The holiday season is upon us and with that in mind here are 5 tips for creating perfect holiday photos. The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s offer so many opportunities to capture meaningful images of friends, coworkers, families and loved ones. The below can be applied year-round, as well.

I’m a big fan of Emil Pakarklis and his super-helpful website, iphonephotographyschool.com. Here are a few of my favorite tips of his – especially useful to keep in mind during the holiday season:

  • Practice composition with simple photos that have a lot of empty space. Large open areas are perfect places to start with
  • Never use digital zoom. Zoom with your feet or crop your photos afterwards.

Like holiday food? So do I! It’s hard to resist photographing each delicious morsel. Try this tactic for getting Instagram-worthy shots of those special treats before they disappear.

  • As noted above, don’t use digital zoom – but do get up close and personal with those latkes, Christmas cookies or that gorgeous antique holiday punch bowl. For example: a well-composed close-up of  a slice of tart (or whatever you love) will convey it’s lusciousness better than a photo of the entire dessert bar.
  • Keep your backgrounds simple and make use of varying angles and negative space. Emil has more excellent tips for food photography.

Kids are often part of family gatherings, and capturing their holiday experiences year after year can make for the most cherished of photos. Printing these in a themed photo book or custom framed and added to the collection on your family gallery wall is a great gift as well. The trick:

  • Get eye-level with them. This may require lying on the floor and looking up at them or squatting to get to their height-different angles can produce different and interesting results. Also, since kids are often dressed in patterns or colorful clothes, simple backgrounds are best.

Lighting can be tricky this time of year. Twinkling lights, shiny wrapped gifts and candles look enchanting, but the low indoors light aren’t ideal conditions for your photo session. The solution:

  • If using a smartphone, use an alternative light source such as an ipad or another iphone set to a white screen. This can help with the ambient lighting.
  • While sometimes you need your flash, if a room is too dark it will make images look blown out. Other times the flash may over-light the scene and ruin the mood you’re trying to capture.

A final thought from Emil (this is one of my favorite tips for creating perfect holiday photos and what I often share with my clients. As a photo organizer, I couldn’t agree more):

  • Don’t take multiple identical photos. Avoid the pain of deleting them later. Instead, change the angle or composition and then shoot again.

And a final word from me – don’t forget to put your device down and enjoy your holiday gathering. Yes, photos are important but not at the expense of missing quality time in person with friends, family and loved ones. Balance is key!