14 Tips for Holiday iPhone Photos You'll Love!

holiday iphone photos Dec 22, 2021

Want to take more memorable photos that you'll savor year after year?

I know, I know. You have elf on the shelf duties, are grocery shopping for house guests, buttoning up end of year work stuff and might have kids out of school and hanging all over you at this exact moment, but even if you have 8 million presents still to wrap (me!) and are packing to head out of town (also me!), give yourself (and your future savoring self) 5 minutes to peruse these tips for holiday photos you'll love or to just get inspired to take some different photos this December. And savoring is a form of gratitude! So if you've loved my gratitude gravy challenge, savoring is the perfect side dish!

And if your December holiday celebrations already happened, (my apologies, I'm a little late for Hanukkah photo tips, or early for 2022?!), or you don't celebrate any holidays in December, then read through this, anyway, to practice taking better photos over winter break or anytime of year. 

Here are a few quick and easy tips for capturing those holiday moments that matter most. 

1. Focus
I take a million flattering photos of everyone in my family, they reciprocate with a completely blurry photo of me... so I have learned to train my family!

On an iPhone, just touch the screen where you want it to focus and wait for the yellow square to appear and for it to say ae/af focus at the top.

Blur the background with portrait mode for a more professional look (and you can even increase the blur by changing the f-stop in editing). You've got an entire module inside of the Life Feast on how to do this, it's a best kept iPhone secret. 

Photo I took of my sister and my mom. 

Photo they took of me and my husband 5 minutes later.  #storyofmylife

2. Look for the Light
December is a pretty dark month for most of us. The sun tucks herself in for the evening by 5pm here in Colorado making Christmas Eve photos (and my moods!) always a bit tricky. 

The iPhone does a pretty phenomenal job these days compensating for not great light. If you're fairly close to your subject, you can use the flash or if you want a little more mood lighting, try using Night Mode. Night mode on iPhone 11 and up does a phenomenal job of taking photos in low light conditions, but there are some rules to follow. Yes, there's a module on Night Mode in The Life Feast and it's a great resource for winter evening photos. 

Move around the room to find better light!
If there's a lamp in the background or weird shadows coming from side lighting, here's an easy fix: move your subject to where the light is in front of them and there aren't shadows cast on their faces. Or try turning off the overhead light or positioning your subject where the light is flattering. 

In this photo of my kids and my niece and nephew, all we had to do was relocate them so that the lamp light was in front of them rather than on the side and voila! A much better lit photo.

Weird shadows that aren't very flattering from side lighting.

With the lamp light in front of them and a pop of flash, you get a much better photo of them. Also, having them positioned in a triangle is more pleasing aesthetically than having them next to each other on the couch. 

Side note: when you have multiple people taking photos at the same time of the same group, make sure you say, look over here for my turn or something to make sure that everyone's eyes aren't going in 6 different directions.

Now we don't even have to guess where the best light is! We just stick them in front of the Christmas Tree and we're pretty much guaranteed a great shot. This one is without the flash, you can tell as it's a slightly warmer look.

3. Fill the Frame

You don't need to include EVERYTHING in your photo. Come in for a nice tight shot of one or two people and crop out the noisy background.

 4. Step away from the Wall
When your subjects are too close to the wall behind them, the photo looks like a mugshot. 

Even just one step away from the wall would help give a nice separation between them and the background. 

Or you could just take a completely different photo of them for a more intimate look.

 5. Find your window in a group shot!
Ok this doesn't mean literally finding a window, though window light is quite flattering, but when you're taking a group photo (or you're in one), tell everyone to find a window, meaning a space between each person to stick their head. This way, everyone is visible. 

In this photo, Matt did not find his window and just needs to stand up a tiny bit, but he is not always compliant in photos ;-). 

While I'm all for an unusual photo that isn't perfectly centered, this one has really no good reason to be left justified. But we can't always critique the nice volunteer who took the group photo. So don't forget to crop the crappy shots to make it more appealing!

The photographer obviously noticed that they needed to center a little more, but not quite enough. So here's the cropped version.

PRO TIP: As you can see, Matt found his "window" in this group shot, but forgot to open his eyes! Use Live photo mode for all the blinkers in your life! After you've taken the photo, go into editing mode and select the Live photo circles and switch the key photo to one where everyone's eyes are open. 

Note to self, this year, forget the volunteer who is struggling to take the picture and use the self timer, instead!

Set it for 10 seconds for ample time to get in the photo and make sure LIVE photo is switched to ON so you can get multiple shots to choose from. 

6. Feel free to delete!
In the Life Feast, we have a whole module dedicated to organizing your photo library led by photo curator and New Yorker expert, Isabelle Dervaux. When you have over 30,000 photos in your photo library, feel free to liberally delete the dogs that really can't be saved. Like this one... it's pretty awful!

If I had to take a guess, this looks like night mode gone wrong (or too much wine?). We probably moved and, in night mode, the shutter is open longer, so any movement from the subject or photographer results in a blurry shot. While I adore my dad and my sister, I don't adore this photo. In the digital dumpster it goes!

7. Capture the details of the day (and the decade)!
From the food to the table settings to the cookies and milk for Santa, don't forget the details of the day and the decade.

When writing letters to Santa, Catherine put a stamp on her nose and said just to mail her directly to the North Pole!

I hated him and now that my kids are older, I actually miss him...

 8. Get those Moments that Matter!
This is the crux of the Life Feast ... we are never about having to take a perfect photo, instead we want the moments that move us, the ones where we smile a million years later remembering what that time was like in our life. This is what savoring is all about. Savoring is a huge positive psychology happiness booster and it's basically mindfulness + appreciation. You can savor the past, the present and the future. Photography is MADE for savoring!

In this photo, the light wasn't perfect, but we were decorating the tree and Jacey and Catherine sheepishly took the giant glass ornaments out of the box and stuck them on their un pierced ears. They were so excited to surprise me with their craftiness ... and then begged to get their ears pierced. 

Our dog loves my dad. They howled together and held hands all Christmas. It was the SWEETEST thing!

This photo is cropped a little too much on the left, but it's one of my absolute favorites as this moment of the two of them howling on my staircase was hysterical and one I don't ever want to forget. 

This is about how I feel on December 26th EVERY.SINGLE.YEAR. Jacey was worn out before the holiday was even over as this was her on Christmas Eve. Guess there was no waiting up for Santa that year!

Catherine loved this stuffed bear so much, she even took it to sleep with her in the bunkbed at her grandparents' house!

My sister bought these bears for her kids and mine and had them seat belted into her minivan for the 4 hour drive to our parents' house.

These polar bears are still in my girls' teenage bedrooms. They even served as cuddly extra seating when Christmas is at my house!

Christmas karaoke at my house! Definitely a night to remember!

9. Get Creative with Christmas Tree Light and Holiday Twinkly Light Bokeh!

Bokeh is the Japanese word for those beautiful round circles of light in a blurred background. 

You can even create bokeh with an iPhone! I've got a tutorial on how to do it. 

10. Get the favorite presents and capture the Christmas morning action! 

PRO TIP: Take a video of your kids BEFORE they see what Santa brought or interview them right after they opened everything. Trust me, you will forget the excitement they had over whatever was the latest and greatest toy that year and it's so funny to watch the clips years later. 

Go for candid and posed photos on Christmas Day. 


Catherine is impatiently waiting for us to get up and out of bed for present time!

Jacey did the same thing a few years before. 

Matt's new pickleball gear.

An inside joke gift...

I can't even remember what these little guys were called and, back then, but Jacey had to have them ALL!

Don't forget to take care of yourself! I love this photo as Catherine gave a gift to herself last year. To: Catherine From: Catherine! Self care at its finest. Hint ... Life Feast is a pretty awesome gift from you to you... just sayin'.

11. Get Outside!

The best light is usually going to be outdoors during the day, if it's cloudy and overcast, even better for outdoor portraits (no harsh light from the sun), so take that haul from Santa and get outside! Play with composition, get down low to the height of your subject or surprise the viewer by putting something unexpected in the foreground (like the snowball).

Hot tubbing on Christmas Day with my nephew when he was little!

Christmas Tubing with the twins, getting outside was good for ALL of us!

12. Embrace the Perfectly Imperfect! Capture the ChristMESS of it all. Your current chaos is what you'll savor years from now (trust me!). And it doesn't need to look perfect.

This is what the Life Feast is all about ... we call it being FLAWesome. 

My girls are now 16. My niece and nephew are 17 and 20. It's so funny to look back on these cousin shenanigans in the silly photos. Who needs a posed photo when you have these monkeys to entertain you!

Jacey's gingerbread house looked like the MOMA one year.
And Jacey's looked like animal house... FECK PERFUCTION* is our motto in the Life Feast, guess she took it to heart!  *from James Victore's book 

13. Embrace traditions! New ones! Old ones! Other people's!
Years ago, my mom's friend started our tradition of Christmas crowns and crackers. My mom has since added to it with blinking necklaces, Santa moustaches, ugly sweaters and more. It's silly, it's fun and makes for entertaining photos. I have a dear friend who has a Christmas tradition of dressing up in holiday jammies with her daughters and heading out to Starbucks.

My friend, Paula, hosts Prince Purple Rain and other rockstar inspired Passover celebrations.

Point being, your holiday traditions don't all have to be traditional!

A few years ago, I had the huge pleasure of partaking in my dear friend, Davida's, Hanukkah celebration. I loved being a part of their family's holiday traditions and adding in a new one from us - fajitas!


14. Give yourself Permission to be Human.

That's also our motto in the life feast. Having a moment? That's ok. Practice self compassion and then ....

Thanks so much for reading this far! I hope you have incredible holiday celebrations filled with all kinds of meaningful moments, FLAWesomeness, funny traditions and loads of self-care! And I hope these quick photo tips help!


Lizzie Larock
Creator of the Life Feast, Gratitude Gravy and the Feasty Photowalk Guide.



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