Tips & Products for Better Holiday Photos #CTAPhotoNYC

by - 10/27/2017 09:01:00 AM

Capturing photo memories is something we all do. But sometimes our photos don't come out the way we expected. Or maybe we take good photos but want to ramp up our photo skills a bit. Especially during the holiday, getting the "right" photo is such a focus.

Note: I was invited as media to this event and received a gift bag. However, any personal views expressed are always 100% my own.

To get some tips on ways to take and enhance our photos, especially during the holidays, I attended a #CTAPhotoNYC Lunch & Learn event hosted by Techlicious and Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

CTAPhotoNYC was a camera event, but if you need tips for smartphone photos visit this Techlicious post, which covers all of the Halloween tips.

During the event Tyler Suiters of CTA shared how they keep track of trends including how we use technology for travel, fun/entertainment and within our homes. They also track emerging technology that we should know about.

Then Alex Podstawski of Nikon shared tons of photo tips to jazz up photos for the holidays. While these tips are for DSLR Camera types, I think that once you understand how it works, you can adapt some of the tips to use with smartphones. I know I will!

General photo taking tips

  • Use Burst Mode to ensure you get the shot. Burst Mode enables you to take multiple shots with one press of the shutter button. Start shooting when you anticipate the action and keep going.
  • Use Sports mode to stop action. Sports Mode is designed to help you capture a moving object. The color will be more vibrant than if you shoot in other modes and bring the action to life, though, that it’s not as good a capturing true-to-life skin tones.

Low-Light Photo Taking Tips

  • Raise the ISO Level. Raising the ISO setting makes your camera sensor more sensitive to light. The more sensitive it is, the faster the camera can take a photo, which will reduce the amount of blur caused by camera shake. But take a few shots to see which setting gives you the best balance between reducing blur without too much noise.
  • Use HDR mode for composed shots. Many cameras have a shooting mode called HDR, for high dynamic range. In this mode, your camera takes two or more shots at different exposures and then combines them so both the light and dark areas of your shot are properly exposed. If there's any movement, though, the shot will be blurry.
  • Use a tripod.  One reason why so many low-light shots don't come out well is that it's really hard to hold a camera or phone still long enough to take a crisp-looking picture. Using a tripod takes the shake factor out of the equation. Also, try using the camera's self-timer mode to avoid the movement that inevitably occurs when you press the shutter button.
  • Use a fast lens. A fast lens will let more light through so you can take your pictures faster, reducing the potential for blur. You can tell how fast a lens is by looking at the maximum aperture (the shutter behind the lens), which is called the “f-stop” and notated as “f/X.X”. The lower the number, the wider the aperture and the more light the lens will let in. A good camera choice will come in at f/2.8 or lower.

Cool Halloween Trick shots

  • Create ghosts in your photos with multiple exposure mode. You can create ghosts in your photos by using the multiple exposure mode in your camera. Take a shot of a scene and then another shot with a person. The multiple exposure setting will combine the two shots, making the shot with the person somewhat transparent, or ghostly. The key here is using a tripod so the background remains exactly the same in each of the two shots.
  • Add ghostly writing to a scene. You can add ghost writing by using a long exposure, ideally 30 seconds. You’ll need a tripod to keep your camera steady, a light source (flashlight or glow stick), and black gloves (to hold the light source). Once you’ve started the exposure, draw shapes or words with the light source. With your hands in the black gloves, they won’t be visible in the final shot. If you’re writing words, they’ll show up backwards in the image, but that’s easier to fix by flipping the image afterward than teaching yourself how to write bacvkwards.
  • Create spooky silhouettes. Another good reason to call dusk “the witching hour” is that it’s the perfect time to capture spooky silhouettes. Find a spot with a clear line of sight to the western sky and have your subject stand in front of you with the bright sky behind them, turn off your camera’s flash and use the 20 minutes before the sun fully sets for a perfect Halloween backdrop.

Tips for taking better holiday portraits

  • Use Portrait Mode for pictures that focus on people. You’ll find you’re able to capture better skin tones and usually there’s a shorter depth of field so the background is slightly blurred to put emphasis on the person.
  • Use a telephoto lens or change your aperture setting to highlight your subject. If you have an interchangeable lens camera, use a telephoto lens to isolate the subject. The lens’s shorter depth of field will blur the background a bit, making the person or pet pop in the image. You can also lower your f-stop to increase the camera’s aperture, giving a similar effect.
  • Use a flash on sunny days (yes, really!). Faces often look dark in bright scenes because the camera adjusts it exposure to the brightness around your subject. You can have your subject face into the sun for more light, but then you’ll wonder why everyone is always squinting in your photos. Instead, have then face away from the sun and use the flash to brighten their faces without the squint.
  • Use a diffuse light source to reduce harsh shadows. Unless you’re going for a dramatic black-and-white character shot, it’s usually best to find a diffuse light source to soften the shadows. Blinds or shear curtains are particularly good at creating a diffuse light source to eliminate harsh shadows, so sit your subject near a window with the blinds closed for better lighting.
  • Get down to eye level when shooting kids and pets. When shooting kids and pets, get down to their level for a more natural photo with better scale.

Tips for taking holiday scenes

  • Use a wide-angle lens to get the whole scene. Capturing the entire holiday crowd can be a challenge, especially if you’re in a small space. A wide-angle lens will, as its name suggest, capture a wider angle, letting you get the entire extended family into your photo. This lens field of view is referenced as a “35mm equivalent focal length”, where smaller numbers mean a wider angle. For true wide-angle shots, look for 28mm or below. One important additional benefit of wide-angle lenses is that they have the largest depth of field (unlike telephoto lenses, which have a short depth of field), so they keep more of the scene in focus from near to far and the kids in the front row will be just as in-focus as the parents behind them.
  • Use candles and lights for an interesting background. Out-of-focus lights, whether they’re tree lights or candles can make an interesting background. Make sure you use a low f-stop (e.g., f/2.8, f/1.4) or telephoto zoom to make your background blur.
  • Use Night Portrait Mode to capture a person and the background scene at night. If you want to capture a person with holiday lights behind them, you’ll need to expose for both the person and the background. The Night Portrait Mode is specifically designed to perform this task using both the flash and a slow shutter speed to pull in more details from the scene.
  • Use Exposure Compensation to make your snow whiter and your skies blacker. To make snow look whiter, use positive compensation to increase exposure, i.e. overexpose the image. For nighttime scenes, underexpose the image for inky black skies. Look for the exposure compensation option on your camera. It’s usually a +/- button or icon.

After learning all those awesome tips, it was time to see some products to help us capture and show off our holiday moments.

Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II (SRP: $449.99) - Combines an ultra-slim design with high-performing features for incredible image quality and easy portability. Packing a powerful 1.0-inch, 20.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor into a pocket-friendly size, it's powered by the DIGIC 7 Image Processor for fast operation and features built-in Bluetooth® connectivity for easy sharing

Panasonic Lumix ZS70 (SRP: $449.99) - This powerful, pocket-sized camera captures all the sights and scenes in photos and videos, with vivid colors and details. The ideal compact travel camera for both high resolution still photo and 4K video photography.

Nikon D3400 (SRP: $499.95) - Shoot in extremely low light without a problem. Create portraits with rich, natural skin tones and beautifully blurred backgrounds. Always connected with Nikon SnapBridge and a compatible smartphone or tablet. Learn as you go with Nikon's innovative Guide Mode

Epson Expression ET-2750 EcoTank printer (SRP: $499.99) - The perfect all-in-one printing solution for any work-from-home mom, offering revolutionary cartridge-free printing with easy-to-fill, supersized ink tanks with up to two years of ink in the box. Easy setup and navigation with a 2.4" color touchscreen and auto-stop ink bottles. Borderless printing and auto 2-sided printing

Shutterfly Watercolor Patterned Frames Coaster (SRP: $19.99) - A stylish way to display favorite memories. Available in sets of four, great for cocktails or hot drinks, with no-slip cork backing

Tiffen Steadicam Volt (SRP: $199.99) - Engineered to provide the utmost precision and control, enables smartphone users to capture high quality video content with ease. Perfect for vlogging and action sport filming, the Steadicam Volt is an essential tool for on the go smartphone filmmaking and photography.

Accommodates phone sizes with or without case from 100g – 250g in weight and 58mm to 85mm. Lightweight and folding design enable easy storage and transportation.

As you can see there's was lots of information shared. Hope this helps you take great holiday photos going forward.

For more Techlicious tips and info, visit -

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