’Tis the season ye merry photographers. No idea what the statistics are, but I have a pretty good idea there is no time like the holidays for shooting tons of pictures. Back in the day, I’d wager more rolls of film were used between now and New Years than during the whole rest of the year.
Certainly no different in this day of cellphones and gigabytes.
But not around my house. I’ve become a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to shooting Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities. Rebelliousness is not usually part of my nature, but come the holidays, with the expectation being that Greg’s a photographer, I don’t snap a lot of shots. Does the cobbler make shoes on Christmas Eve?
I’m not saying I’m proud of it, but the fact is, the holidays are one time when I enjoy myself more without a camera around my neck or my phone in camera mode. This is crazy, because what better time to document the joy and love of family and friends than when they’re gathered for the holidays?
So, don’t do as I do, do as I recommend.
CANDID, NOT POSEDIn all honesty how many shots fill your photo albums of people smiling at the camera, posing with a just-opened present or with a carving knife poised over the ham? Most of them? Too many photographers think a photograph is something you stop real life for.
Here’s the main idea to keep in mind for this holiday season: Get most of your photos of people doing what they are doing. Shoot pictures when grandma is opening the Christmas present or reacting to it. Get that shot of dad and the big bird while he’s carving it or the activity in the kitchen during the cooking.
Even when it comes to the most delightful of us — the children — we tend to stop them from their normal activity to get a picture. Let them play! Years of professional photography has taught me that kids can ignore a camera like no one else. They notice it, but VERY quickly forget about it. That’s when your best shots happen.
So, don’t stop life to photograph it.
IF POSED, MAKE IT FUN
Now there’s posed and then there’s boring, stiff, stare-at-the-camera POSED.
During the holidays most of us are around people we know pretty well. Use your knowledge of them to pose them meaningfully. If Uncle Frank is bored to tears with family gatherings, say “C’mon, Frank! Show us how you’re really feeling.” If your mom is protective of her kitchen while cooking, maybe you can coax her into a pose by the kitchen door, arms crossed and chef’s knife in hand. It’s posed, but has some playfulness to it and says something.
Pose fun, if that makes any sense.
TAKE IN THE ENVIRONMENT
Generally, people don’t get nearly close enough to their subjects in photography — a topic of many columns. But during the holidays be sure to step back and take in the environment. Allow a sense of place to come through.
This sense of place can be literal, such as in what house is the event happening. I look through old family pictures and there are so many where I have no idea where they were taken. A wall is a wall is a wall. Step back and take in more of the room on a few or even a couple shots of the exterior.
Sense of place can also be more symbolic or atmospheric. This can involve including the decorations and the food in your photographs. Keep an eye out for making these things the actual subject of pictures. If the lights on the house are Griswold-esque, it might be worth a shot.
TIME, PLACE AND NAMES!
Don’t make the mistake of thinking your memory will always be so fresh. File your images with the date.
I am currently digitizing nearly 100 years of Lehman family film. It’s frustrating to look at photos and try to figure out when and where they were taken by how old they look. Or the model of car in the background. Or the style of clothes, the hair and the furniture. Save them in a dated folder!
Also, I have whole albums of wonderful black and whites from generations gone by and very little idea of who, what, where and when. Take a little time and attach some names, even if it’s in a notebook that you can photograph and include with the pics.
Shoot, have fun and preserve memories. It is a photograph’s greatest gift!