Facebook Pixel 10 Christmas Portrait Locations (with Bonus Lighting and Composition Tips)

10 Christmas Portrait Locations (with Bonus Lighting and Composition Tips)


Everyone loves to see a nice portrait of the kids at Christmas. But it can be tough to brainstorm new Christmas portrait locations year after year.

Whether you’re photographing your own kids, or you’re a family photographer, this list of Christmas portrait locations will give you plenty of ideas including tips for lighting and composition.

1. Golden hour

Christmas can feel magical and golden hour is a magical time of day for light. You can find some evergreens for the golden sunlight to filter through and create a magical feel for your portrait. Consider using the golden sunlight as a beautiful source of backlight.

Christmas portrait locations

Golden hour is approximately the first and last hour of the day when sunlight looks almost golden. Personally, I love to work with the last 15 minutes of sunlight. I scout my location a few days in advance and take note of the exact time the sun is at its best.

2. Christmas lights in the background

Christmas lights can also be a good source of warm light. They work especially well if you prefer to stay indoors. Keep the tree back in a darker corner and use a window to light your person (this works well when photographing holiday food too).

You may find that a fully decorated Christmas tree can be a bit of a background distraction. A simple tree with lights adds a festive feel without being overwhelming.

Christmas portrait locations

The Christmas lights in the background echo the golden polka dots of her shirt. The catchlights in her eyes (created by the window light) help to bring the portrait to life.


Christmas portrait locations

You can see where she was positioned in relation to the window and the tree.


Christmas portrait locations

If you don’t have a window for a light source, you can use the flash on your camera. If you’re using your camera’s flash, there are two things to keep in mind. Keep the person away from the Christmas tree and get close to them with your camera. By staying close to them and keeping them away from the tree, the flash will light the person nicely but not overwhelm the tree with light.

3. While it’s snowing

If you live in a part of the world where there is snow, this is really fun for a Christmas portrait. But there are a couple of problems that you will likely run into.

The first is that your photo may turn out looking very dark. This is because the snow is so bright that your camera meter naturally wants to darken the photo. One way around this is to shoot in full manual mode, then you can get the exact brightness that you want. Personally, I shoot on aperture priority and use exposure compensation to get the correct brightness for my photo.

The second problem that you will run into when photographing during a snowfall is misfocused pictures. Your camera may autofocus on a snowflake in the foreground, leaving your subject out of focus. So, make sure to check your photo closely before packing up your camera. That way, you won’t be disappointed when you sit down to edit your photos and realize they’re all out of focus.

Christmas portrait locations

A darker background makes the snowflakes stand out more.

Be sure to protect your camera in cold weather too.

4. Christmas tree at home

This is a perfect opportunity to capture both posed and candid moments. Again, window light will be your friend when lighting your subject.

Notice that in the first photo I positioned the subject so that he is against a clean background. This way he stands out more and is not lost among the decor.

5. A quaint storefront

Our downtown street is filled with beautiful storefronts throughout December. These storefronts are a perfect Christmas portrait location. When using a storefront for a background, remember to frame the person neatly.

Once your subject is framed, go for a natural smile! You’ll probably have to say something funny.

Christmas portrait locations

Notice how the boy is framed in this photo. He is balanced by the tree on the left and the windows on the right. His head is in a clean space with nothing distracting protruding from it.

6. Rustic barnboard

If you like a rustic aesthetic at Christmas time, look for an old barn to use as a Christmas portrait location.

Christmas portrait locations

In this first photo, she is placed right up against the wall. I’m using a 50mm lens with an aperture of f/1.8 so the boards are a little out of focus.


Christmas portrait locations

I brought her a few feet away from the wall in order to make the background go more out of focus.

7. Use props

You can use all sorts of props in your photos. Sometimes a prop to sit on is more than enough to add visual interest to your portrait.

Christmas portrait locations

With an overcast sky, you can make portraits any time of day without having to worry about harsh shadows from direct sunlight.

8. Wrapping paper backdrop

Find a wide roll of paper with a nice design to use as a backdrop. Place it next to the window and you will have a wonderful natural light source.

Christmas portrait locations

9. Decorate the wilderness

It’s so much fun to bring a sack of Christmas ornaments on a hike and decorate a tree deep in the woods! Once you’ve done that, you’ve got a perfect Christmas portrait location.

10. Choose a theme

When thinking of Christmas portrait locations, consider building your portrait around a meaningful theme.

Christmas portrait locations

When my son was just two, I couldn’t resist creating a portrait inspired by Charlie Brown.

11. Storytime

Create a storytime theme using a big book as a prop. Remember that a window is a great source of light.

Christmas portrait locations

Try a posed portrait.


Christmas portrait locations

Once you have a nice pose, try a photographing a candid moment too.


12. Go to a tree farm

Perhaps you don’t have any nice scenery nearby. If that’s the case, then find a tree farm to use for your Christmas portrait location. If you don’t like the manicured look of rows of trees then go for an angle that doesn’t make it obvious that you’re at a tree farm.

The perfect gift

Have fun trying out several of these Christmas portrait locations! When you’re finished, your printed portrait will be one of the most meaningful gifts you can give to friends and family over the holidays.

Do you have any other ideas for Christmas portrait locations? If so, please share them with us in the comments!

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Mat Coker
Mat Coker

is a family photographer from Ontario, Canada. He teaches photography to parents and families, showing them how to document their life and adventures. You can get his free photography ebook, and learn more about taking creative photos.

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