Prince William and Kates photographer Chris Floyd shares top tips to take the perfect Christmas photos

Gathering the family around to take that one perfect picture at Christmas may seem like mission impossible at times. There’s always someone who’s blinking or not looking at the camera, a baby’s in tears or a child’s scowling, or there are more blurry shots than not.

As part of our Christmas Digital Issue guest-edited by Martine McCutcheon, we spoke to royal photographer Chris Floyd, the man famously behind Prince William and Kate‘s loved-up tenth wedding anniversary photos. Chris’s portraits broke the internet in April for showing the Cambridges outwardly affectionate with each other and he was praised for his talent and skill.

Here, he shares his top tips for taking the perfect Christmas photos with your loved ones…

Martine McCutcheon stars on our Christmas Digital Cover

How to choose the best location

If you’re shooting inside or at home, have your back to the window and position your subject close to the window so that they’re facing it, and a lot of natural daylight streams in. Focus in on the subject quite closely. That will make your picture quite dark in the background but your subject will be quite light, giving a nice dramatic contrast. Light through windows is always gorgeous, it’s the best light.

If you’re shooting outside, it’s actually better to shoot in the shade. Sunlight is the worst thing to make people look good. Photographers love a cloudy day because you have this soft daylight that makes skin look good and hides a multitude of things, whereas harsh sunlight can be very aggressive on people’s faces.

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Chris Floyd was the man behind William and Kate’s 10th wedding anniversary photos

How to choose the best time to take photos

Either early in the morning or late in the afternoon or evening. In the summer months, you want to take photos during what’s called the golden hour when the sun is going down and the light is just above the tree line. It’s magical. And you have exactly the same principle in the morning when the sun is going up.

If you have a sunny day, midday is the worst time to photograph people because the sun’s high and people start to squint. But if it’s overcast, then it’s doesn’t matter too much what time you choose.

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How to shoot on a smartphone

You can control your exposure. If you hold your finger on the screen for three seconds, it will lock and a slider appears so that you can make the screen lighter or darker. I often think iPhones make everything look a bit too bright so control the exposure. Use portrait mode – everyone loves portrait mode. It makes everything sexier!

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His photos showed the royals outwardly affectionate with each other

How to make sure no one has their eyes closed

Take lots of photos. With groups of people, count ‘1, 2, 3… 1, 2, 3… 1, 2, 3…’ and take the picture on the three. Try and get people into a rhythm of not blinking. If, like me, you’re someone who takes a lot of photos of people, you’ll quickly notice people’s blinking patterns and figure out when to take photos in between blinks.

How to make sure children and babies are all looking and smiling

There really are no rules for children and babies! Bribery, sweets… the thing with children is you’ve really just got to let them be and do as they do.

If you’re photographing a family, you can break it up a bit into chaos and calm. You can say to the adults, ‘You’re the calm in all of this, just be really stable like a rock and don’t try and force the children to sit still and smile’. Actually, a good photographer can work with what’s thrown at them. So you want the adults to ignore the chaotic children and let the children be the chaos that’s happening around them.

If you just get the adults to look at the camera or do whatever you want them to do, the children are actually the ones that will provide the magic and the energy in the picture. Because you do need energy otherwise it becomes a bit boring and static. Then the photographer can just concentrate on watching the kids and getting the right shot, if they know the adults are sitting calmly.

How to photograph someone who is really uncomfortable in front of the camera

I’ve had lots and lots of experience with that. Really, it’s about being able to do your job without having to think about it, so that you can concentrate all your energy on talking to whoever is feeling uncomfortable. You want to get them to a point where they forget why they’re there.

Engage them in meaningful conversation. Be curious. Provide them with an opportunity to talk to you and listen to them. Ultimately that’s really what I do – forge connections with people, have a conversation with them, and a photograph is a record of that conversation.

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