It’s just a few days until Christmas so I thought a quick tutorial on the topic of Christmas Photography might be appropriate. Hopefully this will give you some good Christmas photo ideas.
Here are 16 Christmas Photography tips and ideas to try that come to mind for digital camera owners wanting to capture the big day:
1. Prepare – Making a List, checking it twice….
Making sure you’re ready to capture any planned event is part of the key to a successful shoot. Getting yourself ready but also the location of your shots is worthwhile.
- Pack the camera – goes without saying? I forgot mine last year in the rush to get the car packed.
- Make sure your batteries are charged and you have extras and/or the recharger packed.
- Pack extra memory cards – have them empty and ready to fill up
- Put someone on ‘photos’ – our family has someone on drinks, main course, dessert – why not put someone on ‘photos’ so that in the craziness of the day they don’t get forgotten.
- Consider the light in the room that you’ll be photographing in. Is there enough light? Will you need a flash? Are the backgrounds too cluttered and distracting?
2. A White Balance Christmas
Here in Australia we often celebrate Christmas outdoors, but many people around the world do it inside in unnatural lighting. Pay attention to what type of light you’re shooting in and set your white balance settings accordingly. Alternatively, if you’ve got a camera that shoots in RAW you can shoot away and set your white balance later.
3. Set up a DIY ‘Photo Booth’
While you probably can’t afford to hire a photo booth for your party you can set up a ‘portrait zone’ of your own where you’ll take photos of your guest.
I did this a few years ago and set up a little place where I asked everyone who came to sit for me so that I could take a nice shot of them.
I photographed everyone as they came in and then left the camera (a point and shoot) set up on a tripod and set to a short self timer time so people could photograph themselves during the rest of the party.
I set it up in a well lit position with a red velvet curtain looking background with a few Christmasy decorations around the edges. I left a few Santa hats and tinsel for people to decorate themselves with.
The shots were great – people went back to it throughout the party and the photos got crazier and crazier as time went on. It was the hit of the party.
4. Capture the preparation stages
The actual Christmas meal or party is obviously the best part of the day, but there are other photographic opportunities, particularly in the preparations stages of the day.
- Food preparation
- Putting up decorations
- Wrapping gifts
- Kids throwing a tantrum while getting dressed in their Christmas outfits
- Setting the table
The shots before the event starts properly are often great because they show everything at it’s best before everyone descends on your party zone.
5. Before and After Shots
Speaking of shots before the party starts, why not set up some before and after shots both of the place you’re holding your party and what it looks like afterwards. Make sure you take the shots from the same position.
6. Time-lapse Christmas series
I have one friend who set up his computer with a web cam in the corner of the room with the camera looking down on the Christmas table. He set the camera to go off every 5 minutes over the day and ended up with one of the most wonderful series of shots that I’ve seen for a long time.
7. Christmas Lights
Photographing Christmas lights is something that can be tricky to do. David Hobby from Strobist has put together a great tutorial on how to do it. Check it out at How to Photograph Christmas Lights.
8. Find a Point of Interest – but just per shot
All good shots should have a focal point that holds the attention of those viewing your images. The problem with Christmas is that there can often be too many competing focal points in shots with people, color, decorations, food in every shot. Work hard and de-cluttering your images. Check out this post on minimalism which contains some tips on de-cluttering images.
9. Fresh Group Photos
One of the most common types of shots at Christmas is the ‘group photo’. It’s usually taken at the end of the evening or day when everyone is looking at their worst. For a ‘fresher’ shot take it once everyone has arrived. Also think before hand about how you might pose everyone and where you might take the shot. I’ve posted 12 tips for taking a great group photo previously.
10. Opening Gifts – Shoot in Continuous Mode
There are certain moments during a Christmas gathering that are filled with all manner of photographic opportunities and the opening of gifts is like no other in that it is filled with an array of emotions, facial expressions and excitement – especially if you’ve got kids around. Switch your camera to burst mode (sometimes called continuous shooting mode) and take lots of shots at this time of the festivities. You’ll find you end up with some excellent series of shots when you do this that capture everything from the anticipation of getting the wrapped gift, through to the excitement of unwrapping to the joy (or occasionally disappointment) of seeing what’s inside. Don’t forget to shoot the reactions of those who GIVE the gift as well.
11. Fill your Frame
One of the most common mistakes I see in Christmas photos (or any party/even photography) is that people often end up with shots of their subjects off in the distance on the other side of a room with lots of space around them. Fill your frame with your subject either by using your zoom or getting up and moving yourself closer. While this is one of the simplest tips I ever give it is one that can have the most profound impact on your shots.
12. Diffuse/Reflect Your Flash
– Another common problem with Christmas shots is ending up with shots where the flash is so bright that subjects look like rabbits in a spotlight with harsh shadows behind them. One way around this is to use some sort of a flash diffuser or reflector. If you’re lucky enough to have an external flash try bouncing it off walls or the ceiling. Another way to reduce the impact of your flash and to create some interesting effects is to switch your camera into ‘night mode’ (slow sync mode). This will tell your camera to choose a slower shutter speed but still fire your flash. In doing so it’ll capture some of the ambient light of the room as well as freeze your subject. Be warned, you can end up with some wacky shots doing this (but they can also be lots of fun).
13. Go Macro
Most digital cameras come with a macro mode and an increasing number of DPS readers are buying macro lenses so flick to that mode, attach your lens and photograph the smaller things around your party. Ornaments on the tree, table decorations, sweets in the bowl on the table, a nativity scene on the mantle piece, holly above the doorway – sometimes it’s these small things around your party that are the real ‘money shots’. Don’t forget our Macro Hacks for compact cameras.
14. Watch Your Aperture
I quite often shoot in Aperture Priority mode on a day like Christmas and am constantly changing the aperture depending upon my subject. For example when taking shots of a Christmas decoration on the tree I’ll select a large aperture (a small number like f/2.8) so as to throw the background out of focus, but on a shot taken from the end of the table of everyone sitting down eating I’ll choose a small aperture (like f/8 to f/11 or more) so as to have a larger depth of field and keep everyone in focus.
15. Explore Your Neighborhood
If your neighborhood is anything like mine there is an almost unlimited number of photographic opportunities presenting themselves all around you. Christmas carols services, houses covered in Christmas decorations, shopping malls filled with busyness etc. Get out there with your camera and capture it. What a wonderful time of year to practice using your camera. Have fun!
16. Related Reading:
Also check out our crazily popular How to Take Beautiful Bokeh Christmas Lights Images (with 31 great examples).
Christmas Wishes from DPS
Lastly – let me wish all Digital Photography School readers a very happy holiday period. It’s been a great two and a bit since we launched this blog and while I’m looking forward to a few days off over Christmas I also can’t wait to get back to DPS and to take it to the next level in the new year. Have a great holiday period and we’ll see you in the new year!