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Making meaningful holiday photographs

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During this time of year there are literally tons of sites on the Internet that will give you advice about taking “great” holiday pictures. The amazing thing is, in years past, you simply pulled out the Instamatic or the Polaroid and snapped away. The images would have harsh lighting, be out of focus, or blurred over or under exposed, yet these images were still great. Why? Because, that greatness was from the fact they rekindled the memory of the moment. They weren’t great because the exposure was excellent or the composition was superb, or that a great (expensive) camera was being used. They were great because these pictures made us think of how crazy Aunt Dorothy was or how kind Grandma Dova and Grandpa Joe were. That’s the power of photographs.

Linda A. Henkel, Department of Psychology, Fairfield University recently conducted a study about photography and a museum tour. Her findings were that when people photographed objects during the tour they could not remember the actual experience of the tour. She states:

“If participants took a photo of each object as a whole, they remembered fewer objects and remembered fewer details about the objects and the objects’ locations in the museum than if they instead only observed the objects and did not photograph them.”

Yet when participants “zoomed” in they would remember that experience of the object.

As photographic technology invades our life experiences, we have a tendency to spend more time with technology and less with the moment. While professional photographer are familiar with separating themselves from the experience to better tell the story of an experience, do you really want to separate yourself from these personal memories?

So, how does one take great pictures and still keep the memory alive? Here are a few tips:

1. Create Photo Ops
Just like the President and celebs, create a time to take your pictures. Let everyone know that you want to take pictures of this or that event. Now everyone buys into the event and hams it up for your photo session. Once the photos are taken everyone, especially you, can now relax and enjoy each other’s time and company. You can still take candid shots which are now the B-Roll of the story.

2. Create a Storyboard
So just what is the story you want to tell? Plan this out so you can get the images you want from the event. This doesn’t need to be complicated. It simply outlines moments and maybe angles or points of view. Once you let folks know about the “Photo Op” everyone now has a role in building the story, especially you the photographer/archivist. Now that you have the storyboard, you will be able to “remember” the whole event because you have scripted the story.

3. Share the Story with Everyone
Take the responsibility to share your images. Most folks at the event will be able to accept a digital version by a zipped file folder or sideshow. There are several photo sharing sites like Flickr, Photobucket, and Picasa Web Albums, now Google+ Photos. You may also want to assign a “second shooter” to use their smartphone to create an image feed on Instagram. But remember, other people will want an “Old School” hard copy. This can be your gift to them or you can have folks buy into this option by stating your intentions up front.

So in the end the key to great holiday photos takes a little forethought. Set the camera so it does the heavy lifting by using preset Scenes or Modes or program the camera to create a personal “Mode” for the event. The bottom line is to have fun by making those meaningful memories real for everyone.

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