Inside: How to take Good Christmas pictures is a must! Through this guide you’ll learn Christmas photography tips, how to take pictures of christmas lights, tips for taking Christmas pictures at home and camera settings for Christmas light photos.
“We do not take pictures with our cameras, but with our hearts and minds.” -Arnold Newman
How to take Good Christmas Pictures
As a mom of 3 of the cutest kiddos on the planet (totally biased here!), and a photographer who enjoys documenting their precious lives- I am motivated to take photos of my children so that the things that overwhelm my heart with so much love will remain in my mind for years to come. I would venture to say that is the same reason for a majority of us who are moms & photographers.
Christmastime, in particular, presents so many opportunities to document. Our family does so much in December, and so many memories are made. I’m guessing we’re not the only ones! For our family, there are always Christmas cookie baking parties, decorating the tree, ice skating, gift exchanges, plays, more parties, and more simple things like playing with the nativity, or doing a craft. I’ve found a few things helpful in documenting, capturing lifestyle images, and even getting a few posed shots occasionally.
Don’t try to get the perfect pictures but instead Choose the Right moment for perfect Christmas pictures!
First, take documentary/ lifestyle photos often.
- Capture your everyday moments showing your child in their environment doing what they normally would do, at Christmastime that may be playing with a nativity set, or opening a present, reading a Christmas book, making gingerbread houses or even outside activities like looking at lights or making a snowman.
- For me, only doing “posed” shots once in a great while, and rather doing documentary/lifestyle cuts down significantly on PCS (Photographer’s Child Syndrome)/Burnout.
- Gear you’ll need: Your wide angle lens (35 1.4 on full-frame) will become your best friend. Even though a long lens produces gorgeous compression and shallow depth of field, it’s not as practical for your everyday.
Shoot lifestyle at home.
- When at home shooting documentary- be mindful of your homes “backdrop”. Is it tidy or is it like mine? Not as tidy. My solution: try tidying up an area really fast before shooting in it (throw unwanted toys in a basket, and any clothes lying around in a pile, pull covers up on the bed- unless your story is about the child in the bed of course, etc…). All this to say- clutter in photos isn’t very pretty. Sometimes keeping it 100% authentic is ok, too. And some photographers prefer this. I prefer to not have photos showing my home to be a complete mess… a few stray toys, ok… but laundry piles or a sink piled high with dishes in the background? Not so much.
- Catch them doing something cute and try to capture it without them knowing. (If you shoot certain brands of camera- if feasible, turn the beep off!)
- Set up an activity. This means you can control the environment you’re shooting in before shooting, and plop them down in a place that has good light!!
- Homes that don’t have great light, make the best places to get moody B&Ws!!! Or also challenge you to learn to use an external flash! So don’t let that deter you from shooting in your home.
Take your camera with you everywhere you go, and shoot lifestyle on the go as well!
Finding locations to shoot other than your home can really help you keep your sanity!
- These are some of my & my kids’ favorite times I pull out my camera. They get to do something fun, and I get to photograph them doing something they enjoy. And, we get out of the house! Win, win, win.
- At Christmastime, ideas to kick start an adventure with your kids might be: hot cocoa at a coffee shop, the ice skating rink, movie theater, “The Polar Express” train, American Girl doll Christmas tea, cutting down or picking out a Christmas tree, parties with friends.
- When finding these locations, keep in mind that going to a location when it is least busy will really help you be able to document well, versus trying to get a shot in the midst of a crowd.
- Dress for success! Put your kids in clothes that will look nice in photos. Buy clothes in similar family colors for all your kids. (Yes, it takes some time & effort to do this, especially if you’re trying to be frugal). Also, I let my sweats & tshirt kid wear what he wants with the stipulation he has to wear the nice button up or polo over the tshirt until after I’m done taking photos. When my kids were babies & toddlers, I’d put a big bib on them until I started shooting. Their clothes can get so messy so fast at that age!
- Age Appropriate Expectations.
- Time expectations of how long you may be able to shoot your child:
- Baby to Toddler- 5-15 minutes at a location. Big Tip: safety is more important than the shot, so if anything is precarious don’t take the shot- but rather, make sure your child is safe. I’ve been so engrossed before in shooting, that I haven’t realized my kid was about do something unsafe. So just a friendly be aware warning. Give them something small to play with to keep them in one spot for a little while.
- Pre-schoolers to Early Elementary age- 15-25 minutes at a location, play with them
- And, when you have kids that are 7+, you’re golden- – – until they start having inhibitions, and not wanting you to photograph them.
- Time expectations of how long you may be able to shoot your child:
How to Take Christmas Light Photos
“…the moment it becomes a photograph it’s reduced to light, line, and moments.” David DuChemin
Look for opportunities in your shooting to find good light, great composition, and authentic moments.
- Light: Of course, the light. I must admit that sometimes I may shoot photos of my kids just because the light is so pretty! 🙂 When you’re shooting in your home in particular, look for the pockets of light. Start observing how the light changes throughout the day. This will strengthen your photographs as you shoot throughout the day.
- Lines/Composition: Include wide angles & architectural elements. Walk around your children to find ways to capture them at different angles (from above, at eye level, just their hands, etc…). Include detail shots- which are great to shoot AFTER your kids are over you shooting photos of them.
- Moments: I feel the most important part of documenting your children’s life- is capturing the moment and emotion involved with whatever you are documenting.
- Whether that’s a child engrossed in their book, or playing with their doll/dinosaur/etc…, or the way they hold their tongue when they’re painting. There are so many ways to document this, but I’ve found the most genuine is to let the moment happen, and know when to click. There are times, as mothers, that we need to be in the moment with our kids… so we need to know when to click, and when to let the camera hang so we can push them on the swing, or better yet swing next to them and see how high you both can go! So, sometimes, you are just not going to document everything, and that’s ok!!
- When I put on a longer lens, and shoot from a more “observatory” position, I can get their natural curiosity, or joy, or craziness without them feeling any inhibition. I love that. I will usually pull this out later on after I’ve documented with a wide-angle lens.
- And for that occasional “posed” shot for Christmas cards or just because you want to take some nice photos of your kids- Connections are Key here. You want your children to be in close proximity to each other, and if you can, get them to all be touching in some way or another. (Hold hands, wrap hand around arm or shoulder, put head on shoulder) I know with my own crew, the longer they are like this, the sillier they get. 🙂 So I have to tweak a pose quickly, and be FAST to shoot it before their own sibling interaction starts to kick in.
One last thing- don’t forget to pass off the camera to get in the photo too, Mom. We are a vital part of our children’s lives, and they will treasure the photos that you are a part of as well. Enjoy the Christmas season with your child!
Christmas Photography Tips over at Exposure Guide gives a few examples along with camera settings for each picture! Great tool and tips!
Do you ever wonder what to do with all of the awesome Christmas cards you receive each year? I know for me I get so many good cards from great friends and I love seeing their pictures! So instead of chunking them we are starting a new tradition which will be fun to pull out each year to come! DIY Christmas Card Book
Mary Hill says
Great shots. I am trying to take more of my family, but they are sometimes relunctant subjects. How do you get your to participate so well? I enjoyed the tips about lighting, architecture, ect.
Amazing pictures! Christmas in your home is absolutely gorgeous, your kids are so lucky! Great tips!
Kristin @ MOMentous Moms says
Your photos are gorgeous! These are fantastic tips. Our house has HORRIBLE lighting but I never thought to shoot in B&W to make it more acceptable, great idea. I am hoping for a new lens for my camera this year so that I can actually start getting some great shots. I agree with your last statement more than anything, I am actually doing a post about why I am not documenting as much this year, as moms we sometimes forget to enjoy and actually get in the picture!
Sonya Kendall says
These are great tips! I have pretty bad lighting in my house. So I’m going to use your tip and try to take some black and white shots inside.
Erica Acevedo says
Pinning this for later – I’ll be needed it in the near future! 🙂 Love the tree bokeh!!
Nicole Keener says
I love your pictures and tips! I am always scared to take my Nikon to places that are very busy. My strap doesn’t like to stay in place so if I don’t hold on to it it loves to slip.
Stephanie Pass says
What great ideas! I always forget to pull out the camera to get these great shots.