Photography Tips

Christmas Photography Ideas

20th December 2018

Twinkling lights, rich colours, and getting all the family together in one place… Christmas is the very best time of year to get your camera out! But have you ever felt like your selection of Christmas photos are getting a little predictable year upon year? The beautifully decorated tree, the family group shot and the piled up presents. If you want to add a little more variety to this year’s Christmas photo book, read on! We’ve compiled our favourite Christmas photography ideas, to help inspire you to capture the festive season from every angle this year.

7 Christmas Photography Ideas

Photography and the Feast

The festive feast is one of the highlights of Christmas celebrations, but how many times have you taken photographs of the family sat around the table but neglected to photograph the food itself? Roast turkey, sweet mulled wine and painstakingly decorated gingerbread all make beautiful pictures of Christmas. For mouthwatering shots complete with steam curls, grab your camera when the food or drink is still piping hot. Place your dish in front of a natural light source such as a window, and the light will not only make the colours of the food look natural and appealing, but also highlight the appetising steam.

retro style enamel mugs full of hot chocolate on a table decorated for Christmas

Preparation Fixation

Festivities are lovely, but for many of us, the preparation is half the fun! Instead of limiting yourself to photographing the beautifully decorated tree and the feast on the dinner table, why not add some of the preparation shots to your Christmas photography to-do list? Images of decorations being hung, gifts being wrapped and food being cooked make emotive moments that are well worth capturing. They also make a particularly nice addition to your Christmas photo book, enabling you to tell the linear story of your festive celebrations.

two children hanging baubles to the Christmas tree together

Go Macro

Christmas can be full of hustle and bustle, but a macro shot focusing on a festive detail can provide a refreshing break in your photo series. Christmas tree baubles, candy canes, holly and decorated gingerbread all lend themselves well to a macro shot that’s minimalist yet brimming with holiday spirit. Choose a wide aperture to blur the background out of focus, and really keep attention on your chosen subject.

star shaped iced gingerbread cookie on a plate

Candid on Camera

If you have shy little ones (or grown-ups!) it can be difficult to get them to pose for a Christmas photo, so keep your camera ready and take some candid shots instead. There are plenty of opportunities throughout the whole day; from opening gifts, to laughing with visiting relatives, to falling asleep in front of It’s A Wonderful Life. All of these kinds of images give a lovely insight into the whole day, with memories to look back on that you just can’t get from posed and planned Christmas photographs alone.

a child wearing a christmas cracker crown smiling while seated at the dinner table

Top Tip: The biggest downside of candid photographs is that you have little to no control over the background of your shot. You just have to shoot the moment as it happens. Take a look at the background of your subject; are they in front of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree? Or (more likely!) surrounded by a mass of torn wrapping paper, loose toys and a half-eaten mince pie? If the latter is the case, really zoom in and fill the frame with your subject, until you crop out all the distractions and mess. If there’s still a lot of unwanted clutter in the background of your image, use a smaller f-stop setting to blur it out.

‘Tis Better To Give…

We all know gift opening is a fabulous opportunity to capture some wonderful facial expressions. But consider sparing a few shutter clicks for the gift giver as well as the receiver. From the suspense as the wrapping is torn into, and excitedly trying to suppress a smile, to the thrill of a gift that’s just right; they can give you some expressive shots that teem with personality.

a delighted woman opens a small gift from a relative

Merry and Bright

You simply can’t photograph the Christmas season without capturing a few shots of those twinkling lights! This is a great opportunity to experiment with bokeh photography, or alternatively, if you want to capture lights that really sparkle, you’ll need to get your tripod out.

Top Tip: In manual mode, set your ISO to a low number (around 400), combined with a very small aperture (that’s a high f-stop number, around 18-22). Because you’re combining a low ISO with a small aperture, you’ll need to use a very slow shutter speed. If you don’t use a tripod, you’ll just get a very blurry photograph, and not the festive twinkly lights you’re hoping for. Ideally for a photograph like this, you’ll also want to use a timer or a remote too, in order to ensure your shot doesn’t blur as the camera moves when you press down on the button.

a beautifully lit living room at Christmas with a large decorated tree

Top Tip: When it comes to photographing outdoor Christmas lights, the most important factor is to choose the right time of day. You want it to be dark enough to bring out the festive lighting, but not so dark as to lose all other detail in the shot. We recommend going outside about 20-30 minutes after sunset, for just the right amount of ambient light.

outfoor scene taken at Christmas in the evening, showing a harbour decorated with lights

Don’t Forget Yourself

If you’re the family shutterbug, you might have a tendency to be missing in most photographs. It’s easy to get so caught up in your Christmas photography that you forget that you’re part of the celebration too. So be sure to spend some time in front of the camera, not just behind it, this holiday season… even if it means passing that beloved camera to someone else for an hour or two!

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