Meero's holiday calendar
It’s that time of the year again: joyful carols, holiday movies, mistletoe, gifts wrapped in colorful paper, and this special kind of wonder that only December brings… This year, we could all use some holiday cheer. 2020 did not go as planned for any of us. All the more reason to find comfort in beloved holiday traditions, no matter what this looks like for you: if you’re looking forward to a White Christmas or if your month of December will be sunny and warm!
Here at Meero, we think this time of year is particularly magical for photographers. With all the bright lights, beautiful decorations, and delicious meals, this season is ideal to flex your photographic skills. And we’d like to share some of our best tips and ideas with you.
So throughout the month of December, you’ll find photography tips on this page. Stay tuned for advice, photoshoot ideas, and exciting giveaways!
Follow us on Instagram @meerophoto to stay updated, and let us know if you’ve used our tips to create beautiful holiday photos! You can tag us and we’ll be happy to share your work with our followers.
If exchanging gifts is a part of your holiday traditions, then you know these moments can be the highlight of the evening. You might wish to capture the surprise of your mother unwrapping a heartfelt gift… or the disappointment of your sister finding an ugly sweater under the tree.
Either way, we think gifs are the way to go: they are shorter and lighter than videos, and unlike photos, they move! As anyone who’s been on the internet can tell you, this makes them perfect to capture facial expressions. By creating gifs of these special moments, you’ll have fun or moving memories to spice up your conversations all year long!
Gifs are easy to make too, whether you have an advanced camera or if you’re just relying on your smartphone.
You can start by shooting a short video or by taking a series of photos through burst mode. Just try to keep your camera or your phone still: use a tripod and, of course, avoid flash. If you’re using photos, you need at least 2 of them. As for videos, the gif-making website Giphy advises keeping them shorter than 6 seconds.
All you need to do is to upload your photos or videos on Giphy or any other specialized app or website.
If you use the Adobe suite, it is also possible to create gifs via photoshop!
Food photography is one of our biggest passions here at Meero. We’ve specialized in shooting mouthwatering photos and videos for our many clients in the catering business, and there’s nothing we love more than sharing our know-how with the community.
We go over the basics here. From camera settings to lighting, to composition, we get really technical about culinary photography. Make sure you’ve got these covered, but we do think there are a few more specific rules to taking photos of your holiday meals.
A typical holiday meal consists of multiple dishes placed around the table. This overcrowding is what makes holiday scenes so charming. You probably won’t be able to carefully execute minimalist compositions, and that’s ok. Embrace the chaotic nature of your holiday meal and use it to make your photos unique.
Once the food is on the table, you won’t have a lot of time to take your photos: we’re betting everyone will be hungry! You need to think about the staging beforehand. Choose a tablecloth and plates that pop out (the holiday season isn’t really about neutrality). Add holiday decorations on the table here and there. If you’re shooting at night, think about placing warm sources of light around your table to mimic the light of the sun - Christmas lights are great for that! If you have to use a flash, remember to bounce the light on a neutral surface.
You can start by taking close-up shots of the main dish, no matter what it is in your country and then put it in perspective by photographing the various dishes surrounding it. While bird-eye photography can be interesting, we also suggest experimenting with lower angles that will allow you to capture the scene in all its depth, with some of your family members in the background. Use a shallow depth of field to get that blurry effect in the background. Don’t shy away from movements and spontaneity, using a fast shutter speed if needed!
And Bon Appétit!
Inevitably, at one point during the holidays, someone will say: “let’s all gather around and take a group photo!” and well… the thing with group photos is that people are often unhappy with the result. Between the one who blinks at the wrong time and the one who complains about the unflattering angle, beware of bruised egos!
This is your time to shine as a photographer. Take matters into your own hands with group pictures that will make everyone feel like a star!
The first thing you will need to do is go over the basics of portrait photography for beginners. Once you’re clear on that, you will have to take a few extra steps to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Preparation is key: make sure you have an idea of the right location beforehand. You’ll need a well-lit place where the group will fit with little distractions in the background. If you have a tripod, make sure to use it.
Once the location is set, take it upon yourself to direct your subjects. It is way too easy to lose control when shooting a large group, so you’ll have to provide guidance. You’re probably shooting people that you know well, which makes it easier to assign places according to their personal preferences: those who like to be the center of attention and those who shy away from the spotlight. You can also place taller people in the back and center, but beware of creating more than 2 rows! If your group is too deep, you will have to use a narrow aperture (f/8 or higher) to get everyone’s face in focus.
The most challenging part is for everyone to look at you and smile at the same time, so make sure to take multiple photos and to put everyone at ease!
Holiday photography is all about capturing the warm, cozy atmosphere of an indoor gathering. The risk with flash photography is that the sudden burst of light would wash out your delicate atmosphere. Likewise, if you’re shooting outdoors, your flash might over interfere with the lights you’re trying to capture.
We would suggest taking this time to experiment with low-light photography. You would need to optimize your exposure triangle accordingly.
Opt for a larger aperture (low f-number), but know that this will result in a shorter depth of field. Similarly, you can bump your ISO, but this might create noise. As for the shutter speed, it would need to be a bit slower in order to allow for the most light to be absorbed by the camera… which may, in turn, create motion blur. You can use a tripod!
As is often the case in photography, it’s all about the trade-off, so choose wisely.
You might think silhouette photography is best when taken outside, at sunset. We’ve explained how to get this nice effect during Golden Hour. But you can also get those nice, crisp silhouettes indoors. All you need to do is backlight your subjects. During the holidays, you can use your Christmas tree as a source of light!
Just turn off the lights in the room and place your subject in front of the Christmas tree. You shouldn’t be using a flash for this, as the light must be coming from behind the subject. Then set the right exposure for the background, which will leave your main subject underexposed. In manual mode, use a large aperture when possible (don’t go narrower than f/8). Start with a low ISO and go up as necessary.
Bokeh is a hot topic in the world of photography. It refers to the smooth, blurry shapes you can sometimes see in the background of a photo. You can achieve Bokeh when your whole photo is out of focus or when the main subject of your photo is in focus while background elements are out of focus.
While we’re all for a good Bokeh any time of the year, we do think that the holiday season is a perfect time to practice this technique! The colorful and bright decorations make for interesting Bokeh effects. Christmas-tree shaped Bokeh, for example, is particularly popular.
On the technical side, there are certain things to keep in mind before trying Bokeh:
- You’ll want to shoot in Manual mode or Aperture Mode.
- Use a large aperture. We recommend keeping your aperture under f/2.8 if your lenses allow for it.
- Minimize the distance between you and your subject and maximize the distance between the subject and the background. This will make it easier to place your subject in your depth of field while blurring the background behind it
Portraits come to mind when speaking about Bokeh: you can take nice photos of your models against lights or colorful decorations. But you can also experiment with other types of photography (such as pet photography or silhouettes).
While we’re really enthusiastic about digital photo editing and all the amazing ways AI can optimize photography, we’re still all for manual crafts! We love to use everyday items to enhance our photoshoots. We’re always on the lookout for creative IRL filters that will set your photos apart from what we usually see on Instagram feeds.
And there are many ways to use holiday decorations to do just that. Photography is all about the mastery of light, so it’s not surprising that using fairy lights will give your images an extra twinkle. Before you use them as a part of decoration, take the time to experiment by placing them just in front of your camera and add a holiday spark to your photos.
Bright lights, colorful decorations, delicious food: these are all staples of holiday photography. But the real reason we take photos around the holidays is to capture the precious moments spent with those we love!
While we’re all for photographers directing their subjects during a portrait photoshoot, we also think that candid shots have a special kind of charm. The odds are you’re going to spend a lot of time around your loved ones. It’s your chance to take beautiful holiday-themed holiday shots.
What makes a good candid photographer? Any street photographer will tell you that you need to go where the action is, never forget your camera and blend in the crowd. But things are slightly different when you’re shooting people you know. They probably know what you are up to, but you still need to be discreet. They will be their spontaneous selves if they forget about the camera, so follow these basic tips:
Shoot in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority mode:
we encourage photographers to experiment with Manual Mode, but being too focused on your exposure triangle might keep you from the action!
Use a zoom lens or long lens...
so you can shoot from afar
Shoot in burst mode:
you might need to take multiple photos to get it right.
Avoid using flash:
nothing draws more attention to the photographer!
Avoid placing the camera at eye-level with your subjects.
Shoot from the hip instead!
Capture the key moments of the day or evening:
opening gifts, cooking, dancing, singing... document group activities that are usually loaded with emotions.
If you’re just starting out with photography, you might still rely on the auto mode on your camera. You might even have given the S or A modes a try to familiarize yourself with Shutter Speed and Aperture. We think that the holiday season is the right time to graduate to manual mode! Why?
With all the shiny decorations and warm colors around, there is plenty of light to capture. You can use these bright lights to create great effects such as bokeh or silhouettes. But this is harder to achieve when you don’t have full control of your exposure triangle. If this intimidates you, we’ve got just the guide for you: learn everything there is to know about manual mode. Take the time to go through it. Practicing something you love can be the best gift to give yourself!
In manual mode, you have full control over your exposure triangle
What’s not to love about holiday-themed pet photos? Picture this: your four-legged friend wearing a seasonal outfit or playing with a gift wrapper... Adorable, right?
Photo by Jakob Ownes on Unsplash
These snaps are not just cute, they’re also important memories we keep of those we love. Many of us consider our pets as members of the family, so it’s not surprising that we turn our lenses to them. If you do, you’ll soon find out that photographing animals (especially untrained ones) is pretty challenging. Follow these simple steps to make the process smoother:
Make sure your pet is accustomed to the sound and shape of your camera...
Especially if they’re young. Take pictures around them so they get used to the clicking sound of your shutter. If need be, you can even bribe them with treats… we won’t tell!
Arrange the set up in advance.
If you wish to obtain a posed photo of your pet, you can think about the composition of your shot, and perfect the background. Don’t forget to groom your pet or dress them up in cute outfits. It’s the holidays, they too should look their best!
Make your pet stand still!
It might be an easy task for well-trained animals, but for younger or overactive puppies, you can use their favorite squeaky toys or get a family member to attract their attention while standing behind you. If all else fails, do not underestimate the power of a candid shot!
Mind your shutter speed.
If your pet moves around a lot, you might opt for a higher speed in order to avoid motion blurs (at least 1/200 but you can move up if your pet is active!)
Get on their level.
A sure-fire way to get a successful picture is to capture your pet at eye level. The faces of pets can be more elongated, so it’s unlikely that all their features will be in focus if you’re shooting with a narrow aperture. You can choose an aperture that allows you to get their whole snout in focus, or go for something more artistic with a shallower aperture, and try to focus on their eyes, as they convey the most emotions.
Catch the light!
With your pet’s eyes in focus, try to catch the reflection of a light source in their eye. This phenomenon is called catch light. If you’re shooting indoors, this light can come from a flash (make sure it’s reflected on a neutral surface) or even your Christmas tree if it’s particularly bright!
Repeat as needed!
You will probably need to take many photos to get the winning shot, so don’t hesitate to take a lot of pictures and don’t shy away from burst mode.
“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” These words are especially true for things such as road trips, hikes, and… holiday decorations. If you’re anything like us, you might enjoy the process of preparing for a big holiday as much as the holiday itself.
So why don’t you gather your friends or family members, throw on Santa hats, and make a party out of it?
Our first tip of the month will allow you to make valuable memories out of this day. While you might be tempted to simply take before and after selfies in front of the Christmas tree, we have a better idea for you: a time-lapse.
You know, these impressive sped-up videos that allow you to see very long processes happen very quickly: a rose blooming or seasons changing in a couple of seconds.
A time-lapse of you decorating a room or a Christmas tree might not be as scenic, but it will make for a very successful Instagram post. This popular video effect is achieved by taking still photos at regular intervals and then merging them together. Ideally, a time-lapse video will have still elements (your house or your Christmas tree) and moving elements (whoever is decorating).
And you can achieve that whether you’re an absolute beginner or if you’re already familiar with a DSLR camera.
With your smartphone: the easy way
The process is really straightforward with a smartphone. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, your device is likely to have a time-lapse option in its camera. Just set it up in a place where the lighting is optimal and keep it running for about an hour and the time-lapse video will be automatically generated.
We still recommend getting a tripod for your phone, as it needs to stay completely still throughout the process.
With your camera: the advanced way
If your camera has a built-in intervalometer, then you won’t need to buy an external one and plug it in. Once your camera is set on your tripod and you’ve checked the composition and exposure, set up the intervalometer to take a photo every 1 to 4 seconds, as this speed is ideal when taking a time-lapse of human activity. You will generally need 25 photos to make one second of video, so you can calculate your preferred interval depending on how long you will keep filming. When you’re done, you’ll need to import all your photos to a video editing software.