Guide to Christmas Photography
If you like Christmas and New Year and everything that surrounds this festive season, then I’m sure you take a lot of photos of the Christmas tree and family gatherings.
However, it’s not always easy to capture the mood and the atmosphere on camera. As a result, you probably look at the photos once and never again!
In this article, I’ll give you some Christmas photography tips to make images you and your family will want to see all year long.
You can even improve so much that you can charge for them and become a commercial Christmas photographer – you’ll find some tips about that too if that’s the way you decide to go.
20 Festive Christmas Photography Tips & Ideas
If you are wondering where to take photos for Christmas and want to step away from the classic Christmas tree as a background, or you’re looking to learn how to set up a Christmas Photo Shoot then keep on reading.
These 20 Christmas photography tips can help you learn the techniques and shake up your creativity.
1. Use the right aperture
Christmas can be full of lights and distracting objects that can make your photos look ‘busy’ and not communicate anything.
To avoid this problem, you can use a shallow depth of field which will keep your subject in focus and blur the background.
To achieve this, you need to use a small f-number. If you’re not familiar with the manual mode, set your camera to Aperture priority, then choose f/1.4 or f/2.8, whatever your lens allows, and start shooting.
You can also check out our guide to aperture here.
2. Use the shutter speed creatively
The shutter speed is one of the settings that determine how much light gets into the camera. However, it can be used creatively when there are moving subjects.
You can freeze things with a fast shutter speed or create a motion blur with a slow one. If you are using a slow shutter speed, use a tripod to avoid camera shake.
3. Use burst mode to capture expressions
Capturing emotion is not always an easy task. To capture the excitement in someone’s eyes when they unwrap a gift, or the love in a hug when an out-of-town relative arrives requires a lot of precision.
A great deal of intuition is needed to get a good result – but thankfully, technology plays a part to help you out.
Set your camera for continuous shooting and fire away. Just make sure to use it only for the right moments or else you’ll fill up your memory card too soon.
Also, for some great Xmas gift ideas for a photographer friend, check out our guide.
4. Use your phone
Smartphones have made giant steps in improving the quality of their cameras. Nowadays you can get amazing pictures using an iPhone or Android device, and with almost any model.
If you’re trying to do some night photography, you need at least a mid-range smartphone to get a better quality photo, which is quite affordable these days.
The latest iPhones and Android devices have incredible low-light photography features, but to maximise your chances of getting a sharp shot, I recommend getting a cheap phone tripod too (see our guide.)
Don’t miss out on any Christmas photo because you don’t have a camera – just get out and start shooting with the device you have in your pocket!
5. Capture the atmosphere
One of the most wonderful things about the holiday’s spirit is that you can feel it all around you. It’s not just a dinner, a party, or the moment when you open the present, it’s an atmosphere that goes well beyond.
Make sure you capture the essence of Christmas in your photographs. You can do this with any type of photography from snowy landscapes to a decorated living room.
An extra tip here: adjusting white balance goes a long way to establishing the atmosphere – a warmer white balance can be achieved by reducing the Kelvin number.
6. Don’t forget about daytime
During the holidays every city lights up. All the streets and stores are lit, the houses are decorated, and it’s beautiful to capture all of this in your photos.
Because of this, it’s easy to focus only on photographing after dawn and forget about the rest of the day. So, when should you take Christmas photos?
You can make a lot of wonderful images with natural light. You can photograph people doing their shopping and the preparations during the day. Just make sure you avoid the harsh sun.
Then, of course, you should capture the Christmas morning!
7. Be spontaneous
It’s easy to get caught up in the Christmas fun and forget to take pictures throughout the party. It’s OK to get some posed portraits with everyone together, but you’ll regret missing out on the spontaneous moments.
Make sure you stay active throughout the holidays and capture the best moments to remember for years to come.
8. Not all portraits need a face
Portraits are one of the most popular types of photography when it comes to Christmas times. And why wouldn’t they be?
You gather with friends and relatives that you probably don’t see that often and everybody is happy and dressed up… ready-made portrait subjects, right?
That’s true, but if you want to level up your photography skills, you can try doing some faceless portraits. I’m sure you’ll find this a satisfying challenge.
You should also check out our tips on editing portraits using Adobe Lightroom in this guide.
9. Try pet photography
The holidays are special because we get some extra time with our friends and family who we don’t get to see much during the rush of everyday life.
This includes our best friends and valued family members – pets!
You can take more casual photos by following your pet around or make a more organized session with props and a background.
10. Make Bokeh
Bokeh is the effect caused by out-of-focus light on the image. The shapes can be different from one lens to another, or you can make some DIY lens hoods with different shapes to make it more fun.
Photographing lights are the perfect way to experiment with bokeh. You can use them as backdrops for Christmas portraits, or just take photos of the lights for some abstract images.
11. Don’t be too literal
Holiday decorations, presents, and family gatherings are some of the most common subjects in Christmas photography.
It’s easy to get lost in all that, however, so to make your images stand out, you might want to try a new approach.
Think outside the box and make your Christmas photography more subtle, conceptual, or even abstract. The only limit is your creativity.
12. Try new techniques
With all the magic that surrounds the holidays, you can try a lot of new photography techniques. If the weather allows it, you can try photographing a time-lapse of a soap bubble freezing – see our guide to time-lapse photography here.
Otherwise, you can try tilt-shift photography to make your town look like a Christmas village diorama. Depending on your budget and possibilities, you can stick to post-production techniques or rent out new gear for some photographic experiments.
13. Change Perspective
Always photographing at eye-level can make your images look dull. To get more interesting shots, you need to take photos from different angles.
You can crouch, climb on a chair or photograph the party going on in the living room from the top of the stairs. Try them all out and see what difference changing your perspective can make.
14. Try some street photography
What better time to practice street photography than Christmas? Everything is lit up and decorated; the families are out and smiley; everywhere you go, you’ll find a scene to catch.
If you’re a beginner in this type of photography, try setting some goals for yourself. This way, it will be easier to focus on a subject and come back home with satisfying results.
For example, you can decide that the topic will be people shopping, or children talking to Santa, or photograph the best Christmas trees in the neighborhood.
15. Plan some outdoor photoshoots
Often we limit the Christmas photos to the dinner party when everyone has arrived or when we are decorating the tree.
But why not set aside a time where you go out together specifically to create some new memories?
You can visit the city center where there’s usually a big Christmas tree, go to a Christmas market, or even pay a visit to Santa for some fun Christmas photos.
16. Play with light
Light is the raw material to create a photograph. With all the types of light that characterize this season, you can take some very interesting photos.
You can create silhouettes against a Christmas decoration, paint with light using sparklers, and many other effects.
17. Do some Lifestyle Portraits
Make your Christmas memories look more professional by doing a lifestyle portrait session. Take advantage of the fact that your house is all beautiful and prepped to receive your guests and everybody is dressed up.
You can use natural light if you’re doing it in the daytime or artificial light to create an atmosphere during the evening.
Then, study some poses that you can replicate with your loved ones, and you’re ready to go.
18. Practice food and still life
The food and the centerpiece, the decorations and the presents, everything around you screams ‘photograph me’.
19. Set up a set
Do you want to capture beautiful family photos? Set-up a mini studio where everyone can come for their photo.
You can do this photo-booth-style with props, a set with Christmas backdrops, or anything you can think of that will capture the mood and reflect your style.
If you’re photographing small details like holly or baubles and want to make your results look more professional, try building your own DIY lightbox – here’s our guide.
20. Make some extra income
If you want to earn some extra cash over the festive period and you’re asking yourself how much should I charge for Christmas photos? It will depend on what you want to do.
First, you can put your images on a stock photography website. These websites usually have their own fees – check out different ones to see which is best. Just make sure that you have legal releases if you’re featuring people or anything copyrighted.
Another thing you can do is organize photoshoots for your neighbors, friends, or even strangers if you feel confident enough.
Family portraits and pet photography are very popular during the holidays. If you don’t have a studio, you can do outdoor sessions and use the city as a backdrop for Christmas themed photographs. You can also offer to do it at their home and take some lifestyle portraits.
These can be priced according to how many hours you invest in the photoshoot, and how many photos you’ll deliver. You can do different packages for the clients to choose from.
You can also try some event photography since many companies have their corporate parties over the Christmas break. Or, if you’re not a people person you can also approach local businesses to ask if they are looking to promote any special offer for the holidays.
You can photograph their products for them to use in their social media channels or some flyers. These are just some ideas, but there are many ways to make money with Christmas photography.
If you need help with any technique or you want to share some more ideas with us, please do so in the comments section below.
Remember that the best pictures come from you enjoying the Christmas holiday, so have fun and take a lot of pictures!