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Christmas is a wonderful time to capture precious moments of the spirit of the Holidays to share with your family and friends.

Before Christmas: Start a week or more before Christmas. That will give you the opportunity to get familiar with your camera and all those buttons. What to shoot? Try taking pictures of decorating the house. Wreath on the front door? Great! Lights on the outside? Try taking a few photographs at night. Complicated? Yes. You’ll need a tripod to keep the camera steady and a low shutter speed… maybe 1 full second. The camera’s flash will likely pop-up and give you a lot of light, but that’s not always the best choice. Look carefully and you’ll probably see a setting that allows you to turn off the flash (the book of directions that came with the camera will help you find and adjust those settings).

Alright, now move inside and take practice shots of the family putting up and decorating the Christmas tree. A perfect time for practicing. Try the manual setting. Yes, it’s complicated but if you’ve started a week or two earlier, you can figure of the aperture (f-stop) settings. Try selecting f2 as a starting point. Take a few shots. Over or under-exposed (too bright or too dark)? Adjust your shutter speed (try 1/250th of a second to start and adjust it up (1/400th) or down (1/125th of a second). Still doesn’t work? Try “aperture priority” where you dial in f2: the camera should automatically set the proper shutter speed. Remember the camera’s manual should help explain things. That aperture setting of f2 will cause background lights to go all soft and blurry. Great for artistic images.

Then move the aperture setting up to f5.6 and things will get sharper. Try taking pictures of those cookies fresh out of the oven.

Want everything sharp? Try an aperture setting of f8 or f16. Remember this is the time to practice. If nothing works, set the camera back to Automatic or Program mode and let the camera do all the work. Keep trying. Keep practicing and getting used to the camera and its array of settings.

The night before Christmas: A great opportunity to refine your technique. Have the children hang their Christmas stockings, put a decoration on the tree, sing carols, help put out a few gifts and go to bed. You can take a few final pictures of the tree and then photos of all the presents under the tree. If you are having problems with your settings, this would be the time to make any corrections.

Probably its best to switch the camera back to Automatic or Program mode to avoid losing great pictures. Make sure you’ve reset the flash selection back to “on” so everything will work perfectly (change your settings back the night before).

On Christmas Day: It’s time to take lots of pictures. Now’s the time to focus on the kids opening presents, passing out gifts, and folks enjoying a Christmas meal. Don’t forget the family pet having fun with his new toy)! Focus on capturing the magic of your children opening those presents, family members sharing gifts, friends and family coming over to enjoy Christmas Day.

Using your iPhone? Most folks are confident using it to take pictures. So, take lots of selfies and plenty of images of the day. Using your iPhone allows you time to be creative… once you’ve taken hundreds of family photos that’s you’ve posted on-line.

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