Six Tips To Take Good Christmas Photos with Your iPhone

I have a point and shoot camera. I have a digital video camera. I bought them both just before my girls were born and used them to document their “birth” day. The memories they have recorded are priceless.

But now my babies are toddlers and are everywhere. They don’t sit still for very long or have the patience to sit and smile and say “cheese.” I have my iPhone with me all the time, so that’s what I use to snap photos and take video for work and for play.

As I selected the photo of the girls for our holiday card, I realized that I couldn’t use any from the professional photo shoot we took this summer. They are really good and I couldn’t be happier, but my girls had grown so much from 18 months to 24 months. They are little girls now. So I had to quickly find one that met this criteria:

  • They both had to be in it.
  • They both had to be smiling and facing the camera.
  • It should be in focus.

Well, I think I managed to choose a photo that achieved all three, however A’s hand is blurry because she was flinging it around in delight as I sang to them to keep their attention on me while I furiously shot photos with my iPhone.

As the photo cards from friends and family begin to arrive, featuring amazing, well-lit and professionally (and semi-pro) photos set on the sandy shores of San Diego or in iconic Balboa Park, we sent out one taken in our backyard. UGH. I never intended to use this photo for our holiday card, but they are just so CUTE. And smiling. And sitting STILL. It is a perfectly, imperfect photo featured on our 2011 holiday card.

I want my Christmas Day photos to be better. And I know that you want your Christmas Day photos to be good ones too. Because, like me, you’ll be uploading them up on Facebook and Twitter and Flickr faster than you can say “gift card.”

Practice photo using iPhone 4, with a little help from Camera+.

So I turned to my colleague, Mike Watson of San Diego-based Video Approach for basic advice for all of us, on how to take Christmas Day photos with our smartphones. Here’s what he has to say.

The iPhone has a great camera.  It’s especially nice because it’s always in your pocket, so when the kids are at the park or something cute happens in the car, you always have it with you.  That said, for my Christmas morning photos, I’ll be using my point-and shoot camera.  It’s a little more user friendly, and takes better pictures than a smartphone – even an iPhone.

However, if you must use your smartphone:

  1. Wipe off the lens with a cloth. Your phone spends most if it’s time in your pocket, purse, or with your fingers touching it – take a moment to wipe off the lens with (preferably) a lint-free microfiber cloth, or secondarily, your t-shirt, dishrag, or whatever else is handy.  Avoid paper products, as they will scratch the lens.
  2. Open the drapes, turn on the lights. If your phone doesn’t have a flash, it needs your help with some light. Even if it does have a flash, you will do better with indirect light (like the light that comes through a window). Smartphones are known for having harsh, shadowy, underpowered flashes. With the drapes open and the lights on, you won’t need the flash at all.
  3. Get down on eye level. I know it’s more comfy to shoot those photos standing up, or in your armchair, but you’ll be seeing the crown of everyone’s head in the photos. Get down on the ground, and see the kids from eye level.
  4. Be a documentarian. Give up on those photos where you say “now sit on your new bike and say CHEESE!”.  Instead, be the first one out to the living room, and get a shot of the kids when they see the gifts for the first time.  Anticipate what is going to happen NEXT, not what just happened.  After they finish opening this current present… which present will they want to open next?  Get in position to capture THAT photo.
  5. See their faces. Don’t shoot from behind as they open their presents – get in front (or have them turn around), so you can see the present, the opener, and the tree – in that order.
  6. The camera software that comes with Android or the iPhone isn’t that great. Look at what else is out there. Spending 99-cents on new camera software might give you much better photos than the included camera app.

I’ve upgraded my camera software and it makes a huge difference. I use Camera+ and Instagram. Each can perform some color correction or provide pretty cool photo effects to make colors more vivid or muted. And, Camera+ gives you the option to add a border and a caption to your selected photo. Another thing Camera+ has is a stabilizer — which is great if you just have the iPhone 4, and not the iPhone 4s (which has a stabilizer in the software).

The BONUS tips come from Lisa at The Gonzo Gourmet.

Plan out the PJs so they’re in cute coordinating stuff. Mom could even get some cute holiday PJs! Clear trash out of the shot. Practice your shots the day or two before so you can see what knick knacks need to be removed. You can also get some idea of lighting.

With these tips, I think we can confidently snap, edit, post and share all of the cuteness that will be oozing from beneath the Christmas tree. What are your tips for taking photos during the holidays or other special occasions? Especially when there are multiple kids in the photo?

P.S. I’ll post the holiday photo later. We just sent them out and don’t want to spoil the surprise just yet.

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4 thoughts on “Six Tips To Take Good Christmas Photos with Your iPhone

  1. This is an extremely valuable post! Who doesn’t rely on their smartphone these days to capture some of the most important keepsake memories? It is challenging to remember to lug around a camera when you’ve got a bunch of “stuff” already and then have to be mindful of the kiddos… plus for anyone like me who has lost a camera (or two or three!) it is far wiser to not have one more valuable thing to worry about. I now ONLY take photos with my iPhone because I can keep it on my person, I have never lost a cell phone, I need it for work, it is an all-in-one and it really does take way better photos than the previous camera I had. Hubby has upgraded to the new iPhone 4s and I have to admit THAT camera is superior – we’ve compared pics we’ve both taken at the same time of the same scenario so I’m super excited to check out that Camera+ app! WOOT!

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