Nikon Learn & Explore
Kristina Kroot photo of a toddler baking holiday cookies

© Kristina Kroot

Capture candids of your young ones baking cookies, decorating or enjoying holiday festivities.

Looking to get the best photographs of your family and friends this holiday season? Well, the key to success is simply to relax and let it happen. "Take it easy" doesn't just refer to the automatic operations of your camera; it also has to do with your method of operation.

First, realize you have huge advantages when your family is your subject: you've got access and familiarity. And if your family is used to seeing you prowling around holiday gatherings with your camera, you're way ahead of the game. They're likely to ignore you—and that's exactly what you want in order to capture photos of the folks just being themselves.

You'll get the best pictures when people are doing what they're into doing: dinner preparations, gift wrapping, chatting, table setting. It's not just the Thanksgiving dinner that's photogenic; it's also the team spirit that went into its preparation. During the holidays, it's not just the giving of the gifts, but their wrapping the night before; and, of course the decorating, too.

There are so many wonderful holiday events that your family may be participating in and which make for great pictures. From holiday pageants to caroling in your neighborhood, you’re sure to capture the season in photographic memories.

Two of the most important factors in taking great family photos are timing and location. You know where the family's favorite places are: kitchen, family room, living room, back yard. Be there. And even if you're not planning on a picture, try to keep the camera at hand; you never know when a great moment's going to happen. "Hold it, I'll get the camera" is a sure sign you missed the shot.

While you shouldn't be the director of photographic events, there's nothing wrong with having a subtle plan—like this one, told to us by a writer friend.

"A few blocks away from the house where my family gathers for Thanksgiving there's a beautiful park. So what I did was put my camera and a football I'd brought along on the coffee table in the living room. It took a few minutes for them to be noticed, and then eight or ten of us were out the door and down to the park for about a half hour of no-rules football...and lots of pictures. It worked because I knew them—knew what they'd do when they saw the football. We had a great time playing, and we passed the camera around and got some really nice shots."

So, it's about timing, and location—and it's about the gear. The best news is that cameras today are slick-handling wonders that are made to capture precious moments with precision and automatic ease.

Bring some techniques and ideas, too. For instance, when you're shooting kids, don't just stand there—get down to their level for the best images. And once and a while hand the camera over to them, and let them show you what they see.

So, what's a good camera choice? Well, the first thing to consider is the category: is it going to be a COOLPIX point and shoot compact, a Z series mirrorless or a DSLR.

You may find that during the holidays a compact COOLPIX digital camera will be more convenient, and these cameras are packed with features that will make your holiday picture taking a whole lot easier. Scene Modes make it easy to get well-lit, sharp images in a variety of situations. They include Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Night Portrait, Food and Night Landscape—all perfect for holiday photos.

The Nikon Z series mirrorless cameras are ideal for the picture taker who wants the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and the form factor of a smaller, more compact camera. Along with still images remember to capture video, slow motion video or even time lapse so you can tell the complete story of your celebration. These compact cameras are small enough to take with you everywhere.

DSLRs are incredibly versatile, offering point-and-shoot ease along with the ability to use interchangeable lenses. In difficult low-light conditions, the high ISO sensitivity of many DSLR models turns those situations into stunning photographs—and when flash is necessary, DSLRs provide powerful, fully automatic performance from either the built-in flash (many models features one) or accessory Speedlights.

Without doubt, a key factor in selecting a DSLR is the incredible range of available lenses, and your choice of lens is going to be the key factor in your holiday photos. If you’re using a NIKKOR VR lens (Vibration Reduction) that's even better, as it means the lens offers image stabilization to banish blur for clearer, sharper pictures.

Happy holidays and happy shooting!

Marc Cutler photo of a young boy smiling for the camera wearing a santa hat

© Marc Cutler

With little children you may only have a short window in which to take their picture before they tire of posing for the camera. The photographer was able to get a natural looking shot of this youngster laughing for the camera.

Lindsay Silverman photo of a holiday scene in a store window

© Lindsay Silverman

Enclosed holiday vignettes along both sides of the street in a local Long Island town showcase different themes for the holiday. Bending down to get a kids eye view, the photographer was able to take a photo through a window and frame the scene using the Z 6 and the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S at 40mm.

5 Top Tips for Great Holiday Photos $

  1. Take plenty of photos during the holidays. With all the cooking and baking, decorating and gift giving, there are lots of fun family events to shoot. Experiment with different Scene modes if your camera has them.

  2. For great shots of a decorated Christmas tree adorned with holiday lights or lit Chanukah or Kwanzaa candles, don't use a flash. Put the camera on a tripod or steady surface, and use a slow shutter speed to pick up the warm glow of the lights or candles. The same holds true when photographing outdoor decorations. Experiment by changing the shutter speed until you get a photo you like. The longer the shutter speed, the more the lights will glow.

  3. Ever hear the phrase “Dress in your holiday best”? When your kids or family are dressed up for Thanksgiving dinner or holiday parties, that’s the best time to pull them aside for a quick portrait.

  4. Go outdoors. Bundle up and keep warm while capturing all the holiday fun that’s had outside, from carolers to holiday parades. Use the camera’s flash to capture the smiling faces.

  5. Close-ups of decorations make for unique images. Use a macro lens, macro mode (If your camera has one. Most COOLPIX cameras have a Macro mode), or telephoto lens. Take your inspiration from the colorful ornaments and other holiday decorations, tasty treats and fancy wrapped gift boxes.

Diane Berkenfeld photo of holiday lights, shot while zooming in the lens, for a wild looking colorful shot.

© Diane Berkenfeld

Try creating unique art from a holiday light display. Here the photographer turned the zoom ring on the lens barrel as the photograph was captured. Set the camera to either manual or shutter priority exposure mode so you can control the duration of the shutter speed. Shutter speed 1/6 second.

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