A picture of a Polaroid camera

Across the Americas I have been traveling, dipping in and out of little stop-through towns full of soul and wonder. As I settle solo in California for the holidays, December’s breath catches up alongside.

A traveling photojournalist and reporter, my cameras are slung over-shoulder, making a cameo wherever I go. As the holidays approach, I figured this season I would continue with a tradition of my own—shooting Polaroids and making them into mini postcards. A personalized note written on each photo throughout my travels to mail home to family and friends in the Pacific Northwest.

As I travel and write, photograph and explore, I have come to find that it’s the little imperfections along the way that add depth to our lives, and thus, to our photos. Embracing the vintage ambiance that a Polaroid captures is what makes these shots timeless and nostalgic.

The perfect little keepsakes to send home for the holidays and ones that my family always looks forward to throughout the year. This December, as I cruise the coast, it’s my collection of California polaroids that the special people in my life are looking forward to receiving in their Christmas cards this year, thoughtful momentos that never fade away.

I have come to find that it’s the little imperfections along the way that add depth to our lives, and thus, to our photos.

Here are some tips for capturing the perfect shot for your family and friends around the world:

Don’t overthink your shot.

This is true when shooting a traditional Polaroid. Be sure your film is inserted properly and there isn’t too much light filling your lens (which can cause over-exposure). As long as you can ensure that your subject is not in motion and is positioned at least two feet away from you, you will get a super crisp shot.

As color contrast and sharp angles add definition, take advantage of the atmosphere around you. Nature and architecture showcase well in Polaroids due to the soft edges developed by the film.

A woman leaning against a wall with her head against the wall and her body angeled away from it

Embrace the golden hour.

Because the sun hangs low earlier in December, golden hour sifts along the horizon during late afternoon, which makes for a magical shot. Whether an experienced photographer or not, the glow will naturally illuminate your photo, embracing softness and allure for a more modern holiday photograph with your DSLR camera.

A woman standing in the fields during golden hour
Image via Free People

Follow the rule of thirds.

Taking advantage of golden hour is my favorite time to shoot with my Canon, often times pairing it with the rule of thirds. When composing a shot, imagine that the image you see through your viewfinder is evenly divided into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and then place the subject of your photo at one of the imaginary cross intersections. This creates visual interest as the star of your shot is off center and allows room for the photo to tell a story about where you are.

A picture of a vase with a shadow in the background
Image via Andrew Miranda

Shoot movement.

Shooting movement is another bespoke favorite of mine while on the road. It fuses timelessness and wonder together to capture an original photograph. 

With a DSLR, fix your lens on a moving subject. Keep your lens sturdy and fixed as they move, quickly matching the speed of your camera to the speed of the subject while snapping photos as they move through the scene. This will blur the background and focus on whomever you are photographing, ensuring an authentic piece of art when printed for the holidays.

An image of a blurred passerby in front of a woman
Image via aumonique.tumblr.com

Wherever it is that your passions have landed you this holiday season, remember that beauty is within simplicity and the little moments. Together, they are what make for the most genuine photographs. They will become timeless tokens of meaning and nuanced tradition turned nostalgic memories that you can develop or print and mail home from all corners of the world.

Are a holiday photos a tradition you follow? Do you have any tips and tricks for taking Polaroids?

Feature Image via Prakash Shroff, Darling Issue No. 14

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3 comments

  1. I love this idea! Traditionally I’ve printed cards with pictures of my husband’s and I’s year, this year I’m doing handwritten cards. Might just have to do this next year!

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