I can’t believe it’s already the end of November! This year has flown by, and now it’s almost time to put the decorations up. Christmas is such a fun time to photograph, there are so many exciting things going on to capture. But if you’re in the Northern hemisphere, it also means Christmas comes at the darkest time of the year, which can mean it’s tricky to get great photos.
What do you want to remember?
Think about the things that make Christmas special to you. What special traditions and activities do you do every year? Make a list a make sure you capture the things that are important to you. For example, a few things that are on my Christmas must-do list are
- Visiting the local winter wonderland
- Christmas baking
- Going to the town centre to watch the lights switch on
- Decorating the tree
- Taking time to wrap presents beautifully
- Milk and a mince pie for Santa
- Reading NIght Before Christmas on Christmas eve
Once you’ve got your list, you’ll know what things you need to photograph. Christmas time can get super busy, so make sure you have your camera ready and close by so you can capture your Christmas memories.
Change Your Settings to Get Blurry Christmas Lights
If you want to capture those beautiful, out of focus Christmas lights that you see in the background of every Hallmark Christmas movie then you’ll need to get of Automatic. To capture beautiful, blurry Christmas lights, set your camera to Aperture priority mode (or manual if you feel comfortable) and open your aperture as wide as you can (lowest F number). If you have a zoom lens, zoom in all the way. Then, move your subject away from the lights and get up close to your subject. This way you’ll have a shallow depth of field and your Christmas lights should be nice and blurry. This effect works best with a lens that opens wide, like the 50mm 1.8. If you have a kit lens that only opens to 3.5, the effect may not be as pronounced.
Crank Up Your ISO
If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, Christmas happens in the middle of winter. Which means you’ll be indoors a lot, or outdoors in the dark. If you’re struggling to get sharp images in low lighting, try increasing your ISO. You can do this in aperture Priority, shutter priority and manual mode. Increasing your ISO means you can increase your shutter speed and prevent motion blur in your images. Sure, higher ISO’s mean extra noise in your images, but in low light this is sometimes necessary.
Make Use of Christmas Props
Take advantage of Christmas to jazz up your images with cozy Christmas blankets and warm wollens. A festive blanket can pop in a simple set up. I got this blanket for around £20 at a local homeware store and it looks great with a simple white set for an easy Christmas photoshoot. The vintage milk bottles and paper straws were from Ebay, they are a simple but effective prop, plus they keep children busy.
Let it Snow!
We don’t often get snow before Christmas here, but you can take it. For this image I cut up some used paper and threw it into the shot. It’s great for keeping children happy during the photoshoot. If you want something a bit more realistic, you can buy fake snow cheaply on sites such as Ebay. Just make sure you get a biodegradable one. If all else fails, you can fake a snowy scene in Photoshop!
Get Some Candid Shots
It’s fun to plan Christmas photoshoots with kids, but don’t forget to get some candid images too. Plan a fun Christmas activity such as decorating the tree or making Christmas cookies/. If possible set it up so that there is enough light. For example in this image I moved the kitchen table closer to the window so that there was enough light. Let them get on with what they are doing and capture images of them acting naturally. Move around to capture a variety of images, get in close to capture details and move away to capture the whole scene.
Don’t Forget the Family
It’s easy to focus on the little ones at Christmas. They’re cute and cheerful and they never tell you off for photographing them at a bad angle. But take time to capture the whole family. Your child will love looking back on them with their family when they are older. Have your camera ready and capture natural images of your children sharing special moments with loved ones.
Capture the Little Details
Capture the little details of Christmas. Detail shots are not only great for adding to albums, they are great for practicing your photography skills. Find a spot near a window so you have plenty of natural light. Gather your details together and take a variety of shots.
Practice taking images from above and from the side. Use a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field and play around with accents such as holly and berries to style your images.
For this image I moved the mince pies closer to a window so the light was better.
The black worktop was a great backdrop, I dusted the surface with a little icing sugar to give it a snowy effect. If you don’t like your work surfaces, use a chopping board, try or piece of card as a backdrop instead.
I hope these tips help you capture beautiful memories this Christmas. Don’t forget, if you want to learn more about photography without getting frustrated by all the confusing jargon and settings, you can grab my free roadmap. Your roadmap will guide you through simple things you can learn to quickly improve your images. Just pop your email address in below so I know where to send your guide