From capturing the food to showcasing the decor, from snagging a quick family portrait to freezing that sparkle in grandma’s eye, Thanksgiving is ripe with creative possibilities for photographers.
But add in a group of people who haven’t see each other in a while, social distancing, indoor lighting, and eating entirely too much turkey, and Thanksgiving photography isn’t exactly simple point-and-shoot photography. To make the most of the holiday, we’ve put together some photography tips to capture the best memories of the day.
Don’t forget the behind the scenes
The camera shouldn’t stay tucked in the bag until that dinner call. What happens pre-turkey often makes up many of the family memories. Record Grandma making her infamous recipe, the mid-cooking jokes, and all the work that goes into that big meal.
Find a window
Thanksgiving photos are often tricky because, frankly, November is too cold to eat a nice dinner out on the patio in most areas. Indoor lighting means using wide apertures and higher ISOs, but you can also improve your shots by using natural light from a window.
Look for details.
What are your favorite memories of Thanksgiving? Often, the smaller details make up some of that list. Take a macro shot of the whipped cream curling on top of that pumpkin pie. Create a still life of that gravy river through mashed potato mountain. You can’t photograph the smell of Thanksgiving, but you can get pretty close to capturing the sense of it by getting up close.
Watch for distractions.
The little things make great photos — and they also break them. Check the frame for anything distracting from the subject. Adjust the table setting to get a shot that focuses on just one element. Move the dirty dishes out of the background. Work to make sure everything in the photo is supporting the main idea rather then taking away from it by moving objects, adjusting the crop, or changing the angle.
Capture the not-so-perfect.
Distractions are one thing, pretending you have a magazine-worthy family Thanksgiving every year is another. Maybe family tradition requires that someone always burns those rolls. Maybe (or rather, probably) the kitchen looks like a war zone at the end of the meal. Capture the tears clinging to eyelashes when the toddler can’t eat dessert first. Maybe the dog makes off with one of those rolls. You’ve captured the food, now capture what makes that day belong to your particular family.
Mix it up with different angles and focal lengths.
I know it’s hard to move around with all that tryptophan pumping through your system, but avoid shooting every photo from the same height. To create variety, shoot from different angles. Shoot that food photo from both that popular top-down spread and using a side angle. Get a tall shot of everyone around the table, and an eye-level shot of family members together. Changing the focal length, if you use a camera with interchangeable lenses or a zoom lens.
Capture what you are thankful for.
Thanksgiving photos don’t necessarily have to be about turkey, cooking, and family gatherings. Try a different angle on Thanksgiving photography and photograph what you are thankful for. Maybe that’s a person (or people). Maybe that’s an item that’s important to you. Or, maybe you’re thankful for something a little more abstract. Ideas that aren’t things are tricky, but with some creativity, you can capture that abstract thing you are thankful for.