This blog post is extrated from the original article published in Ralph Lauren Magazine, by Andrew Paine Bradbury.

For a season so conducive to photogenic moments—good times with family and friends, warm décor, festive attire—let’s face it: The holidays don’t always produce the greatest photography. Reasons for this run the gamut, from tricky lighting to hard-to-corral subjects (both adults and kids) to technologically challenged camera owners. To help you come away from the season with a hard drive full of pics that are worthy of the moments they’re intended to capture, we asked five top photographers—from a fine artist to a street-style pioneer—for their expert advice.

Avoid overhead light.

“People think, ‘Oh, it’s a nice bright day…let’s go outside and take a picture,’” says Scott Schuman, the photographer (and father of two) behind the blog The Sartorialist. “When the sun is at its highest point, they stand right in the sun, and the shadows are horrible.” The ideal time to shoot outdoors is during that soft, golden moment about two hours before sunset. Indoors, Schuman recommends seeking out “painter’s light.” “Painters’ studios always face north,” he says, “because the sun, at least in America, is always to the south. So if people are facing a northern window, then the light is consistent and there’s no shadow.”

Get up close and personal.
“I think the most common mistake is shooting from too far away,” says fine art photographer Sheila Metzner, who has shot several campaigns for Ralph Lauren. “You have to know what you want to eliminate. That’s just as important as getting what you want to get.” “The main thing you’re trying to capture is the face, ” adds Sebastian Kim, who has captured countless faces for the covers of such magazines as Time, GQ, and Russian Vogue.

Another Ralph Lauren regular, photographer Lynda Churilla, is a big fan of using a self-timer. The quick countdown ensures no one will be too posed. “I can’t even tell you how much fun it is,” she says. “You never know what you’re going to get. When I use it, it’s hysterical. There is spontaneity there. And it always makes people laugh.”

For his part, Schuman isn’t above exploiting a family dynamic to get the shot. “If it’s your family, you know how to play them,” he says. “Which ones you need to be supportive with, which ones you need to joke with, which ones you need to rib a little bit.”

Perhaps the most important thing for any photographer to remember, says Churilla, is to “have fun.” If you’re not enjoying yourself behind the camera, how can you expect the same of those in front of it? After all, she says, “time goes so fast, so these are moments that you’re going to capture and remember forever.” Assuming, of course, no one blinked.