Ten Holiday Photography Do’s and Don’ts

Every year on Christmas Eve, my family slides lottery “scratch-off” tickets into each other’s stockings. After we’ve emptied the chocolates, toys and other surprises, we all sit around in a circle, madly scraping pennies across our tickets to reveal a prize. No one ever wins anything. But the possibility of scoring some extra holiday cash is exciting every single time.

If you want to make money during the holidays, there is a much easier way to do it that’s just as fun: Pick up your camera.

Photo buyers are going crazy picking out photos for the holiday season right now. Follow these holiday photo Do’s and Don’ts to put a little extra photo income in your pocket this year:

10 Holiday Photo Do’s and Don’ts

1. Do be prepared. Make a list (check it twice, if you’d like) of things you’d like to photograph. Consider what you’ll shoot, where you’ll shoot it, and who will be in the photo. Let them know ahead of time. Also make sure your camera settings are where you want them so you’ll be ready to capture action on-the-fly.

2. Don’t put your subject in the middle. Use the Rule of Thirds. By putting your subject to the top, bottom, or side of the frame, you make your photo more interesting and dynamic. Instead of putting the subject of this photo -- the potato latkes -- right in the middle, this photographer placed them at the lower right.

3. Do avoid clutter. Remove anything that takes away from the purpose of the photo, including stuff on kitchen counters, shoes by the door, old dirty dog beds, magazines on the coffee table, etc. This photo has things in the background, but they’re not distracting because they’re blurred and the color palette blends in.

4. Don’t photograph people while they’re eating. No one above middle school age likes to have their photo taken with food sticking out of their mouth. Instead, capture photos of people serving each other or cutting the turkey and smiling.



5. Do stage a few shots. Use the holiday environment to your advantage and ask family or friends to pose for a few conceptual shots, like these hands holding a gift.

6. Don’t say “smile.” You can pose people or stage shots, and still get genuine emotions. Try complimenting the person, telling jokes, being silly, or engaging in conversation to get real smiles and real emotions.

7. Do use a shallow depth of field. Put your aperture (or f-stop) on the lowest number to get a blurred-out background and/or foreground effect. This draws attention to your subject, like the Christmas bauble in the photo below, and eliminates distractions. (Make sure to move it back to something like f/8 for photographing large groups of people, to make sure everyone’s face is in focus.)

8. Don’t forget preparations. Preparations for holidays can make fun family memories... and saleable photos, too. Watch for precious moments between family members, and be ready to capture them.

9. Do get the details. Part of the fun of the holidays is all of the beauty that surrounds us -- both indoors and out. While you’re shooting photos of it all, make sure to capture the small details that only come once a year.

10. Don’t stop at one photo. “Work the shot,” as they say. Take plenty of photos of the same subject, getting in closer, moving farther away, cropping out some of the background, getting up high, getting down low, tilting the camera... keep going until you feel you’ve got more than one good option.

What do you do with all of these photos once you’re done? Put them into a slideshow for next year’s family gathering, make holiday cards for family and friends, or upload them to an online stock photo website to make some extra cash for next year’s gifts.

Tomorrow I’ll show you some of the simplest, best-selling holiday photos on stock sites and why they work so well... stuff you can photograph right in your home, any day of the year.

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[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]