Thanksgiving is a time when families come together to share thanks and love, yet all too often photos from the day fail to capture the essence of the holiday. These get-togethers are relatively few in number, so it’s important that images from the day provoke accurate and heartwarming memories for years to come.
By taking a little time to think about and stage your Thanksgiving photos, you can create a catalog of cherished memories that will last a lifetime — and beyond.
1. Go Behind the Scenes
Let’s face it, everyone has the standard Thanksgiving dinner photo in their collection. While this is, of course, very important, it doesn’t always portray the reality of the holiday. Plan to spend some serious time in the kitchen — particularly when the food is being lovingly prepared.
Get before and after shots of the turkey, along with the people responsible for cooking it. Take some close-ups of food preparation, and don’t forget to get some shots of the more photogenic ingredients in the kitchen, which might include peppers, yams, and apples.
The most heartwarming photos are often the ones that tell the real story of Thanksgiving, so don’t be afraid to capture the chaos and stress that go hand in hand with the holiday.
2. Prepare Your Dinner Table Shots in Advance
In most homes, the center of Thanksgiving festivities is the dinner table — so make it the center of your holiday photography. Experiment with different table locations in advance, as there may be certain backgrounds or lighting levels that deliver great shots.
To capture the true nature of the day, take some photos of the table being prepared. And make sure you get a few snaps of the dressed table before it’s demolished.
This is a time when everyone should be free to enjoy great food and the company of loved ones. Set up a camera on a tripod, and position it so it captures everyone having fun. Take your Thanksgiving meal shots remotely — so you’re in them.
3. Capture the Moments
You can never really prepare for what a Thanksgiving celebration has in store. But there are usually small, unexpected moments that capture the essence of the holiday. And in many cases, they’re innately simple in nature. Keep a camera on your person at all times — in readiness for these moments.
For example, a game gone wrong might encapsulate the hilarity of the occasion. A dropped turkey or an overly-excited pet could tell its own story. A shot of the older members of the family sleeping off their Thanksgiving dinner is always a winner — especially with a few conscious relatives laughing in the background.
4. Harness Natural Light Wherever Possible
The day before Thanksgiving is the perfect time to plan your main photos. You can play around with furniture and group photo locations to ensure the more formal shots are executed perfectly. The harnessing of natural light should be an integral part of this process. There isn’t all that much sunlight towards the end of November, so you’ll be relying on artificial lighting for much of the day.
Remove anything that impedes the flow of natural light unnecessarily, and use lamps to brighten up the darker recesses of the home. When you’re taking group photos, get everyone together in areas that are bathed in natural light. It may also be a good idea to position your Thanksgiving dinner table in one of these areas.
5. Give Thanks
Before the big day arrives, make sure you know what everyone is thankful for. This gives you the opportunity to stage some photos that capture the essence of Thanksgiving.
For example, if Mom is thankful for Dad, get a special shot of them together in a loving embrace. If Grandad is thankful for football, stage a photo of him watching the big game while feasting on classic Thanksgiving snacks. This will create a very personal set of photos that can be stitched together to create a heartfelt collage for future generations to enjoy.
Thanksgiving is, first and foremost, about people. But it’s also about food, fun, love, and friendship. Give all of these things prominence in your holiday photos, and you’ll create lasting memories that will instantly take you and your loved-ones back to that day.