Tips for Taking Smartphone Pictures during the Holidays

Family taking selfie at Christmas decorations
pic by Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels

Christmas is about family, music, cookies, and lots of lights. And Hannukah has its own special light tradition with the Menorah. Getting friends and relatives to pose, chaotic surroundings and uneven lighting make snapping the perfect a challenge.

Woman lighting Menorah candles  c
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Read on for picture taking tips during the holidays.


Set Your Shutter Speeds

Do you see what I see?

Okay, let’s play around with that cherished Christmas carol.

Your camera doesn’t see what you see, especially when it comes to taking pictures of Christmas lights. They’re beautiful, but capturing them the way you see them can be challenging.


Lighting is key to making photos look like keepsakes, but Christmas lights on a tree or lights hung outside on a house aren’t powerful. An article on Expert says, “Our eyes adapt to a dim light rather quickly, so we can see the dim scene as brightly lit. But the camera isn’t that sophisticated.”

A slow shutter speed makes the glow of lights more visible. But don’t set the speed for too long or the picture will be overexposed.

Set your phone to night mode.


Use the Three-Legged Assistant

You can shake gift boxes, but if you shake your camera then the pictures will blur. Tripods are useful for reducing the likelihood of blurred shots. They also aid in framing pictures well and make it much easier to set a timer so you get everyone in the shot without it being a selfie.


Get Your Own Bokeh Background

Ever see professional photographs with those blurry lights in the background. That’s the Bokeh effect, defined on as a Japanese word which means “haze” or “blur.”

If you’re much more of an amateur selfie snapper then you’re not going to master the Bokeh effect between now and January 1st.

Don’t despair. Use portrait mode to create a shallow depth of field that gives a blurred effect in the background. People and faces pop while lightly fuzzing out those twinkling tree lights or falling snowflakes.

Today’s Parent magazine recommends using the iPhone11 to accomplish this effect, but most smartphones on the market can do this.

Outdoor Christmas lights
Outdoor Christmas lights have many challenges; pic by Don Simkovich

Take Fewer Shots

It’s easy to snap, snap, snap and not enjoy the moment. So, take fewer shots to take the pressure off of capturing every part of the holidays.


Organize and Store the Memories

Where and how will you store your holiday photos?

I’ve been a photo coach for 26 years and I can say I’ve never seen a solution for storing photos like there is now.

The digital system I recommend for my clients is guaranteed to last a lifetime, plus 100 years. The pictures can be uploaded and stored in an online album that can be kept private or shared with family and friends.

Here’s another question needing an answer:

How do you choose what pictures to keep and which ones to delete?

You don’t need a quantity of photos from each holiday, but rather select ones that are meaningful. I have my clients think through the questions a journalist would ask:

  • Who—is in the picture?
  • What—is happening?
  • Where—is this taking place
  • When—did it occur?
  • Why—is this important?
Kids in front of Christmas tress
Check your duplicate shots and don’t try to save everything; by Don Simkovich


You can ask the same questions to organize your out-of-date media files like VHS tapes, slide shows and more that you want to convert into digital files.

Pictures as Gifts

Your photos make meaningful gifts in photobooks, or printed on everyday items like mugs, calendars or even T-shirts. Positive memories are important to our well-being.


I’m Here to Help


Melody Whitehead
Melody Whitehead, Safeguard Your Memories



Contact me to answer any questions you might have about organizing and guaranteed storage of your photos in a space that you own.

Check out my free events webpage, too, where you can log on and learn at your convenience.

Have a wonderful holiday season.



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