Taking Perfect Holiday Photos

The holiday season is a time for capturing special moments with loved ones, but not all photos are created equal.

On The Early Show Friday, celebrity photographer Russell James offered tips to help even the most photo-challenged among us take great holiday photos.

Russell is the host of VH1's "The Shot," which gives 10 amateurs the chance to become the next great fashion photographer. Russell also shoots some of the most recognizable ad campaigns for Victoria's Secret, featuring Gisele, Heidi, and many of the Victoria's Secret Angels. What's more, he shoots for Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. The famous Tyra Banks cover is his.

His pointers:


Follow the action in a room. Don¹t try to always set up your pictures by having your subjects look to the camera and smile. Around the holidays, we kill a lot of pictures when we try to set them up Instead, look for the action, follow it, and shoot it. You want to try to capture a moment as it happens. For example, if a grandfather and grandson are sitting together reading a book, sneak in and grab the shot without disturbing the natural flow of their actions. You do this by being very quiet, getting them used to your being in there, and then taking the shot.


Try shooting without a flash and avoid overhead lighting. Instead, use other sources of light, such as Christmas tree lights, fireplaces, everyday lamps- this will enable you to capture pictures with more of a holiday feel. Flash overrides all other lights and takes away all colors that you see. To get the most out of holiday lighting, simply take the flash setting off your camera, then turn up the ISO setting. You can do this on a digital camera by changing the ISO preset number, which is usually set at 100 or 200, to as high as it can go (for most cameras, it's either 800 or 1200). Changing the ISO enables the camera to shoot without the flash. It's really easy. If you're using a disposable camera, don't use the flash, and look for a high speed film camera such as 400-800. High speed means the camera will be able to "see" in the dark.


When trying to take a shot of a large group, select a point person to be responsible for organizing the group and pulling all the people together. That way, you can stay focused on the shot and what you're looking at. When you feel that the group is nearly all together, try doing just a half-press of the shutter button on your camera -- most digital cameras today have a slight delay in snapping the picture when you press the button, but by doing a half-press, your camera is ready to go the moment you are.


People are always asking James if they can get a good shot with a disposable camera. The answer is, "Yes." The more sophisticated a camera is, the more flexibility you have in how you take your pictures, but all of James' tips will help capture great shots, whether you use a disposable or digital camera.


The more involved you get in photography, the more complicated it can become. But James' No. 1 rule is to take the time to get an emotional connection. The first thing is to connect with your subject, unless you're doing a candid shot. Whatever energy you give off will come through in the picture, because your subject will pick up on your emotions. And, to get a good connection and get the feeling, you have to take time.