Christmas is the perfect time to become your family paparazzi. With all the excitement, there are bound to be funny episodes to record. While it’s hard to get the family together for a proper portrait, recording antics is easy! But preparation is everything.
Lunch with Santa
It can be tempting to leave your camera home when you take your kids to meet Santa. After all, you have your hands full with squirrely kids who are over the moon with excitement or bashfulness. But make a pledge this year that you’ll take your camera and, of course, your iPhone. You’ll be so glad you did.
Sometimes the decorations make good hats! And you, as the family paparazzi, will be ready to record it. Have your camera turned on, with the flash turned off!
Choosing the settings when you are the family paparazzi
Aperture mode is the best mode for quick shots like this. Set your camera to a low aperture number like f/4.0 or f/5.6. This will help blur the background. And a low aperture number will allow the camera to choose a faster shutter speed.
A good way to determine the best setting is to set a low aperture number and take a test shot when you arrive at your table. Then look at the photo you took and check the settings. You’ll need a shutter speed that can freeze the motion, so you may want to raise your ISO so your camera can choose a faster shutter speed.
If I’m sitting at a table, I usually leave my camera on the table next to me or on my lap. As you pull it up to take the photo, quickly tap on the shutter button to wake up the camera. You’ll need to be quick if you’re going to be the family paparazzi. Remember to focus on the eyes!
Sometimes panning is the way to go
For this shot of Santa doing a flyover during a Christmas party, I followed the airplane with my camera as I took the shot. That gave the photo some excitement by smearing the people in the foreground and the trees in the background. (That’s a funny way of describing it, but it’s pretty accurate. Instead of using a shallow depth of field and blurring them, I used F/8.0 as my aperture setting and blurred them with motion blur.)
I usually set a slower shutter speed of 1/15th second or 1/30th second for panning, but 1/125 second worked for this shot.
Catch the action at the Christmas party as the family paparazzi
If you’re lucky enough to attend a Christmas party with a climbing wall or other activities for the kids, think like the family paparazzi and have your camera ready. Again, it helps to have a faster shutter speed. In this case, I got away with 1/100th second. Always remember to focus on the eyes!
Build a gingerbread house
If the kids are shy about having their photos taken, give them something to build. They’ll forget about you! Then, you can casually shoot as they work on their creations. In this case, shooting in Continuous Shooting Mode or Burst Mode will help you capture the best expressions.
To help light the kids’ faces for this photo, I laid a sheet of white posterboard on the kitchen island. The overhead lights reflected off the paper to evenly light the bottom half of their faces.
You could also shoot this photo with the gingerbread house in focus for a different look. Then, it would be the subject.
To get the kids excited about being photographed by the family paparazzi, be sure to show them some of the shots. They love looking at a series of photos taken in burst mode!
Messy can be wonderful
This is one of my favorite Christmas photos! I shot it of my grandson, Mason, on a Christmas trip spent in Guam. I love the donut crumbs and the dazed, sugar-rushed expression on his face.
It’s not a formal portrait but it captures his personality in ways a formal shot could not.
What about the grown-ups?
Putting together Christmas dinner can be overwhelming. You’re busy trying not to burn the dinner. The rolls need to go into the oven. And then, you turn around and see this. If you have your camera sitting somewhere nearby, turned on, and set for the light in the room, it will take less than a minute to record the moment when your son-in-law is helping to tie a bow tie. Another memory to look back on!
Keeping your flash turned off will help show where you took the photo. If the flash is turned on, it only lights a subject within about ten feet. Then, the background becomes very dark.
Sometimes the adults act like kids
It’s moments like this that being the family paparazzi is so much fun. Why was my son wearing the basketball box around his neck? What was he showing his father? Who knows! But the joy in their faces is worth remembering!
These photos will become priceless memories to share.
I took the next two photos years ago with my Canon A1 film SLR camera, while we were living in Jakarta, Indonesia. I scanned them with my Canon printer (not a fancy photo printer) and imported them into Lightroom Classic.
My daughter was very curious about the Christmas cracker and thought she should be able to see what was inside. I wonder if her daughter will do that this Christmas? She’s about the same age as her mother was.
We saved this dress and her daughter is wearing it this Christmas. I wish I knew where the stuffed Christmas moose was. I’ll bet it would be worn as an impromptu hat again.
I can’t wait to show these photos to my granddaughter!
Remember to turn off the flash when you are the family paparazzi
Both of these photos have one thing in common that you can avoid today. Both were taken with the flash turned on. My camera did not have a pop-up flash. This was an external flash that I attached to the hot shoe. As a result, my daughter didn’t have the dreaded red eyes that pop-up flashes can cause.
However, if you look at the background, you’ll notice how dark it is. That’s why you want to avoid using a flash if possible. Instead, increase the ISO if you need to, while you’re doing your family paparazzi duty.
Let’s not forget the dogs
You must be really quick and pretty stealthy to get good casual shots of your pets. I find it’s easier to take these photos with my DSLR than my iPhone. Kenzie, our Boston terrier, is less suspicious of the camera. I just check the settings on my camera before I start to sneak up on her. Then, I’m ready to fire away before she bolts. Look at that disgusted face!
Now it’s your turn to be the family paparazzi
One of the most important things you can do before the Christmas festivities is to charge your battery. Be sure to have two charged ones if you are going out. And bring extra memory cards. You can learn the other things I always carry with my camera by clicking here.
Here’s a link to a post I wrote about setting your focus point.
If you’ll be attending an event with fast action, you can read advice about shooting action from photographer Jeff Cable here.
Awesome shots! Personally, I generally hate flash. It gives you away! Back in the day, my kit of choice was my fTb with a Vivitar Series One 90mm Macro (with Fuji 400 ISO film). Long enough lens for you to be across the room taking photos without calling attention to yourself.
I’m also the custodiam of the family photographic history (as it were). Got my first camera in 1965 when I was 12. But, my treasure is a photo of the grandparents from 1921 with the four oldest children. The twins were 4-6 months old at the time! Some of the Oldies are at the link below
And digital copies are spread out among all the cousins. Don’t just be the photographer, share the love!!