Holiday Photography with Mirrorless Cameras

From the Best of Mark Toal

Whether you already have a mirrorless camera or get one on Christmas morning as a gift, I want to share a few tips for getting good photos during the upcoming holidays.

© Mark Toal

I’m normally not a conservative photographer; I like to break the rules and try different styles, but I put that aside during family events or parties. I learned a long time ago that this is not the time to try for shallow depth-of-field or shooting in dark rooms using available light This is a time when you are just trying to capture the event as clearly and easily as possible.

mirrorless ChristmasIf you don’t have an external flash for your camera don’t be afraid to use the camera’s built-in pop up flash. A lot of these small built-in flashes can actually be too strong when used close to people. That’s why you should try shooting in Program mode and setting the ISO to 200. Test: Make a photo with somebody in it and see how it looks. If it’s too bright find the menu setting that allows you adjust the flash’s power output. I often turn the flash down to minus 3/4 of a stop so it doesn’t overpower the subject. Tip: When using the built-in flash it’s important not to use the lens hood on the lens because it can sometimes cast a shadow in the photo.

Try using the pop up flash when photographing people outdoors. This technique fills in shadows on a sunny day and give a more professional look to your photos. You will have to find the menu setting that sets the flash to fire every time you take a photo to override the cameras desire not to use the flash in bright light.

mirrorless holidays

The kit lens that comes with the camera is typically in the 14-45mm range and is perfect for this kind of photography. The 14mm wide angle setting is great for small or large groups. When shooting just one person zoom in to catch their expression and avoid clutter from distracting away from the action. I don’t like to use a wide-angle lens with the built in flash since the flash is usually designed to cover a certain angle of view and you can easily end up with dark edges on your photo. After you’ve taken the memory photos then put on that new lens or turn the flash off. This is the time to get creative.