Christmas is a joyous time of year where families get together. It’s a tradition celebrated by billions of people around the world. Christmas is also a great time to make such happy memories permanent with photos. We’ve put together a quick guide to help you take better photos this Xmas!

So, if you want to brush up on your picture-taking skills in time for Christmas, read on. It doesn’t matter if you only have an iPhone or a fancy digital SLR camera, you’ll learn some dynamite tips to help you compose better photos using any device!

First things first…

Believe it or not, many folks forget to charge their cameras and mobiles before taking photos! Make sure you have plenty of spare batteries and have fully charged your phones and cameras so you don’t miss those lovely Christmas memories. While you’re at it, ensure you have enough storage on your phone or spare memory cards with you!

Check your white balance settings

Most Christmas shots will be taken inside, which doesn’t always have the best lighting. It doesn’t matter whether you use a smartphone or digital camera. When taking pictures, especially indoors ones, adjust your white balance settings. Warmer pictures look yellow, cooler pictures look blue, check and if you’re not sure set your camera to automatic white balance.

Take some time-lapse photos

Let’s say that you want to take some pictures of everyone around the dinner table. A great way to do this is to set your camera to take time-lapse photos from the corner of the room. You’ll then end up with a series of brilliant Christmas snaps! Consider setting the camera to take photos every five minutes or so, or even more frequently to edit in to movie – new iPhones can do this automatically.

Make sure each photo has a point of interest

With so much going on at Christmas it’s easy to end up taking pictures that incorporate everything in one image. Decorations, presents and family members all in the same frame makes it look cluttered. Make sure there’s just one focal point in each image. For instance, the woolly Christmas jumper your dad is wearing. Or the silly expression your kids are making with their faces! Use ‘the rule of thirds’, imagine drawing a naughts and crosses board on your picture; line up the interesting areas of the scene with the points where the lines cross on on your imaginary O&X’s board.

Set your camera to Burst Mode for present opening shots

Most digital cameras and phones have a continuous shooting or burst mode; hold the button down and it takes a series of photos. Use that mode when you want to take pictures of people opening presents. You’ll have a much better chance of capturing reactions and emotions as gifts are unwrapped.

Fill the Frame

When taking pictures we can often find ourselves centring the subject and leaving lots of nice space either side. It’s classic, but doesn’t give the best pictures! Don’t be afraid to fill the entire picture, get really close and use the zoom. You can also experiment with the framing of your shots. Try having the subject slightly to the left or on the far right. It gives the photo more interest!

Macro Mode is your friend

Taking close-up shots? If so, there are two ways to achieve perfect results. With standard cameras you can use the Macro Mode feature. The second is to use a macro lens with a digital SLR camera. Quite often, it’s the smaller details that you may wish to focus on when taking those Christmas snaps. Brilliant for close-ups of the tree decorations, or the finer details on the table.

Avoid motion blur

Let’s face it; you can’t expect everything and everyone to freeze while you take a photo. And in fact, it’s great to take some candid photos when people aren’t stiff and staged. But to avoid motion blur, set your camera’s shutter speed to 1/125 or greater. Alternatively, if you want a great blurred action shot, leave it as it is!

Don’t be afraid to raise your ISO

It’s likely your camera or smartphone lets you adjust ISO settings. In low-light situations, don’t be afraid to raise ISO levels for better quality shots. You may have more lights on depending on the amount of tree lights and candles around the home, so have a play around with it the day before.

Check your aperture

Taking a photo of several people at once? Be sure to increase your aperture so that you have a larger depth of field and can keep them all in focus. Want to know what happens when you lower it? Try playing around with this the day before. It’s wonderful for making the background out of focus while making the foreground stand out.

Try to find natural light

In general, the light quality inside of your home will be poor for taking photographs. Instead, look for creative ways to let more natural light enter your home. If it snows, take the kids outside for some wonderful action shots.

Don’t make it a formal affair

As I mentioned earlier, you don’t want to look back on your photos to see a bunch of staged smiles and awkward poses. Make sure you capture people relaxed and enjoy themselves. A few posed photos will be great for next year’s Christmas card, but they shouldn’t overwhelm the day.

Use a tripod

Got the shakes? If so, it’s worth investing in a tripod for your camera before Christmas. They are inexpensive and work with any analogue or digital camera. They are also really useful if you want to take group photos that actually include you. That’s way you can set the timer on your device and jump in the shot ready.

Experiment with slow shutter speeds for outdoors photos

Has it snowed outside? Maybe your street is full of houses with amazing Christmas lights? Capture the ambience and take amazing photos by using slow shutter speeds. Be sure to use speed below 1/15 and stick your camera on a tripod!

Embrace the selfie

iPhones and other camera phones are great for taking “selfies” with loved ones. Selfies are brilliant because they are fun and help you to tell your Christmas story. Some people even use “selfie sticks” if they want to include the background in their snaps.

Take some “blind” photos

The problem with using the viewfinder all the time is that there’s a higher risk of missing out on action shots. On some cameras and smartphones, there is a “burst mode” function you can use. Consider enabling that function and take some snaps without always looking at the viewfinder. You might surprise yourself with the action shots you take when you’re ‘shooting from the hip’.

Good luck!