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Set your white balance

Don't get left out in the cold (turkey) this Christmas with substandard photos. We've got 10 photographic tips to help you get the best out of your festive season celebrations.

Got any extra advice for fellow photographers? Leave your comments below in the talkback.

If your camera doesn't have the ability to shoot in RAW, you should adjust your white balance in camera before you start photographing the most festive season. This is particularly important when you are photgraphing indoors, especially with a range of Christmas lights that give off different light temperatures causing colour casts in your photos.

To change the white balance to a custom reading in your digital camera, you'll need to do a bit of digging around in the menu system. Read your manual to find the exact location of this option, and then to set the white balance, go into the room or area you'll be taking photographs in and find a white object or surface (a sheet of white paper or even a white T-shirt will do) and let the camera take a reading.

Make sure to change the white balance when you change locations, otherwise your shots will end up with odd colours. And if you're really stuck in a tricky lighting situation, leave the camera on automatic white balance settings.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Alexandra Savvides/CNET Australia
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Charge those batteries

Make sure you're ready to capture those smiles on Christmas morning by ensuring that your camera batteries are ready to go. Memory cards should also be cleared and formatted in the camera for maximum performance and compatibility. Remember that pretty much no new digital camera you buy off-the-shelf today will have a memory card included in the box. So factor this into your purchase if a camera is on your gift list.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Alexandra Savvides/CNET Australia
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A very beachy Christmas

Unlike our Northern Hemisphere counterparts, it's more than likely that us Aussies will be taking a trip down to the beach rather than the snowfields this holiday season. So if being a beach bunny is more your thing, consider investing in a dedicated waterproof camera or an underwater casing for your existing digital camera which will give you peace of mind when there's water lurking around.

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Burst speed

Ever wanted to capture those smiling faces as they open their presents under the Christmas tree? Set your camera to continuous mode and hold the shutter button down to get a sequence of shots that show the stages of the day unfolding, like presents being opened.

This is also the best mode to use when taking pictures of kids running around playing with their new presents, making sure you capture all the action.

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Get in the shot

Don't get left out of your celebratory shots just because you're stuck behind the camera all day. Get a tripod, or a surface to rest your camera on, and use the self-timer to get into those happy snaps.

Or else if you're really keen to get into automated photography and you've got a dSLR, consider remote or wireless camera and flash triggers which let you take photos without being stuck behind the camera.

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Shoot your food

(Christmas snowflake food image by Paula Fernanda, CC 2.0)

You might not be a food-blogger, but taking photos of the Christmas spread throughout the day can add some fun to your standard "cheesy" shots. If you have an SLR, swap to a nice fast lens to get some delicious background blur or pull out your macro and document the biggest meal of the year. Plus, it gives you something to salivate over when you review your photos after the event.

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Flash time

If your camera has a hotshoe for attaching an external flash, this is the time to seriously consider investing in a dedicated flash unit or strobe. This will give you greater control over how the flash illuminates your subject, and you can play with bouncing the flash off walls, ceilings and other objects.

In the above shot, the flash will bounce off the gold reflector in the background to give a warm light to the flowers.

Never fear if you're just using a compact, as you can still get good results using the in-built flash — force the flash to turn on even in outdoor situations where there's a lot of harsh sunlight to avoid shadows on faces and objects.

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Avoid red eye

So you've decided to use your camera's flash but are dreading the demon red? Using a dedicated strobe or flash unit will usually mitigate this issue, but if you're stuck with on-board flash, help is at hand. Most cameras will have a red-eye reduction feature which you can turn on but sometimes this doesn't help.

Time to get creative. There are a couple of options to choose from: firstly, lighten the surrounds so your subject's eyes have a chance to adjust to the light before the flash goes off, reducing the chance of red eye. Secondly, most red-eye occurs when the subject is face-on to the camera. So change your position in relation to the subject — try moving to the side and have your subjects look towards you.

Finally, if your camera has the option to reduce the intensity of the flash, dial it down and shoot away. In the example above the camera's flash can be decreased to a level of your choosing. If your camera doesn't have this option you can can put something translucent in front of the flash like a piece of paper or a napkin to dull it — but be warned this is a temporary measure only and the flash should never be obstructed for a prolonged period of time.

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Frame your shots

There's nothing more boring than flicking through a range of holiday photos where everyone is in the same position in the frame. Get creative with your composition, apply the rule of thirds, break the rule of thirds, and most importantly, don't always shoot from your perspective. Sometimes to get a creative shot, you need to get down low or get up high to provide a fresh look at the world.

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Have fun

It's Christmas, so it's time to celebrate and relax. Be spontaneous with your shots and don't forget the best photographs often occur when you're not even trying. Grab a big memory card, have a happy holiday and good luck.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Alexandra Savvides/CNET Australia
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