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    • Evie Doolittle ’23 and Eleanor Doolittle ’20 pose for their annual holiday photo.

Lights, Camera, Action: Holiday Photo Tips

Matthew Brier '22
So, picture this (no pun intended): it’s the holidays- there’s food, family, and fun! You are on break, far, far away from the next paper, quiz, or test. But you brought your camera with you for the family gathering.

Suddenly, your little cousin Mark toddles out from the kitchen in a funny hat. He has a huge grin, and somehow, chocolate is smeared all over his adorable face. He giggles and so do you because you see he’s wearing Uncle Henry’s beige felt hat- which also has chocolate all over it. You reach for your camera- snap -it’s a keeper. You even get a frame or two of Uncle Henry’s red face as he chases Mark around the house...

You whip around as everybody poses in front of the fireplace for the group photo that will be all over you’re on a roll. Finally, the steaming platters of food start to roll out of the kitchen. The aroma inspires you, and flash- pow -you have captured the feast for posterity. Your photography course from Hopkins has paid off. And now, here are a few more tips from Mr. Nast, Arts Department faculty member and photography teacher:

MB: Do you have any initial thoughts about photography during the holidays?
Mr. Nast:
There are two things philosophically to consider as a photographer even before we start handling the camera.

First, how submerged are you going to be with using the camera? How is that going to take you out of the family experience? Photojournalists and event photographers are hired to take photos of a particular event and they’re normally not part of that event. So, if you are photographing the holidays, how is that going to take you out of the moment? And what’s that going to be like? Is that going to take you out of the experience?

Second, I think you need to think about the ethics and etiquette surrounding consent. You know, if your  grandma is acting silly and you’re there with the phone, you know it is important to say, like, is it OK if I take a photo? You should think about what would be an appropriate time to take a photo, too, and maybe ask your subject “hey, I just took this picture, is this OK?” And then if you’re going to post it via social media, it’s also probably worth it to say” hey, listen, I am going to post this particular image like, are you okay? Are you cool with that?”

MB: Are there any special considerations when setting up a photo?
Mr. Nast:
Being sensitive to composition is important. A helpful hint is to just simplify your photo, you know, have some close-ups, make sure what’s in there is sort of related in a way. Focus on certain points of interests. In addition to keeping it simple, there is the rule of thirds, which is particularly useful for a single portrait and also the use of symmetry is important.
Author’s Note: The Rule of Thirds suggests that the center of the camera’s attention is one-third of the way down from the top of the shot. In the frame below, the subject is on theright third line, with his eyes at the golden point. The golden point is the intersection of horizontal and vertical third lines.

MB: What about lighting?
Mr. Nast:
I think lighting is probably everything. That’s what photography really means. You’re drawing the line. With cell phones, flash is sort of a last resort. And I think if you’re using a flash, I would stand back and zoom in rather than getting too close, because that’s when you get those fireball hot spots.  If you’re using a legitimate SLR [single-lens reflex] camera- digital is perfect with a legitimate flash. We have directional flashes that go with SLR. These are nice because I’m actually not pointing the flash at the subject. I’m bouncing it off a ceiling or a wall. So that actually becomes a larger source. Overall, be mindful of your proximity to subject and the strength of it.

MB: What kind of camera do you prefer?
Mr. Nast:
I much prefer a SLR camera to a cellphone. I teach fine art photography. To be honest with you, I’m very casual with the cell phone and I don’t really go into the depths of it. I use a SLR camera to create working quality. As far as like the bells and whistles of specific cell phone apps and moves on the phone, I feel like the student body would be more informed than I am.

MB: One final question. When would you say using a tripod is useful?
Mr. Nast:
Tripods add stability to a camera. They are useful if you are taking a photo of a subject that is staying still, like a table setting. It is also useful if you have trouble holding the camera steady or if you want to use a timer. You know, like if you’re photographing your family and you probably want to be in the photograph. So, the tripod allows you to get away from the back of the camera. If a subject is moving, a tripod is not going to be useful because the subject will then be out of focus. With all these pearls of wisdom from Mr. Nast, your photography skills will soar and you will not only be the life of the party but capture it for all posterity!
There are two things philosophically toconsider as a photographer even before we start handlingthe camera.
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The Razor,
 an open forum publication, is published monthly during the school year by students of: 
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