The December holidays bring friends and family together for parties, dinners, visits with distant relatives and, of course, trips to see the beautifully decorated shops. These events are the perfect times for what were called - in the film days - Kodak moments. To ensure that you are ready to capture these memories, here are a few tips that may help you avoid frustration when it's time to take a holiday photo.
- Know how to use your camera! It seems like common sense but even the simplest point and shoot camera (or cell phone camera) has features that, if mastered, can make your picture more interesting. For example, the iPhone has a panoramic feature that can make dramatic, sweeping wide-angle photos but unless you know how to use it, your attempts will turn out blurry. Practice, Practice, Practice.
- Charge the battery! While this too may seem like common sense, the busy holiday season often crowds out the small details. If you are going out to a party or to see the sights in New York City, make an appointment on your smart phone or computer a day ahead to charge your camera's battery. And remember, shooting outdoors in cold weather, battery life can be dramatically shortened (it's basic chemistry). Experts suggest that you keep the camera inside your coat until it's time to take a picture. After shooting, put the camera back inside an inner coat pocket.
- Start with empty digital storage cards! You may find it hard believe how many people keep every picture they have ever taken stored on the one SD or Compact Flash card that came in the camera. That's a recipe for disappointment due to data loss (these cards are manmade and can fail, get over written or get lost). Backup all of your files onto your computer or on a cloud storage service to ensure that you don't lose your old images and, also, to allow for as much space as you'll need to capture new images. Once backed up, you should format the digital storage card in the camera it will be used and you should be good to go.
- Protect your camera from moisture! If you are an eyeglasses wearer, you know that your lenses fog up when you go from the cold to a warm room. The same thing happens with your camera equipment. Unfortunately, the moisture (condensation) also happens INSIDE where the electronics are. Most electronic devices (especially cell phones) do not work well with moisture inside them. As mentioned before, keep your camera (or cell phone) inside your coat pocket when you go inside a warm room and allow it to reach room temperature gradually so that condensation is minimized.
- Be careful when cleaning the lens! Even the most inexpensive camera these days has a "coated" lens. This coating is a delicate layer of anti-reflecting material that minimizes flare and ghosting. The coating also improves color and saturation - it's all good. Since lenses live in a a generally hostile environment, they can get dusty or, worse yet, smudged with finger prints. These will affect sharpness and color so it's best to have a clean lens when shooting pictures. However, it is best to resist the temptation to clean the lens with your sleeve, napkin, tie, sweater or handkerchief! Please - buy a micro fiber lens cleaning cloth (they are relatively cheap - under $5) and a small brush and clean your lenses before heading out on a photo trip. GENTLY whisk off any dust on the lens with the brush and then GENTLY polish the lens - and do it as GENTLY as you can.
- Chimp! "Chimping"is looking at your pictures right after you take them. On a recent TV special, world famous photographer Annie Leibovitz was captured "chimping" during a photo shoot for Vanity Fair. If she can do it, you can do it. Often, these holiday occasions are once in a life time events so making sure you have a good shot is worth the few seconds it will take to look and, maybe, reshoot.
- Don't spend all of your time taking pictures! Enjoy your holidays. Talk, laugh, eat and drink (within moderation). Take the occasional picture and then put the camera away. The most important memories are the ones you experience, not photograph.