How to take better cellphone photos for the holidays

WASHINGTON – “It’s the thought that counts” may suffice for holiday gifts, but good intentions alone can’t rescue a missed photo opportunity.

Most photographs at holiday events will be taken with cellphones, instead of professional cameras.

Capturing good images with a phone’s camera at indoor gatherings presents challenges, according to photographer Cedric Terrell.

The key is figuring out how to avoid using the phone’s flash, which typically is just a burst of bright light, compared with a more nuanced and forgiving camera flash, says Terrell.

“Try to use the light that’s already there,” says Terrell. “Try to use the light coming through windows or try to capture the lights of the Christmas tree.”

Terrell says the light provided by the star of many holiday gatherings is better and more predictable than the phone’s flash.

“The light on the Christmas tree is continuous, so you can see where it hits,” Terrell says.

Simply photographing family members and friends standing in front of the tree, hugging and smiling directly at the camera phone, produces a boring photo, according to Terrell.

“For one, you’re blocking the Christmas tree, so that’s why stepping to the side and changing the composition a little bit allows us to capture the details of the holidays.”

Terrell says physically moving closer to objects produces a better image than using the phone’s digital zoom for close-ups.

The convenient, but limited capabilities of the phone camera makes it difficult to always take sharp photographs, so Terrell suggests anticipating the pictures may be blurred or poorly exposed.

“Take a lot of photos, more than you think you need,” just to be safe, says Terrell.

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