Thanksgiving weekend photo tips

Thanksgiving is upon us once again. Like many of you, I will be spending time with my extended family, feasting, and of course taking photos. My plan of attack, photo-wise, is to skip posed shots and go light and go candid. That is, I’m bringing only one lens (the 18-105 VR kit) and a flash and I’m going to shoot lots of portraits of people doing things other than posing for photos.

I think a set of candid photographs is a much better way to capture the true spirit of a gathering than individual and group poses. But that’s me. Your mileage may vary.

Here are some tips for candid photography that you might want to try this weekend:

  • Choose a medium to wide zoom lens. That will give you the most versatility moving between the action outdoors and the action in the kitchen. Fast glass is preferable, of course, but bring what you can.
  • Use your auto-ISO setting to give you faster shutter speeds when you need it. You’re likely to be shooting indoors a lot of the time. Modern DSLRs can easily handle 800 or even 1600 ISO with acceptable noise levels. Enabling auto-ISO will also save you from shooting high ISO images when you head outside.
  • But don’t be afraid of the flash either. Flash photography in itself isn’t a bad thing and it’s certainly much better than the alternative: a blurry mess.
  • If you’re using the popup flash and a zoom lens, remove the lens hood so you don’t get a shadow at the bottom of your frame.
  • Keep a respectful distance and be unobtrusive. If you’re getting in everyone’s face and flashing every two seconds you’re going to get a memory card full of annoyed faces.
  • Be observant. Wait for moments to happen. Even seemingly random, special moments can often be predicted by a few seconds if you’re paying attention. Keep your camera ready at all times.
  • Don’t just shoot the final product. Get into the kitchen. Take shots of the preparations. Cooks in action. The final touches being put on the pumpkin pies. The table being set for dinner. Children rushing inside at the sound of the dinner bell.
  • Go wide. Don’t only shoot close-up portraits. Include some of the surroundings so that when you look at the photo later you can tell where and when it was taken without checking the date. It will be more meaningful to you. Bonus: the wider the lens angle, the slower your shutter speed can be and still get away with sharp photos.
  • Don’t shoot people while they’re eating. Especially if they are lifting a fork or have food in their mouth. It’s never flattering, no one likes it, and you’ll lose the trust of your subjects.
  • Let the kids take some photos. You may be pleasantly surprised.
  • Relax. Don’t worry about missing something. It’s often better to be in the moment than to see it through a viewfinder.

Taking pictures this weekend? Got any good tips I didn’t mention? Please share them in the comments.

Photo by: basykes (License: CC-BY)

By John Watson

John Watson is the original founder of Photodoto. If you're interested in what John has been up to, you can browse his personal blog.


  1. We bought a bunch of disposable cameras and put some at each table at our wedding. Wife’s idea. We got a bunch of fun photos from it that augmented our pro wedding photos.

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