Take spectacular holiday photos

Follow these tips to take flattering photos of loved ones and holiday decorations.

Shoot holiday decorations

Make sure you photograph your Christmas tree or Hanukkah menorah in all its illuminated beauty. You should steady your camera on a tripod, since this is the kind of photo you'll want to take at night.

Like most kinds of night photography, there's no right or wrong exposure. Set your camera to manual mode, pick a midrange aperture (like f/5.6), and then try a several-second-long shutter speed. Check your results. If you want brighter, more dramatic lights, open the aperture a little. If you want the overall scene to be brighter, lengthen the exposure time. You can bracket the exposure for a variety of effects and pick the one you like best afterward.

If you ask me, closer is always better. I generally like shots that are tight and emphasize the subject, rather than wide-angle photos in which the subject gets lost in the background clutter. This is especially important in holiday photos, because you'll find a lot of clutter then. Zoom in tight for your people shots, and look for subtle details to capture up close even when you're taking still-life shots, like the tree, ornaments, and presents.

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