How to Take Your Best Holiday Pictures Yet!

This season is made for capturing memories. Try our advice for nabbing frame-worthy pictures every time inspiration strikes.

take better holiday photos on your smartphone

Your beautiful Christmas tree  
Phone cameras have small sensors and few controls, so snapping images in low light can be tricky. To get a shot of your tree, disable the flash (tap the lightning-bolt icon, then click off) and get as close as possible. Use a remote shutter release. 

An afternoon of sledding  
Android phones come with a white-balance control (look for it in advanced settings), but it’s probably not powerful enough to correct for blinding light reflected off snow. Try the Camera Zoom FX ($4, Android) or Camera+ ($2, iPhone) app—and remember to keep the sun behind you.

Neighborhood holiday decorations
Set your Android camera’s white balance on tungsten or incandescent for maximum twinkle (for iOS, use the free Adobe Photoshop Express app). Shoot a lit-up house at twilight to capture the cobalt sky and any snow on the ground. Both frame the photo well.

A family portrait 
Some newer phones, including the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5, have panorama settings. If yours doesn’t, don’t forget that you can turn it horizontally. To achieve a striking perspective, stand on a stepladder and point down. And to capture more natural poses, try clicking a few frames before everyone is ready.

Your kids opening their gifts 
To capture more wide-eyed excitement (“Legos! Santa remembered”), hold down the shutter on newer iPhones to take a quick succession of photos (try the $2 Burst Mode app for older iPhones and the free Burst Mode Camera for Androids).


Plus, here are four camera features to help make your pictures even better:

1. Make your shots artsier by placing subjects off-center. The screen’s grid lines can help you balance the frame. They’re built into iPhone settings; add them to Androids with the Perfectly Clear app ($3)

2. It’s not so easy to push the on-screen shutter without jarring the phone. Reduce blurring with a remote shutter release. On iPhones, the headphones’ volume control can act as a shutter release. 

3. The high-dynamic range (HDR) feature, ideal for tricky lighting situations, simultaneously takes three images—at high-, medium- and low-light levels—and creates a photo blending the “best” of each.

4. Use a photo-editing app. VSCO Cam (free, Android, Apple) lets you adjust exposure and contrast and even crop and rotate images. The “before and after” feature compares the new and original shots.