Christmas time is the most energetic and exciting time to take photographs for a variety of reasons, the natural elements, the most captivating and imaginative decorations (including Christmas lights) and the festive mood that overcomes whole communities. You can photograph during the day, but some of the most evocative images can be found at night. The brilliance provided by the pure white snow adds some challenges, but there are some benefits too.
Let’s take a look at how to get the most effective Christmas photos.
Here’s the Tip:
1. Be Ready and Prepared
Make sure you’re ready to capture any planned event is part of the key to a successful shoot. Getting yourself ready, but also the location of your shots is worthwhile.
♦ Pack the camera
♦ Make sure your batteries are charged
♦ Pack extra memory cards
♦ Put someone on ‘photos’
♦ Consider the light in the room that you’ll be photographing in.
2. Photograph Outdoors
The cold chill of winter brings a certain purity to the air. Even the light usually has a different quality to it. This is all great for your photography. Get out in the brisk air and take photos of the snow-covered homes and lawns in your area. Most neighborhoods have several families that nearly go overboard with their enthusiasm for the season and have decked out their homes with intricate lighting and prop arrangements these make excellent backdrops for your photos.
Also, shoot at night where the whiteness of the snow elevate the overall light level. You’ll want to use long shutter speeds – below 1/15 (which might require a tripod) – to get some spectacular shots of the lit-up houses and the sky.
3. Christmas Lights & Ornaments
Christmas lights and ornaments are the holiday decorations you’ll find in nearly every Christmastime photograph; they’re a staple, but they’re also a cliché staple. You’ll want to find ways to utilize them in inventive ways – extreme close ups or just having them dominate the frame where the “subjects”, the people, populates the background to give dimension and suggest depth.
♦ Don’t be afraid to unplug lights so they might be off directly behind your subject, but turned on in the opposite side of the frame… it’s a way to balance the composition and not add a distracting element.
♦ Another interesting and effective technique you can employ when photographing ornaments and Christmas tree lights is the Bokeh technique. With Bokeh, you use the blurred or soft focus part of an image (that’s just outside of the depth of field) as part of the image composition.
♦ One way to enhance the effect is to place a piece of black paperboard with a shape cut out of it in front of the lens, and the soft-focus/blurred light halos will take on the shape of what you cut into the paperboard. It’s a neat effect that can add character to your photographs.
4. Express Relationships
Holidays are days that highlight the importance of relationships, with Christmas being the granddaddy of them all. The stress and pressure of the passing year may wear on everyone, yet everyone is glad to relax and spend time with family. As with Thanksgiving, you have a chance to take photographs that define emotional moments for years, if not decades to come. Try to get them to smile and laugh.!
5. Capture the Preparation Stages
The actual Christmas meal or party is obviously the best part of the day, but there are other photographic opportunities, particularly in the preparation stages of the day.
Families come together at holidays, but not just for the main event, they come to help decorate… and these are exciting, fun-filled moments, so they’re ripe with photographic opportunity!
♦ Food preparation
♦ Putting up decorations
♦ Wrapping gifts
♦ Kids throwing a tantrum while getting dressed in their Christmas outfits
♦ Setting the table
The shots before the event starts properly are often great because they show everything at its best before everyone descends on your party zone.
6. Focus on the Eyes
All pictures of people soar when you focus in on your subject’s eyes, and that’s no different with Christmas time photos. It’s critical to compose the image with as little headroom and dead space on the sides as possible, so the image is more about the faces and the eyes than anything else.
7. Take Group Portraits
Christmas photos can have dual uses – you take them for the memories/recordkeeping, and you can use them as your family’s Christmas card. Either way, you want to make sure that you, the photographer, are in some of the important family photos. You’ll want to position everyone by the Christmas tree and have some presents in the composition too.
♦ Use a tripod for this group shot
♦ Use the camera’s timer (so you can get in the photo too) — Set your exposure values (shutter, ISO and aperture), compose your frame, set the timer interval (between 3 – 10 seconds), then press the shutter.