The holidays are almost upon us, and some would say there’s no better time to get creative! Our gift to you: we’re sharing ideas for what to photograph and how to #CaptureTheHoliday, with Krolop & Gerst Photography team and the #CreateYourLight team!
There’s nothing quite like the gift of photography and with travel more difficult for many of us this year, a great photograph is a wonderful thing to share with loved ones who are further away. Plus, getting creative with what you shoot and how you shoot it is a beautiful gift to give yourself—you can have a lot of fun using very simple set ups.
The images you’ve shared during the #CreateYourLight journey have brought us so much joy and inspiration. We’re excited to see what you come up with for your festive shots! From the decorations to the people around you, our holiday tips will show how to use everyday objects and Christmas decoration and play with the light to create unique festive shots, capture stunning portraits, and more.
Happy holidays, happy reading, creating and shooting!🎄
TURN YOUR SMARTPHONE INTO A SOFTBOX
Sometimes, the best things to photograph are right there in front of us. By paying attention to the framing and colours, you can use everyday objects and seasonal decorations to create beautiful compositions.
A good tip is to choose objects with contrasting yet complimentary colours, such as red and green, and then create a diagonal arrangement. If you want to add a little wow factor, you can make your subject more interesting by adding droplets that will look like water when they reflect the light.
All you need is a little glycerin—which you can find in most food stores and supermarkets—and a light source. Glycerin drops stay on a surface for longer than water, but you can use water if you can’t get glycerin. Simply spray the drops onto the objects you’re photographing.
For the light source, you can use your smartphone as a softbox to diffuse the light! You can download apps that can make the screen on your smartphone glow in a particular colour. If you’re using seasonal colours like red and green in your arrangement, then a white screen works nicely. If a friend or family member wants to help out, you can bring in a second light source: have them use a warmer colour like orange. it will look like there’s fireplace glowing in the background!
For the best image quality, set your camera on a tripod so you can shoot a long exposure (four seconds works well) at f/11 and set the ISO to 100. Before taking the shot, set your focus area, darken the room, and set the self-timer on your camera. Set the colour glow on your phone screen and move your phone over the course of the exposure. This will make the light source seem bigger than it actually is and create a really nice effect in the final image.
That’s it. A super-simple way to create great holiday images with everyday objects.
FAIRY LIGHTS AND BOKEH
Fairy lights—whether you love them or love them slightly less, there’s no denying that festive lights with beautiful bokeh looks great in photos. Getting creative with bokeh ‘balls’ might be easier than you think—you can do a lot with some LED lights and a great lens.
Nikon Z lenses render beautifully smooth bokeh circles, and a lens like the NIKKOR Z50mm f/1.8 lens is ideal. Where you position the LED lights in relation to the lens is key: the closer the lights are, the bigger the circles of bokeh. The further away the lights are, the smaller the bokeh circles get.
How you arrange the lights around your subject is also important. To create a more three-dimensional effect, you need to set up a ‘light tunnel’. Arrange the lights around your subject so they create a tunnel and then position the lens so you’re shooting through the tunnel. The final image will then show larger circles of bokeh tapering off into smaller circles, creating a real feeling of depth.
You can try this with any LED lights but non-dimmable lights with just one colour temperature tend to work best because there’s less chance of them flickering as you take the shot.
And there’s more! Check this video to see how Krolop & Gerst uses a ring of fairy lights to create his own bokeh overlay which you can then add to any image you like in photoshop. It’s so much more fun than using a readymade app to do the same thing.
FRUIT, PAPER CRAFTS, AND TOY RACE CARS
How can you make your holiday photos stand out from the rest? With some good old-fashioned paper cut outs and some toy racing cars—that’s how.
Snowflake paper cut outs of the sort you might have made when you were younger are a great way to add a winter holiday feeling to your images.
The setup is pretty simple: all you need is an old wooden box, an interesting object to place in the centre (Carambola, or ‘star fruit’ works nicely) and your paper snowflakes. For the light source, you can use the LED lights and the coloured screen app we already talked about for your smartphone.
You can’t capture these kinds of photos with a mobile phone, you need the focusing power of your Nikon camera. The trick to capturing a shot like this is to touch the front lens with the snowflake cut out. The paper won’t damage the lens and doing this ensures you get the whole snowflake shape in the image. If you have the snowflake even a centimetre away from the lens, you’ll end up with half a snowflake in your image.
And the cars? if you’re just dying for an excuse to play with your kid’s new racetrack, go ahead and check out the video tips (scroll down for the video). You’ll see how to create images that look like the race is on for real!
CLASSIC INDOOR PORTRAITS
Looking to get the best photographs of your family and friends this holiday season to send to loved ones further away? All you need to shoot a classic black-and-white portrait is your camera, a backdrop from simple black cloth, and a good portrait lens.
A 50mm or 85mm lens is ideal if you’re shooting with a full-frame Z camera. A 35mm lens is ideal if you’re shooting with the DX-format Z 50. Find a room where the only light source is a window, preferably one covered with translucent curtains. It doesn’t matter how translucent the curtains are, you just don’t want any direct sunlight on the person’s face. If your curtains block out too much light, you could use any type of translucent cloth, so long as it’s big enough to cover the window and allows enough light for decent level of exposure.
A good tip for portraits is to reduce the contrast: unless someone has had their make-up done professionally, softer contrast will be more flattering. Also, there are two key aspects to making this shot work: you need to position yourself inside of the window light, and the model needs to be positioned outside of it. Think of your window as a huge softbox that you cannot move—you need to position yourself and your subjects carefully in relation to the area in the room covered by the window’s light source.
You’ll be shooting with your back to the window and you’ll need to get as close up against the window as possible. Position your subject so they’re sitting or standing just outside of the area in the room that’s covered by the window’s light source.
You can play around with the angle to generate everything from moody, side-lit shots to flattering beauty shots where your subject looks straight into the light. Your position stays the same—your back is as close to the window as possible. As you reposition the model, you turn to take the shot. In this way, you get a full 180 degrees to play with.
You could also create a self-portrait using the same simple set up and SnapBridge so you can trigger the camera remotely using your smartphone! All you’d need to do is find a stable surface for your camera and position it as close to the window as possible and then get into position yourself !
ARTISTIC SHOTS WITH CANDLE SMOKE
Smoke from a burning candle, perfectly lit up on a black background, makes for a beautifully artistic shot. The trick here is to have the light coming from the back.
All you need is the candle, a black background, and a small soft box. For the lighting, we used a 60-watt LED light and positioned it behind, at a 135-degree angle to the candle. this set up lets you emphasise the smoke against the black background. Any light source will work but a soft light is better. You’ll want to leave the tip of the candle burning after you blow it out, so best is to use about 2 cm of candle rope each time you try this. Snuff out the candle and let the smoke rise up—then take your shot!
A telephoto lens is ideal for a shot like this because of the closer angle of view. We used a 50-250mm zoom lens and shot between 135 and 200 mm at ISO 800 with the shutter speed set to 1/160 of a second. You can always experiment with the camera settings to see what effect you like best. A short exposure of around 1/200 or shorter will really freeze the shapes for high contrast. A longer exposure of 1/15 will lead to more milky, blurry shapes.
TOP SHOTS OF FESTIVE COOKIES
If there’s someone in your family who just loves to bake, how about showing your appreciation with a stunning ‘top shot’ of their creations? To make this work, you must resist the urge to eat the arrangement before taking the shot. The rest is simple . . .
For our cookie shots, we used some daylight LED lights arranged on a 40 cm square softbox, a tripod and Snapbridge so we could control the camera remotely. We shot at f/11 with the ISO set to 100 and the white balance set to daylight. To achieve the warm, yellowish tone, simply dial down the main exposure setting in the camera, and dial down the power of the LED lights down to 1.
You can check your image in your electronic viewfinder or in Live View (using the camera’s LCD screen) to find an exposure where the LED bulbs in the frame look pretty and warm. If your LED light source can’t be dimmed, you can experiment with moving the lights closer or farther away. You can also use your softbox to add some light and ‘lift’ your overall exposure.
Use of a tripod lets you position the camera so you can take a photograph from a bird-like perspective that looks straight down onto the cookies. We’re not used to looking at things from this perspective, so it lends real impact to the image.
For more tips, watch the video below to see how you can use cookie making ingredients and photoshop tools to create images where you are the snow angel. We always knew angles were real!
We’d love you to show us what evokes the feeling of the winter holidays for you. It could be the festive lights, the decorations, or the holly and pinecones. It could be the food, or the people. Or it could be something that’s special just to you. Whatever it is, we just know it’s going to be magical! Send us your best festive shots using the hashtags #CreateYourLight and #CaptureTheHoliday and tagging any of our channels:
.. or any other Nikon social media channel of your preference.