better photos, and help you to remember the magical holiday season even better!
(I have an iPhone 6+, but the tips will work with any phone or camera!)
Tip #1: Have them face the light
To get good images, you need good light. I always try to get my subject facing the largest light source in the room (usually a window, but even the brightest ceiling light or a lamp will do). I get between the light source and the subject, so that when they look at me the light is falling on their face and reflecting in their eyes. Having the light behind your subject with you shooting into it is almost always a bad idea with a cell phone camera.
Tip #2: Choose your focus point/exposure
You probably already know this, but when your camera is open on your phone you can tap anywhere on your screen and the camera will focus where you tapped. It will generally also adjust your exposure when you tap it (you can see it adjusting the exposure if you tap between a window and a wall, it’ll go from dark to light.) Did you also know that you can manually adjust your exposure? Tap the place you want in focus, keep your finger there, and slide a second finger up and down next to it. It should get lighter (up) or darker (down). Doing these simple things will allow you to choose exactly where you want your focus, and how bright or dark you want the photo.
Tip #3: Don’t use your flash
Unless you absolutely have to use it, please don’t. It’ll make your pictures flat and yellow. Ugh. Just say no.
Tip #4: Get up close & down low
If you’re taking a snapshot of a person, it will almost always be better to be close. If you’re further back, make sure there is a reason for it (like so you can see the Christmas tree.)
When you’re taking photos of your kids, also try to get down on their level. Kneel or sit on the floor. Try to see the world the way they do. Remember to remove unnecessary clutter. Also try using the rule of thirds for more artistic images. Have your child fill one third of the frame, leaving the other two thirds open.
Tip #5: Focus on the eyes
Get the eyes in focus, and get them reflecting light. They will pop more, and take your photos from “eh” to amazing.
Tip #6: Be silly
Want your kids to look at you and give you real smiles? Get crazy. Tell them there is a dog inside your lens so they have to look really closely inside. Count 1, 2, 3 and then make the most ridiculous face ever. Do that 14 more times. They’ll get laughing when they see mom being crazy. Tell them you’re gluing their pants to the floor/chair/etc., and that they can’t move. Say, “Alright everyone! Do NOT say ‘cheese.’ Instead I want you all to say, ‘I hate Christmas!’ Now say, ‘Presents are the worst!’ Everyone yell, ‘Dad is smelly!’” Be creative, and try to take them by surprise and make them laugh. Real, laughing smiles are so much better than forced ‘cheese’ ones.
Tip #7: Document the things that tell a story
Letters to Santa. First snow of the season. Setting up Christmas lights. Making cookies together. Don’t just document the big outings. You’ll love seeing the little things too.
On the same topic, grab those detail shots. Tiny fingers hanging ornaments on the tree? There is nothing cuter.
And don’t forget those candid moments!
Tip # 8: Take a lot of photos, then take a few more
You never know when that magical moment is going to happen. Don’t be buried in your phone during the whole season, but definitely take more than 3 shots. Usually when I want one cute picture of my girls I’ll take 20-30 shots. I’ll even keep shooting after I feel like I’ve got “the shot,” just in case. I get the cutest pictures simply by snapping like crazy. **Make sure you have your photos automatically back up to the cloud/Dropbox/etc. That way you can delete old pictures to make space for new ones without worrying you’ve lost them.
Tip #9: Take a group photo
Duh, right? But really. A group photo is a great way to tell a lot of story with just one frame.
Tip #10: Download a good photo editing app or two
I use PicTapGo and Photoshop Express. All. The. Time. PS Express has awesome features including ones that will let you sharpen images, clean up blemishes, and reduce red eye. Pictapgo allows you to add filters, crop, and post images online. Just be careful about overdoing the filters. You want to enhance your image, not make it unusable. Remember, pictures are for the future. And that super yellow-y filter is going to be super annoying down the road (“…and this, children, is the year we all had jaundice…”).
Using these 10 simple tips will will help you to go from taking ordinary snapshots to taking really beautiful and artistic images—all with your cell phone!