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Holiday Photo Disasters, and How To Avoid Them
The holidays are a magical time of year, when we see friends and family that are often avoided over the other eleven months. For photographers, the holidays mean something extra special; documenting the chaos. While we all like to think we’re pro photographers at heart, there are some very real mistakes that people often make, when they get caught up in the holiday festivities. Here is a list of common mistakes and how to avoid them.
What NOT To Do:
Have your subjects stand in front of a bright background

Silhouettes are in the year and let’s face it; your loved-ones' happy smiles are overrated. There are far too many good pictures of well-lit people in appropriate lighting conditions and when it comes to holiday family portraits, the last thing you want is to actually see anyone. Let's bring back the silhouette-look. When you’re inside, setting up a family portrait, be sure to have your entire family stand right in front of a bright window. Remember to turn off all the lights in front of them before you take the picture. This way you’ll see nothing but ghostly, shadow-like images of your loved ones.

What To Do:
Light Your Subjects

There’s nothing wrong with taking a few minutes to make sure people are lit correctly before taking a family portrait. Make sure your subjects are not in front of a bright background. Remember, if your subject looks too dark, or too light to your naked eye, they’ll probably look that way in the picture. Don't be afraid to use the flash, or move a few lamps around to get the right lighting effects.


What NOT To Do:
Make EVERY Picture Staged

Candid shots are bad, plus, they require you to keep your camera with you at all times, like a slave, connected to a ball and chain. You’re better than that. You should only take your camera out, after the meal, to get one shot of everyone. Your completed photo album should show everyone looking like they’re posing for a school portrait; no slouching, big smiles, and bad hair. If people aren’t looking at the camera, and smiling, refuse to take the picture. Remember, it’s about capturing what you want the world to later think, happened..

What To Do:
Capture the Right Moments

Keep your camera close by throughout the day, especially when people are opening presents or making food. Some of the best pictures aren't staged.


What NOT To Do:
Rely On Your Cell Phone’s
Camera for Everything

Nothing says, “I care about you,” like a grainy picture taken on a cell phone. It’s not about capturing the moment on a decent point-and-shoot or, gasp, an SLR camera… holiday pictures are all about how fast you can take a picture (bonus points if you can upload that grainy thing to Facebook in less than a minute).

What To Do:
Use a Real Camera

If you have a point-and-shoot or DSLR camera that you're comfortable using bring it along and use it to take pictures on. While cell phone cameras are portable and convenient, they aren't a replacement for a good camera. Chances are, your camera has a better lens, image sensor and feature set that will help you take images you're proud of.


What NOT To Do:
Upload Every Single Picture
to Facebook

Remember, your friends can’t wait to see all of the under-exposed, extra-out-of-focus pictures you accidentally took over the holidays. You know the pictures I mean, the ones you took before you removed the lens cap, the ones you snapped while accidentally looking at the floor, the ones of Aunt Mildred, right before she sneezed… those pictures are priceless and your Facebook friends will appreciate having to sort through fifty bad pictures to find the five good ones you should have pre-selected.

What To Do:
Edit Your Pictures Before Sharing Them

Go through your pictures and save the ones you actually want to share in a separate folder on your computer. Then, open those photos in a photo editing software program, crop and edit them as needed, and then share them on Facebook.


What NOT To Do:
Ruin the Moment to
Get the Shot

As a photographer, your job is more important than anyone else’s because, years from now, the picture is all anyone will remember. So if the picture you’ve just taken of your smiling toddler, opening a new toy is out-of-focus, take the toy away, re-wrap it, and take the photo again. Practice makes perfect. Don’t worry about emotionally scarring anyone. The pictures are all that will truly last of this magical time, in the years to come.

What To Do:
Enjoy Your Holiday. Find a Balance.

Remember to enjoy your day. You're not a stranger, hired to photo-document every last detail. Be respectful of other people, even at the risk of not getting the shot.


Awkward Holiday Photos in Action
For a look at some truly “awkward” family holiday photographs, here are some of our favorites, courtesy of AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com
Santa’s Little Goths:
You, Me and the Dog:
Northern Exposure:
One Day to Xmas: With Bells On:
The Padded “Throne”
Terri and the Chocolate Factory:
Retrevo Can Help You Find Better Camera Accessories
Want to make a better holiday photo memory? Don't forget to check out Retrevo's new camera accessories catalog, where you can stock up on batteries, lenses, tripods and more.
Jennifer L. Jacobson is Retrevo's resident aspiring photographer, and also the Director of Public Relations. She owns a Nikon D70, and has been known to shoot on a Nikon D2Xs. Jennifer's photographs for the "Altered Barbie" project have been featured in the French high-fashion magazine, Yo Donna. Click Here to See Some of Jennifer's Photos
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