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How to Take the Perfect Family Holiday Portrait

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Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:32 am, Thu Oct 17, 2013.

(StatePoint) If your family’s seasonal traditions include taking a holiday portrait, you probably have a stack of photos that all pretty much look the same. Rather than adding another stilted family photo to the pile this year, consider breaking out of the mold with a candid portrait instead.

Think for a moment about one of your favorite photos. Is it the one where everyone is posed, sitting properly with a perfect smile, all eyes on the camera? Or is it the one where you caught an unexpected laugh?

Candid photography is how you can really capture the personality and spirit of your subjects, say the experts.

George Lange, author of the new book, “The Unforgettable Photograph: 228 Ideas, Tips, and Secrets for Taking the Best Pictures of Your Life,” says the secret to great photography is shooting what a moment feels like, rather than what it looks like. He is offering all family photographers -- whether they are using a point-and-shoot, a top-end manual camera or smartphone -- tips for capturing their loved ones in special and unique ways.

• Be in the moment: Fight the nostalgic impulse to take a picture designed to memorialize the moment for future generations. Instead, be in the moment, shoot in the moment. Encourage inspiration by gathering your family in a place where everyday moments occur, such as the backyard or porch.

• Ditch the zoom: Move your feet, bend your knees, get your pants dirty. Get low. Climb above. Get down to the eye-level of the subject. Don’t zoom the lens unless it’s completely necessary. Push your camera right into things.

See the light: Light is the photographer’s palette and toolbox, a kind of visual thesaurus that offers a thousand ways to portray the same scene or subject. Learn to play with it.

• Feel the rhythm: There’s a natural rhythm to life. Outside the studio, every scene has its own rhythm, every place its beat. Listen for that. If you’re in sync and just a little bit lucky, the shutter will open at just the right beat.

• Keep shooting: “Often I see people spending more time examining the shots they’ve just taken on their camera screen than taking more pictures. This is not productive!” says Lange. “You can’t predict when you’ll get a good shot in a sequence, and you certainly can’t see it on a tiny screen. Just keep shooting. No harm asking most subjects for a do-over -- and another. For kids it’s a game.”

• Use objectsout of context: Props often make portrait-taking easier by giving subjects something to relate to and play with, distracting them from the camera. Props taken out of context -- a dining chair on a lawn, even in a snowstorm -- immediately add interest and fun.

More photography tips can be found at www.unforgettablephotograph.com.

By rethinking the way you shoot your family’s holiday portrait, you can add depth and emotion to your family photo album this year.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of George Lange

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