Thanksgiving is a special time for family to gather together around the traditional holiday dinner — a turkey and all the trimmings. And it is that spirit you can aim to capture in your Thanksgiving photographs — the spirit of family and togetherness — and the holiday festivities.
This is a wonderful opportunity for capturing great family pictures. After all, it’s the one time each year when generations of family come together. Take advantage of this time to transform your so-so snapshots into memorable photographs and here are a few ideas – well, maybe more than just a few - to help you along the way.
The First Focus: Know exactly what you want as the subject of each - maybe even every - photograph. If the subject is the turkey, when you look through the viewfinder make sure it’s the most important object in the frame. If it's your mom or a Great Grandmother, do the same for her.
Second Focus: Togetherness and the spirit of the occasion. Set up a few formal photographs is the ideal way to achieve the togetherness and spirit. Yes…I’m saying you need to plan more – as if the meal isn’t enough, you now need to plan out your pictures. But, it’s well worth your time. Let's look into how to set up a few formal photographs at the dining room table.
First, the basic dining-room-table shot – the carved turkey, all the trimmings, and the set table is pretty dull. But add life – your guests - in the background and viola, you have served up a photo worth framing. When looking for inspiration – try the classic Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving painting of the family gathered around the table.
Next, dining room photo two: Cheers! With a full table and the turkey about to be carved, pause for a photo of everyone raising their glasses and offer a “cheers” to the holiday and to the CAMERA!
Dining room photo three: The high vantage point – my favorite angle. Again, the table is ready, the turkey is poised or the plates are full and everyone is there. With camera in hand and steady feet, step up on a stool and capture the whole room…before all the dirty dishes clutter the table or your guest can be captured chewing. This angle makes the entire room – from the guests to the table setting – important.
Dining room photo four set up: Photograph the carver. Of course, the carving knife is at the ready – along with the serving fork in the other hand. Yes, there are several shots you can take here. One of the carver looking at the turkey, one while looking at the camera and of course, add in the guests – one while talking to each other and another looking at the turkey – YUM!!
Focus Three: Formal Family Photos. Yes, Thanksgiving offers up the perfect photo opportunity to take a large group photo, smaller family photos or even single portraits. It’s the one time each year when everyone is together and dressed in their holiday best! Take small intimate family photos, as well as couples and of course the extended family. Since an extended family can amount to a small army that can’t all fit at one table– make the effort to gather everyone together for one special group shot. Use your space wisely – perhaps there’s an appealing front porch, a set of stairs or you can add in some chairs. But the key to making this shot or any group shot successful - Arrange Your Subjects! Oh, and don’t forget the family pets.
A few key points to getting great shots:
1- Flash or no flash. A built-in flash is often too weak to reach across a table or to light up a group. In closeups of food items, it may give you unwanted shadows. Try some non-flash photos with a faster ISO, 400 or 800 for indoor images. Get that group shot outside while it’s still early in the day, when the natural lighting remains strong will help you avoid the need for a flash.
2- Remember to use your viewfinder to size up your shot!
3- If you have a tripod – take advantage of it to give you a hands-free chance to arrange everyone. And, get yourself in the shot. Oh, that makes me think – where did I leave my tripod.
4- Skip the pre-shutter trip of getting smiles with "Say Cheese!" Try alternative like “turkey,” “honey,” or even “money” for getting great grins and smiles.
While the hard work is done, it’s time to have some fun. Bring on the candids – my specialty. Kids playing touch-football or today, gathering around an iTouch, Uncle Ed dozing off on the couch, how about the clean-up crew hard at work in the kitchen. Now the chance to capture it all – no activity on Thanksgiving is too small for photos. After all, this is all about capturing the entire event. And, remember to share your photos with your guests! For those fabulous photos, slip them into a frame and turn them into great Christmas presents.
Enjoy your holiday and happy snapping!