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December is THE picture taking month

Merry Christmas!

Christmas, however, is not the only holiday in December. Other traditions, other cultures, and other religions celebrate in the month of December.

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that’s celebrated for eight days and nights, beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle, so Hanukkah can fall anywhere from November 28th to December 26th. “This holiday commemorates the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.” People celebrate Hanukkah by lighting their menorahs, spinning dreidels and eating delicious foods!

In the United States, roughly five million people celebrate Kwanzaa each year! Kwanzaa is a seven day holiday that celebrates African culture. It begins on December 26th and ends on January 1st. On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, there’s a Kwanzaa Karamu, which is a big feast. Gifts of Kuumba (creativity) are given to loved ones. Kwanzaa’s also celebrated through lighting the Kinara, performing and listening to traditional music and discussing African principles and history.

Diwali, also spelled Divali, one of the major religious festivals in Hinduism, lasting for five days from the 13th day of the dark half of the lunar month Ashvina to the second day of the light half of Karttika. It celebrates life and the victory of good over evil. Taking Each day of Diwali has a different legend it celebrates, but the holiday is filled with fireworks, feasts and family.

From December 16th through December 24th, Las Posadas is celebrated by some Hispanic families in the United States. It's a nine-day celebration before Christmas, beginning with a procession with candles, songs and sometimes even people playing the parts of Mary and Joseph who lead the parade. Every night of Las Posadas is celebrated with gifts, piñatas, song, parties, tamales and prayer.

For Pagans, December means the holiday of Yule [Winter Solstice] is coming! It falls on December 21st, which marks the winter solstice; which is the shortest day and longest night of the year. The winter solstice celebrates the rebirth of the sun, because days get longer from then on out.

Let’s not forget Boxing Day [Canadian] and New Years Eve. Be careful of those New Years Eve photos though, some things just should not be recorded.

What do all these celebrations have in common? Family & Friends! What happens when family and friends gets together? Well, that kinda depends on your family, but someone always gets their cell phone out to take a picture to remember the occasion.

Cell phones are ubiquitous. Most all of them have a camera built into them; some better than others. But as the old photographers adage goes when asked: what is the best camera to get? The answer is: the one you have with you. In today’s world, that usually means your cell phone.

Did you know that your built in cell phone app can do some amazing photography? You will want to spend a bit of time before all the big family gatherings and take a look at your camera app.

For iPhone users take a look at Instead of just taking a snapshot with your phone, step it up a notch; learn and use you app to its best potential. With a touch of your finger, you can

  • Change the focus point - Whenever you take photos with your device, don’t press the shutter right away. Instead, tap the subject you want to be sharp and wait for a white box appears.

  • Exposure- Finding the Exposure Slider only appears when you tap on the screen to select a focusing area. So make sure you see that white box before you could make any adjustments. Once the white box appears on the screen, a sun icon also pops up beside it. When the square turns yellow, move your finger up or down to change the exposure.

  • Gridlines – Assists in composing your picture, once you activate them, they’ll show up on the screen right in front of the scene you want to photograph. All you have to do is position your main subject wherever any of those lines in the grid intersect, and that’s it!

  • Filters - Open the camera app and tap the icon with three overlapping circles at the top right corner of the screen. Then, all you have to do is choose from dozens of available selections and start taking pictures! The Photos app also lets you change the preset of your image at any time without affecting its quality. To do this, go to the Photos app and tap the icon with the three circles. Next, select from a dozen filter options to replace the one you already have.

  • Burst Mode - Getting the timing right when you’re taking photos can be challenging when you have a moving subject. You don’t have to change any of the camera settings on your iPhone to activate the Burst Mode. All you have to do is press and hold the shutter button. Your device will then keep taking photos as long as your finger touches the screen. You can use Burst Mode for action shots where movements happen quickly.

  • Self-timer - You can use it for different purposes such as taking self or group portraits. But you can also activate it when shooting landscapes or nighttime photos to prevent camera shake. You’ll find the iPhone’s self-timer at the top right area of the screen. Once you tap it, it will show you the 3-second and the 10-second timer options.

  • Crop Tool - First, open your photos app and choose the image you want to edit. Next, tap the crop tool (a square icon with arrows surrounding it). You can trim the file manually, but the easier way is to choose the aspect ratio you want, instead. There are a variety of options when it comes to your selection of aspect ratios. The most common ones are 5:4, 5:3,4:3, and 3:2 for rectangular images. For panoramic photos, your choices are 7:5 and 16:9. And if you want a square picture for Instagram, then pick 1:1.

  • Photo, Square, Pano - The downside is that cropping can decrease the quality of your files. To maintain iPhone camera resolution, choose the aspect ratio you want via shooting modes. At the bottom of the screen, you can choose from Photo, Square, and Pano among others. The default setting is Photo, which produces 5:4 size images. For Instagram, pick the Square mode which has an aspect ratio of 1:1. And for 16:9, you can select Pano.

  • HDR - Whenever you find yourself in tricky lighting conditions, make sure to turn on your HDR (high dynamic range) at the top of the screen. Activating it prompts your phone to take three photos with different exposure levels. The first one is normal, while the next two are brighter and darker respectively. Your device then composites them together to create a vivid image with the correct exposure.

  • Portrait Mode - It allows you to take photos with blurry backgrounds by using its dual cameras as well as clever software. To try the Portrait Mode, open your camera app and tap Portrait at the bottom of the screen. The camera automatically then detects the background and blurs it.

  • Portrait Lighting - To use Portrait Lighting, you first need to select Portrait Mode in the camera app. You’ll find the following lighting effects at the lower part of the screen:

-Natural Light

-Studio Light

-Contour Light

-Stage Light

-Stage Light Mono

If you don’t want to add any lighting effects, then choose the default setting Natural Light.

For those that have a Android phone, the built-in camera app has similar features, You may want to review & to get yourself up to speed on all the options available to you.


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