10 tips to perfecting the art of festive photography

Be honest, you’re probably going to be taking hundreds of photos this festive season, half of which you’ll delete as they’ll look awful. But fear not, iPhone photographer, Erin Brooks is here to make sure every shot is a keeper.

Take a look at these top tips to ensure your sparkling new iPhone X is full of seasonal photographs to be proud of.

1. The basics
For Portrait mode, you need to be within 8 feet of your subject to get that nice bokeh background blur. This can make it tricky to get full-length body shots, so for group portraits in Portrait Mode, focus on upper bodies and faces. To have everyone in focus in a group Portrait mode shot, each person needs to be in a straight line next to each other, equal distance from the camera. If one person is farther back, they will be caught in the depth effect background blur.

2. Let there be light
The most important factor in all photos, and especially with iPhone Portrait mode, is light. Make sure your light is really good, to make the most of your shot. The best places to find excellent light are outside, especially during the first or last hours of sunlight, or if indoors, position yourself very close to a window with a lot of light coming through.

3. Get artistic
If your light isn’t the best, and your shot is a little grainy, go with it. A black and white edit is a great way to make grain look intentional because it feels natural with black and white.

4. Focus
Take a second to compose your shot. Tap where you want the focus to be and wait, especially with Portrait mode, until it locks in. This will avoid blur or missed focus.
Play with focus when using Portrait mode. Focusing on an ornament held out in hands might be a fun twist on an image that draws the eye somewhere unexpected. Play with shooting from above to get just an upturned face in focus, while the rest blurs away.

5. Underexpose your shot
With Holiday lights, snow, or harsh light, try to underexpose the shot. It’s important to allow your photo to capture the data in the bright spots. Without underexposing in those situations, you end up with blown out spots, where they are bright white. To underexpose your shot, tap where you want your focus and wait for the box to appear. Then, to the right of the box on your screen, slide your finger downward. You’ll see the screen darken. Darken only enough to where there are no bright spots without any details. For example, with Holiday lights, darken until you can see the outline of the bulbs.

6 Framing is everything
Pay attention to the entire frame: what’s in the background, or foreground, that might take away from the image? Angle yourself and your phone to cut out distracting elements. If you’re shooting a Christmas tree not on Portrait Mode, try your best to get the whole tree in the frame, it creates great scale. Shooting Portrait Mode closer in front of a tree creates really fun background bokeh.

7. Experiment
Play with angles. For photographing children, you can tell the story a lot more fully if you crouch down to their level. For adults, shooting from underneath can be unflattering, but from slightly above can be very flattering. Also, try to keep the lines within your images straight.

8. Have fun
Holiday PJs are also a fun way to instantly make a photo festive. Try shooting people holdings mugs of cocoa from above so they can see the marshmallows/whipped cream—it’s a fun perspective and feels cosy. Next to a fire in a fireplace, or outside bundled up with scarves are also ways to convey that cosy, holiday feel.

9. Go outside
Another beautiful background for holiday shots outdoors, are trees, especially if you can find some with sunset light filtering through them. Try to position your subjects with a lot of distance between them and the trees, and use Portrait Mode for a soft, golden bokeh background.

10. Feel it, shoot it
Remember that the most important factor in your images besides light, is emotion. Conveying genuine happiness, fun, emotion, and love is the key. Try cracking a joke and snapping the candid moments in between, to capture a true laugh. Ask your subjects to hug, touch their foreheads together, tell each other a secret, or even have a dance party. These are the images they will cherish the most.

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