Thanksgiving Photography Tips and Ideas for Getting the Perfect Seasonal Look

Photography 08/11/2022 5 min read

All holidays deserve to be captured as beautiful images, but there’s something very special about Thanksgiving photography. Family togetherness combined with the glory of the season and the sentiment behind the celebration gives so many different opportunities to take photos. Still, it might feel a bit daunting to make memories, or perhaps you’re looking for some fresh Thanksgiving photo ideas. We’ve put together 12 Thanksgiving photoshoot ideas and tips to inspire you and get you in the mood.

1. Plan ahead

Just as you prepare for Thanksgiving itself with cooking, cleaning and decorations, get yourself prepared for taking Thanksgiving photos, too. Choose your lenses, charge your batteries, format your memory cards and make a list of the photos you definitely want to capture. If you’ve got the right lenses in hand–ideally one that will allow you close-ups and a wider-angle lens, too–and a checklist of favored photos, you’ll reduce your margin for error.

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2. Think about the lighting

If you’re shooting inside for the majority of the holiday, think carefully about the optimal lighting for your shots. Try to make as much use of window lighting as you can, particularly for your Thanksgiving food photographs. Remember that a reflector is a cheap and effective way to make the most of natural lighting. It might be worth grabbing an off-camera flash or a compact continuous light source if you think that you might struggle with lighting.

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3. Sort your settings

Don’t be afraid to increase your ISO to help you get the exposure you want for your Thanksgiving photos. If you’re worried about your images being too noisy, do some test shots to see just how high you can push your ISO before the images are overly grainy. 

Remember to set your white balance to auto so that you don’t need to keep adjusting it throughout the day.

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4. Prepare for group shots

When it comes to Thanksgiving family photoshoots, do give them a bit of thought before the day. Inside or outside? Would you like it if people were wearing similar colors? And aim to do the family photos earlier rather than later, before people are tired, maybe a bit tipsy or have managed to spill pumpkin pie down their clothes! If you need some Thanksgiving family photoshoot ideas, how about an autumn leaf fight? Alternatively, you can head to a nearby pumpkin patch or capture a toast of thanksgiving with everyone.

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5. Be candid

Be alert to the small moments that are special, make people smile, or are just beautiful photos. It might be someone testing the cranberry sauce or a little one wiping their plate of pie with a finger. These are memories you’ll want to cherish.

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6. Capture the details

Don’t forget to photograph the details as well as the big picture. Is there a wreath on the door? How do the table decorations look? Remember to photograph all the Thanksgiving food, too. Don’t just photograph it when it’s ready and being served, either. Take food photos during the preparation stages, too.

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7. Mix up your angles and focal lengths

Ensure that there is variety in your Thanksgiving photography by changing your angles and focal lengths throughout the day. Get up high, especially to photograph the Thanksgiving table, as well as down low, for example, when you’re photographing children and pets to capture the day from different perspectives. Being able to adjust your focal length means that you can get everyone seated around the table for the meal, as well as a closeup of the turkey.

8. Take care of your composition

Photographing events means that you have a lot to think about. Sometimes composition can take a bit of a backseat to exposure or just getting the shot in the moment. Do try to be mindful of it, though. Keep an eye on your foreground and background to make sure that there’s not too much going on that will distract from your focal point. If in doubt, get a bit closer!

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9. Shoot in burst mode

If you haven’t tried it before, think about shooting in burst mode. Taking a sequence of photos in one go gives you more of a chance of capturing a moment or just getting the shot right. This can be helpful when you’re shooting a changing scene, for example, food brought to the table or a group of people. You never know when someone might blink or look in the opposite direction to everyone else.

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10. Try black and white

The wonderful colors of the season might incline our Thanksgiving photography ideas toward color, but don’t overlook black and white photos. Black and white images really draw the focus to the subject and can be very striking, so think about converting a few to see how you feel about them. 

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11. What are you thankful for?

Given that the holiday is Thanksgiving, it is worth considering for a moment what you are thankful for and taking these as Thanksgiving photoshoot ideas. It could be the health of your grandparents or the safe arrival of a niece or nephew. Perhaps you are just grateful that you made it through another year. Some people like to capture the moment of Thanksgiving prayer around the dining table, but for others, this is too intimate for a photograph. This one is really up to you and your Thanksgiving companions.

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12. Remember to enjoy yourself and be present

Finally, remember to put down your camera, to be present for those with whom you are celebrating, and to enjoy the holiday. Don’t be so focused on photos that your meal gets cold and you miss the opportunity to catch up with your cousin.

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Thanksgiving photography is full of possibilities. If you focus on the wonderful variety of the holiday– the people it brings together and the abundance of the Thanksgiving table. Then you can combine that with your shooting style–together with whatever it is you are thankful for, you will find yourself capturing memorable images that are filled with meaning.

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