Here is the ultimate guide to Christmas Photography. These top 10 Christmas photography tips from the pros who know – Sony Super Users – are all you need to know to take Facebook and scrapbook-the-holidays worthy photos.
If the action around you is high speed, your camera needs to be at a high speed too.
Kids are so excited on Christmas Day that they just rip through those presents! Don’t end up with blurry photos of the gift opening after all the time it took to find & wrap that perfect present.
1. Use the continuous/burst mode (if your camera has one) and a high shutter speed to take several photos within seconds during an important action.
In burst mode several photos are taken very quickly when you press the shutter button, allowing you to keep the high-speed action in focus. The photos below of The Great Geyser were taken at a burst rate.
As in the above photos, start shooting just before the peak of the action so you’ll get the perfect Christmas photo.
You can’t use burst mode with your flash because the time that it takes for the flash to recycle between shots is too slow.
2. Choose the correct frames per second (fps) to match the action in the picture you’re taking.
During quieter moments when everyone is sitting around the table or fireplace use a slower frame per second.
3. Select the right shutter speed:
For a high speed, select 1/250 or 1/320.
For normal portrait-type photos set it by the focal length. With a 50 mm lens the shutter speed is 1/50.
Plan ahead & take beautiful outdoor Christmas light photos.
The holiday lights are so gorgeous, of course you want photos. Most people struggle with having their photos turn out as beautiful as what their eye sees. Don’t just snap a pic and hope for the best – plan ahead and know that you’ll have scrapbooking and Facebook worthy photos.
4. The best time to take photos of Christmas lights is at dusk.
“Astronomical Dusk” is the darkest stage of twilight, those few precious moments between sunset and darkness. The sun isn’t seen but there is still a little bit of a glow in the sky before total darkness. You can still read outside.
This photo of Schwäbisch Hall in Baden-Württemberg, Germany is more appealing because it was taken at dusk. In total darkness you wouldn’t have been able to see the landscape or lights in the distance. If the sky was totally black the Hall would have shown up but it would have given the photo a whole different feel.
Compare it with this photo of a Christmas Market in Wernigerode, Germany. The photo looks good due to all of the ambient light but the top third of the photo is black which gives it a heavier feel than if it were taken at dusk.
See the difference? A little planning can turn a good photo into a work of art that brings an emotional response when you see it.
5. Following the rule of thirds makes your photos aesthetically pleasing.
When taking a photo, set the focal point where 2 lines intersect. For a landscape photo, put the tallest or heaviest-looking area on an intersection of the grid.
Both outdoor photos in our examples above are pleasing to the eye because the photographer followed the rule of thirds.
Here are two good examples following the rule of thirds on the vertical lines.
This photo of carolers at Trafalger Square is a fantastic example of following the rule of thirds on horizontal lines. (It even has the fountain and Christmas tree on the vertical lines!)
Generally, try to balance the amount of sky, landscape and foreground in your photo.
6. Use a tripod.
Yes, you could find a place to balance your elbows to try and get rid of camera shake. Yes, lugging around a big heavy tripod is a pain in the neck. (Been there. Done that. Husband still does. lol)
But there is a happy middle ground that gets the best photos without the pain. There are small, lightweight tripods that don’t cost and arm and a leg. There are tabletop tripods to set on tables and ledges. There’s even a tripod with flexible legs that can wind around things – instead of finding a place on the ground that’s level, you can attach your camera to almost anything to get the perfect pic.
7. Use White Balance so the colors in your photos match the colors your eyes see.
Due to lighting, photos can sometimes have a yellow or blue hue to them. If your camera has a white balance selection, choose the one that applies to your situation.
Choices are usually: tungsten, florescent, sunny, cloudy, flash or shade.
It’s a good idea to take a normal shot and then try one or two white balance choices to see which photo you prefer.
If your camera doesn’t have white balance, use the Auto White Balance. In the photos above, the top left-hand photo was taken with Auto White Balance.
Blur the background to focus on the people, decorations & food in your Christmas celebration.
The kids have that look of wonder & joy on their faces that melts your heart. You see the most amazing tree ornament. The turkey turned out TV commercial perfect. The problem? All the jumble in the background ruins the photo and eliminates the emotional reaction. There is an answer.
8. Use the Bokeh Effect in Christmas photography
The Bokeh Effect makes the background blurry and slightly out of focus so the attention is on the subject of the photo in the foreground.
The bokeh effect makes the lights – particularly Christmas lights – have an ethereal out of focus look.
9. Camera settings for the Bokeh Effect:
Have the object you’re photographing as far away from the Christmas tree or lights as possible. Then get close to the object when taking the photo.
- Aperture of f/1.4 or f/1.8
- Shutter speed 1/40 sec
10. Change the size and shape of the bokeh effect
A heart shape was used in this photo.
For Christmas, a star shape is also fun – as seen below.
Want more? See our article on using Bokeh lighting for your Christmas Tree photos.
I hope you learned something new & our Ultimate Guide to Christmas Photography helps you “level up” your photography skills this holiday season. Merry Christmas!
Infographic courtesy of Sony
Burst shots of The Great Geyser by Papa November
Photo of the mode dial by Althepal and Mehdi
Photo of Schwäbisch-Hall in Baden-Württemberg, Germany by Petar Milošević
Photo of Christmas market in Wernigerode, Germany by JesterWr
Rule of Thirds grid courtesy of by Sykes Cottages. See the whole infographic in our article “Take Amazing Photos that Tell a Story & Evoke Emotion”
Photo of Christmas street decorations in Sct. Mathias Gade, Viborg, Denmark by Kim Hansen
Photo of carol singers in front of the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square, London England by Diliff
Photo of lighted reindeer by Utopicaideal1
Photos of color balance choices by Spiritia
“Let It Snow” photo with toy elf by David Santaolalla
Photo with bokeh effect behind teddy bear by Sander van der Wel
Black & white photo of mother with baby by Christmas tree by Kenny Louie
Heart bokeh effect photo by Unakuckavera