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How to Elevate Your Thanksgiving Photos

a group of people sitting around a table with food

It’s hard not to love Thanksgiving. Whether you’re all about the food, the family gatherings, or even just the time off work, it’s one of those high-points of the year that necessitates a great outfit, a good spread, and, you guessed it, plenty of photos. 

But Thanksgiving photos tend to suffer from the same fate as the snaps we salvage from a busy Christmas or New Year’s celebration. Photos tend to just miss the mark when it comes to capturing the joy, noise, and laughter – how appetising the food was, how on point the decorations, how on-theme the ‘fits. 

Thanksgiving tends to suffer from a few photographic setbacks, but there’s plenty you can do to get better pics for the best Thanksgiving photo book of all. 

Take the Staged Photos First

Any good event will provide a healthy mix of the two: plenty of staged photos of everyone looking their best, modelling the latest fall fashions, and plenty of candid shots that do a better job of capturing the vibes, even if there are a couple of unflattering faces in the bunch. 

It’s a fact of life that we all tend to look our best toward the beginning of the event rather than the end. That’s why the big, staged group shots at weddings are taken straight after the ceremony – before the bubbles have hit or anyone’s broken a heel (or a toe) on the dancefloor. 

Thanksgiving is a hazard for clothing. Cranberry sauce, gravy, pumpkin puree, sticky marshmallows and chocolate are all recipes for disaster, no matter how indispensable they are from the Thanksgiving dinner table. 

And the B-Roll

It’s the same for the house as it is for the family: everything looks better just before the party gets started. Don’t let any of your decorations, centrepieces, candelabras or flower arrangements go to waste – instead, set aside 25 minutes to walk around the living spaces, getting a few magazine-worthy shots of your festive interior designs that can be peppered through your photo book for a sleeker end result. 

That’s not to say you won’t want to get a couple of end-of-the-night shots  of the house in all its dishevelled glory loaded onto our photo book maker, but save those for the back of the book – not the front cover. 

Beware the Burden of Inside Lighting

Inside lighting is such a significant cause of bad holiday photos that figuring out how to improve those ambient conditions may just be the only thing you need to get better Thanksgiving photos this year. 

Take advantage of those hours of daylight: the sunshine radiating in through the windows will be the best antidote to too many halogen bulbs. When the sun starts to go down, layer the room with plenty of softer lights – lamps and candles are ideal, because they won’t glare down on your subjects’ faces and create unflattering shadows around the eyes, nose, and chin. 

Shooting in aperture priority mode is also a great way to avoid bad pictures, along with bringing your trusty ring light downstairs – although it may not be a welcome addition to the dinner table. 

Take Advantage of an Opportunity for Candid Memories

Thanksgiving is the ideal time to stock up on family photos because, these days, it represents one of the only times when the whole family is together, sharing in new and old traditions. It’s best to elect a couple of people to be in charge of getting the candid shots or someone will be left out.

Our best tip? Don’t write off a photo opportunity just because it doesn’t seem perfect. The kitchen may be messy in the background, someone may be scolding the dog for begging, a glass of wine may just have spilled on the new tablecloth or an elaborate decoration accidentally pulled from the ceiling. 

These moments are fun to look back on, and they’re also some of the best times for capturing everyone’s different personalities and quirks. There’s rarely a bad moment for a candid shot, so keep that camera close. 

Don’t Say Cheese

A lot of the time, amateur photographers are guilty of waiting for everyone to be looking directly into the camera lens. Not only does this mean that any candid expressions or reactions have an opportunity to slip away, but it also means that a lot of your photos end up looking pretty much the same. 

Try the opposite approach and aim to get pictures that people have no idea are being taken. Sure, slip the occasional selfie into the mix, but don’t become the bossy photographer who insists every conversation must go on ice until you get the perfect, posed shot.


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