As the family shutterbug, you have responsibilities. Everyone expects you to document holiday festivities with creativity, grace and style. Your favourite lenses are close at hand and you’re eager to try out that new external flash. But before you click even one frame, you have to find scenes worth snapping.
Your aunt gnawing on a turkey leg is embarrassing. Your nephew’s third meltdown of the day isn’t very frame-worthy. Instead, look to these classic Thanksgiving (well, any special dinner event) moments to give your camera a workout.
1. Linger in the kitchen. Thanksgiving is (almost) all about the food, so get some great pictures of the feast as it unfolds. Aim your camera at the turkey coming out of the oven and get a glamour shot of the bird before it gets carved.
For magazine cover-worthy images, plate the food on a serving platter and flank it with fresh kale leaves and bright cherry tomatoes. If the room is dimly lit, use an external flash attachment with the end angled up to bounce light off the ceiling and illuminate the whole room. This minimizes unsightly harsh black shadows from an overpowering light source.
2. Visit each group. Before the meal take a stroll around the holiday festivities. There’s no doubt that small groups have formed. You have the elders chatting on the porch, the kids playing in the yard and the football fanatics crowded around the television. And, the foodies? They’re staying close to the kitchen to get a few early tastes of the feast.
Become a fly on the wall and capture natural moments. Use a telephoto zoom lens, such as a 70-200mm, to stand at a distance from the action and get pictures without interrupting the moments. Aim the camera at laughing children on swings, the expressive faces of relatives as their favorite team makes a touchdown and close-ups of the dainty desserts being plated. Using a zoom lens with a wide open aperture (such as f4 or f5.6) will make the subject stand out against a slightly blurry background, giving the photos a professional look.
3. Photograph the meal. Before diving into a plate of Thanksgiving goodness, keep your camera poised and ready. There are several must-have snaps waiting to be captured at the dinner table. Check your lighting. Open curtains and turn on overhead light fixtures. The more light you allow into the camera when using an automatic exposure mode such as Program or Auto, the faster your shutter speed (or the amount of time light is allowed to flow into the lens) clicks which gives you brighter photos.
A fast shutter speed also reduces blur and makes pictures have more contrast.
Don’t miss these moments:
- the food being placed on the table
- a wide-angle view of all the guests seated around the table before eating
- a tablescape of the centerpiece surrounded by bowls of food
- a portrait of the host(ess) at the head of the table
- kids eating with their fingers
- toasts and speeches
4. Document the post-party. Most families have after-dinner traditions worthy of being captured on camera. From taking a walk together to burn off those extra pieces of pie, to getting a head start on holiday shopping, keep the camera with you even after the meal ends.
If you’re feeling a little tired after eating so much food, use one of the handy preset modes on your camera. It can be easy to rely on Auto mode, but try experimenting with Sports mode to stop fast action, such as a backyard game of soccer. Or, play with Portrait mode to get a few great shots of the youngest members of the family. Are you planning a portrait of the entire family gathered on the front porch? Try ‘Landscape’ mode to get everyone from the front to the back of the group sharply focused.
When you’re enjoying time with family, it’s easy to see great moments to document for the scrapbook and post on social media. Thankfully with digital photography you can click, click, click and choose which pictures to keep later — long after the last piece of pumpkin pie settles in your belly.