How To Photograph Friends and Family This Christmas

Use A Long Zoom Lens To Take The Candids

It’s one thing saying to take lots of natural photos; it’s another putting it into practice, as, if you’re having to stand right next to your family and friends, virtually snapping away in front of their faces, then it’s hard for them to relax, and thus be natural for your ‘natural’ photos.

So, one of the best things you can do is to use a long zoom lens – this means you can physically be a long distance away from them, but still able to catch all the action. As you’ll be some distance away, your family and friends will likely not even notice you (a few Christmas drinks should add to their unawareness), and so it’ll be a lot easier to take natural photos.

long zoom lens for candid photos

A long zoom lens means the subject won't even know you're taking their photo - time it right for some great natural smiles!

The timing of photos can be critical; try to watch your friends interacting, and anticipate when they’re going to smile or laugh.

The zoom lens I use is the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS Telephoto Zoom, available from Amazon US and UK, but any zoom lens with a decent length (such as 150mm or larger) will do. (For Nikon users, the Nikon AF-S 55 – 200mm f/4-5.6 VR Telephoto Zoom, is also recommended – available for a similiar price as the Canon lens, from Amazon US and UK.)

Some things to watch out for here, though:

  • Using a longer zoom lens means your photos are more susceptible to picking up any movements you, the photographer, make when taking the shot – so try to steady yourself against a wall or similar when you press the shutter button.
  • The more light you have available, the less likely your photos will be affected by this blur, however, as faster shutter speeds can be used – so if you plan on using a zoom lens, it’s best to either take photos outside, in a conservatory, or in a very well-lit room – turn on all the lights!
  • If you’re photos are still a bit blurry, try to use the higehst ISO number you can get away with, such as ISO 1600 or 3200 (this means you are making your camera more sensitive to light, so it will use faster shutter speeds, which in turn means sharper photos).
  • Shoot in Aperture-Priority mode (‘AV’ mode on Canon cameras, or ‘A’ if you’re a Nikon user), and choose the lowest f-number (such as f/3.5 or smaller). Not only will this mean a nice blurry background on your photos, but it should also mean faster shutter speeds/sharper photos. Note that most budget zoom lenses – such as the one I use – only allow aperture of around f/5.6 when you use them at their longest length – that’s why the pros spend £1000s on zoom lenses that have a constant aperture throughout their focal length.


On to part 3: Say No To Flash! —>

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  1. Thanks for all the great tips… any tips on how capture kids who just keep moving at all times?

  2. Hi Luna. Inside, I would probably use flash (bounced off the celing or walls) which would help freeze their movements. Shooting in drive mode/continuous auto focus tracking would also be a good idea, so your camera is continually focsuing on them as they’re moving around, and you’ll also be taking lots of photos a second – increasing your chances of getting a good one as they move!

  3. chaos133 /

    Hey Luna, another way to capture the kids moving is to set your ISO higher, this will make your shutter speed quicker and will prevent the pictures becoming blurry.

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