10 Tips for Taking Great Holiday Photos

You don’t need a miracle to capture those special family moments. Here, Michelle Ciarlo-Hayes of mkc photography shares her secrets for taking memorable holiday photos.

By Michelle Ciarlo-Hayes

I particularly love the calm that comes after gifts have been opened and before dinner must be prepared. As seen here, sometimes these times are the best moments to capture.

With all the excitement and distractions of the holidays, it can be tough to capture those truly special moments. Whom better to ask for advice than Michelle Ciarlo-Hayes, award-winning artist and the creative force behind mkc photography? When she isn’t behind the lens for her work (below, you’ll find examples of the beautiful wares she handcrafts using her photographs, salvaged wood, and reclaimed book paper), Michelle is busy snapping photos of her own family. Here, she shares with us her best tips:

1 I’m a big fan of natural light. You’ll get a much nicer result if you avoid using a flash indoors. It washes out human subjects and makes people and pets have strange glowing eyes. Instead, try to shoot near a window, turn on every available light, or use a high ISO setting on your camera.

2 Here’s another tip for shooting indoors. Use a tripod (for camera or phone) to help eliminate blur in low-light, indoor situations.

3 Be spontaneous. Posed photos (“say cheese everyone!”) are great to have, but spontaneous shots are priceless. Don’t forget to snap away on your phone when a snowball fight breaks out or when you catch your child licking the spoon while helping to make cookies.

4 Try “show and tell.” Ask your child to show you a gift he’s excited about or something he’s made. I’ve found my boys to be much more cooperative about sitting down for a “photo shoot” if it’s not about me asking them to smile, but about them showing me something interesting.

Think beyond posed shots and experiment with different approaches. For example, ask your child to show you something he’s made or a gift he’s really excited about. You may get more cooperation that way!

5 Forget about respecting personal space. (LOL) Move in close and get down on the same level as your little ones when they’re decorating the tree, opening their packages, or enjoying a holiday treat.

6 Being “centered” is generally a good thing — but not in photos. Don’t put your main subject or focal point right in the middle of the picture. Instead, keep your subject slightly off the center line. This makes for a much more interesting, dynamic photograph.

7 If you’re planning an outdoor shoot, the best time to take photos is early morning and late afternoon. Ideally, the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. (That’s when you get the best color.) Of course, you can’t always choose the time, but here’s something to keep in mind: When the sun is high overhead, it tends to wash out everything in view.

8 No matter what time it is, try to keep the sun behind you (or at least off to the side). If the sun is too bright for your subject’s eyes, then head into what we photographers call “open shade” — a place that’s shaded from direct sunlight but isn’t too dark, like just inside the shadow of a building. Don’t worry. There will still be enough diffuse light to shoot, and you’ll have a much happier, more willing subject. :)

9 Don’t be shy. (This is a tip I have trouble following myself. I find I’m hard to find in our family photos because I’m always behind the camera.) Wouldn’t it be nice to see more of you in your together moments? Make sure you have someone else capture you with your kids or family!

10 Take too many photos. With digital technology, you have no excuse. Years from now, when you’re looking at your photos and taking a trip down memory lane (“they were so little then!”), you won’t regret having taken so many candids (pajamas, bedhead, and all!).

🌟 Ready for this? All of Michelle Ciarlo-Haye’s unique, eco-friendly goods (like those below) will be 25% off during AnytownUSA’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale Event! Get ready to save on all mkc photography products and many more amazing American-made finds at our Sale Event, which begins Wednesday, November 21!🌟
“Before We Met” Salvaged-Wood Photo/Memo Holder, 3.5" x 3.5", regularly $29. Free Shipping. Made in USA.
Home” Art Block, 5 x 5 Salvaged-Wood and Book Paper, regularly $41. Free Shipping. Made in USA.
All the Little Trees” Salvaged-Wood Tree Ornament, 1.25" square, regularly $25. Free shipping. Made in USA.
Run Like a Girl” Salvaged-Wood Keychain, 1.25" square, regularly $25. Free Shipping. Made in USA.