Are you planning on uploading Christmas shots? Maybe this brief article will be of some help in deciding what to actually shoot, so that it will stand out and be a somewhat special Christmas shot. Read on, and please - do comment and share your thoughts.
First I want to clarify - this will not be a guide to making Christmas stars backgrounds, nor setting the correct lighting for a nice Christmas tree shot with gifts. I actually want to challenge your perception of the event of Christmas itself and offer some thoughts on how this relates to photography.
When I was a little kid I remember Christmas to be a special time because of the warm and loving atmosphere at home. Everyone slowed down in the everyday activities, took time to sit down with the others and enjoy being together.
Although I'm from Bulgaria my family wasn't really Christian so the Christmas story didn't get much attention. Yet, it was clear that this is what we were celebrating. Gifts weren't the big deal at all - mostly because my parents couldn't afford much, but also because the emphasis was more on expressing our love for each other. And when little things were given, then they were a clear expression of that love. Material value was of little importance... yes, even for me and my brother as kids.
Then I grew up, the country and culture itself started changing and consumerism slowly but surely became the main agenda for most of society. Today I hear from friends and family about how the current "kids" are celebrating... Words like party, alcohol, clubs, blasting music (fine, that's a phrase) have substituted the warmth of the season.
Quite some time passed by and about a year ago I landed on planet Dreamstime. And surely enough, Christmas shots were occupying the "Latest Additions" section. It occurred to me that the majority of them did not actually reflect my cozy memory of Christmas. Neither did they reflect the nature of the event itself. I'm only 23-years-old, and it's actually shocking to realize how fast the understanding of Christmas (pretty much) world-wide has shifted towards something new.
This year while reviewing the loads of such images the same observation started me on this article. A few questions popped up in my mind, so I'll share them with you:
- Are you shooting Christmas shots just because you know they'll sell? I admit - I do have one isolated shot of a Christmas basket... which I took just because the basket was there and I thought it'll sell... hasn't sold yet. :)
- What are your memories of Christmas and how are they represented in your photos (if such are there) on the topic?
- Don't you think that a Christmas image which shows something more than mere balls, trees, stars, and champagne will actually be much more powerful to your audience?
- How do you show the Christmas "spirit" through an image? After all, a powerful image is one which raises feelings and memories, and also creates an atmosphere for the viewer.
- And perhaps the most important one: What is Christmas all about?
With the blogs being the "coffee chat room" (Tangie, I just love that metaphor! :D Can't stop using it.) I decided it won't be quite inappropriate to point out that without the Christian in Christmas this celebration might as well be in the middle of June and it will be just the same. In other words, if it wasn't for its origin the celebration wouldn't simply exist today. Not even in its distorted gifts-oriented form. Then, think about how important it is to represent the essence of what and why people are actually celebrating through your photography.
Do you see how one's personal background and understanding of Christmas really shapes their Christmas shots? Take some samples of your images and see what the results are. Why did you take these particular photos? What do they express for you?
We live in a world influenced more and more by post-modern thought... The new is often the default for "better", and this is how the origins are left behind. Yet, there is still nothing better than telling a story. What Christmas story does your image tell?