Keppler’s Vault 26: Christmas and Snow Photography

For much of the world, Christmas is a time spent with family, decorating trees, baking cookies, and watching corny movies.  For those of us with one (or hundreds) of cameras, we spend at least a portion of this season taking pictures of it.

Even with an advanced digital mirrorless camera, shots like this aren’t “no brainers”.

Yet, photographing holiday or wintry scenes isn’t quite as easy as the warmer months due to a variety of reasons such as challenging light conditions.  Christmas displays with a lot of small lights can cause havoc for auto exposure systems as the bright lights wash out the darker parts of the displays.  Snowy outdoor scenes can overpower many shots resulting in overexposed images with harsh shadows.

If these problems exist today with highly advanced CPU controlled exposure systems, imagine how hard it might have been in the days of exposure estimation and Sunny 16?  Bracketing and Sunny 22 were often used with limited success.

In this edition of Keppler’s Vault, I bring you two articles, both from the December 1950 issue of Modern Photography with advice on making the most of your holiday photos.  Each of the two articles have plenty of technical tips like what types of film to use, and a reminder to check your bellows, but they also challenge the reader with things such as how to tell a “Christmas story” with your images or how to capture colored light reflections off white snow.

I could only dream of getting a shot like this of my kids.

Planning your shots in advance as if you were making a photo documentary of the holiday.  There’s the reminder that each of us often forget about to include ourselves in the shot.  For venturing out into deep snow, things like the best clothing to keep you warm (and dry) while still being able to maneuver with your camera are thoughts to consider as well.

There really isn’t anything groundbreaking in these articles that would’t also apply to other times of the year, but what I like the most about these two articles is the thought that is put into making memorable holiday photos.  In an age with smartphones and digital cameras where we take countless photos of family events, sometimes the art of telling a story with your images becomes lost.  These articles might be 68 years old, but the tips in them are just as valid today as when they were first written.

I have two small children at home and looking at the sample photos of the kids on Christmas day makes me want to step up my game this year and hopefully capture some worthy images like these, and I hope that after reading these articles, you do too.

All scans used with permission by Marc Bergman, 2018.

One Comment

  1. Mike, Thank You for your posts. I have refurbished a Konica IIIA (circa 1958) and plan on using it and my digital for Christmas and Grand Children. With the ‘outdoor’ information I now have something else to do. Seriously looking for some green or yellow K2 filters. (shameless plug) Unfortunately we have no snow-30yrs ago we would have 2-3ft of it. (Hey Donald..there is such a thing as climate change!)

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