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Christmas, Forest of Dean

Capturing Christmas by Isabella Norman

Christmas decorations

Christmas is unarguably a special time of year. It is the only time of year when everyone gathers together to spend time with one another. Unfortunately though, Christmas photos often don’t live up to the same standards, but that is going to change this year simply by following these few tips and tricks. There are tips are divided into two sections: The Christmas tree and other decorations, and the action throughout the day. 

The Christmas tree and other decorations 

  1. Photographing baubles

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you photograph baubles:

  • Get close to just one ornament- often people try to take photos of lots or baubles but this means there isn’t a focal point to the picture, which doesn’t make for a very appealing photograph.
  • Use a macro lens ( such as a 50mm or 100mm lens)
  • A tripod may be useful, as it can be quite dark between the Christmas trees branches 
  • Set your white balance to tungsten, to avoid an orange tint


  1. The Christmas tree

The Christmas tree, covered in lights, looks as though it will be the perfect addition for a portrait, with all that beautiful ambient light. Simply just take the picture, or maybe not. Your camera will try to meter for either the person who is having the photo taken or the Christmas tree and this will cause either the Christmas tree to be over exposed or the person underexposed plus the photos is likely to be very grainy. This is not what you want.

To overcome this issue, you can use a flash. However, before using flash, make sure to move your subject away from the Christmas tree or any other bright sources of light. The reason for this is that flash easily spills on to other objects and will certainly do so on to the Christmas tree and when flash spills, it will make those objects look just like your subject and the image will become “flat”. Ideally, you want the Christmas tree to be at least 5-6 feet away from your subject. If you’re using a popup flash then you will have to be extremely careful with shadows, especially with walls behind your subjects because pop-up flash is a direct source of light.

If you have a Speedlight, then you need to bounce the light off-ceilings and walls (by moving the flash head). Just make sure that you are not angling the light towards the Christmas tree, so that it does not get too much of the light coming from your flash. This will allow the light to illuminate your subject but not the Christmas tree. 

The final thing you will need to consider is the shutter speed. If you want to capture that ambient light then reduce you shutter speed. To find the best shutter speed I recommend playing around with different speeds, until you’re happy that the photo has enough ambient light but that the subject’s skin tone isn’t tinted an unattractive shade of orange. 

  1. Creative Christmas light photos- Bokeh 

Bokeh is a beautiful effect which creates circles of dreamy looking light either in front or behind your subject. To create this bokeh effect you need to shoot at the larger end of your available aperture. As this throws the background (and foreground) of your shot out of focus and any Christmas lights in the foreground or background will become little circles of light. To increase the size of the circles you just need to increase the distance between the lights and your subject. 

Also you can make your bokeh into shapes to do this all you need to do is to make a little cut-out ‘mask’ for your lens. To make the cut out mask all you need is ordinary thick black paper and to create a cylinder the same size as the outside of the lens and a circular top the same size as the front of the lens. Then take the circular top and cut out what ever shape you want in the center of the lens. Next stick the cylinder and circle together and finally place over the lens and you’re ready to go.  


The action throughout the day

  1. Have your camera with you at all times

This may seem obvious but is one of the most important tips. Picture perfect moments always have a habit of cropping up at the most unexpected times. So try to keep your camera with you in order to capture all of these special moments.

  1. Prime moments

There are certain times throughout the day when it is crucial to have your camera with you. Such times are:

  • Opening stockings and presents- These moments are often when you can catch the best photos of children’s reactions. Also, if a sentimental gift is given then it might be important to capture this moment.  
  • Before you eat- everyone eyeing up their dinner and so you might find yourself taking some rather comical photos of people licking their lips etc.  Additionally, if you have Christmas crackers then you can take some action shots of these being pulled.

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