How to create great Christmas photos


Have you ever taken photos on Christmas day and they left you feeling disappointed? The kids just want to open their presents and totally ignored you're calls to "look this way", "smile", "say cheese". It doesn't have to be this way. I specialise in documentary photography and I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be this way, you can tell the story of your family Christmas another way. A way that doesn't leave you frustrated, a way that captures the real moments of joy as they happen.

If you follow these simple tips you'll be taking great photos this year, even with your phone.

  1. Look for the light. Light is the most important part of photography, without it, it's impossible to have a photo let alone a great one. Now the kids will probably be up early, so the light is likely to be very low, or still dark if your kids (or big kid) wakes up before 7am, so you'll need to turn your lights on, the more light the better really. Notice where the light is coming from, if it's come from a big window then photograph areas of the room or parts of the face that are well lit, this usually means photographing with the light behind you or to the side of you. Of course, you can use flash if the light is really bad, but I'd try to avoid this at all possible as it'll totally change the feeling in the photograph. If you've opened the curtains, turned on (and up) all the lights (including Christmas lights) and still can't get a decent shot, then turn on the flash. It's better to capture the moment than miss it.
  2. Look for expressions. Once you've found good light, timing your photograph is key. You want to look for good expressions. That doesn't mean that you should be aiming to capture just one photograph, keep taking photo's as the action develops. This will increase your odds of capturing the best expressions at the height of the action. You'll be looking for that big smile, those 'wow' moments when they open their presents and you capture the wonderment on their face.  
  3. Tell the story. Like with any good story, you need a beginning, middle and an end. Documenting Christmas Day is exactly the same. You can take photos of the presents out under the tree to show the beginning, or before the mayhem begins, however you'd like to interpret it, followed by unwrapping the presents and playing with them. The middle could be all about that delicious turkey. Capture the stories within the day, making Christmas dinner, drink in hand, singing to Christmas songs, then everyone enjoying Christmas dinner, well maybe not the sprouts. You get the idea, capture the day as it unfolds.
  4. Before and after shots. This tip is more of a continuation of point 3, before and after shots are great ways to tell a story. Presents under the tree before and after being wrapped; Christmas dinner being cooked then out on the table. The kids and grandparents before when they have energy and at the end of the day when they're fast asleep in bed or on the sofa (grandparents).
  5. Wide and detail. Sometimes when you're shooting away, you're in a rhythm, you'll find yourself taking photos that all look similar, they're all from the same distance away from your subject. So this tip is to remind you to photograph the scene from a great distance, like setting the scene in your story, get lots of elements in the frame (but not too many that they become distracting). Then also get in close and capture little details as well. These could be of the food, the special table cloth that only comes out at Christmas, that one present the kids wouldn't put down that totally took you by surprise. 

Bonus tip - While you'll want to photograph throughout the day, you don't need to have your camera constantly in your hand, enjoy the day, be part of it and snap a few shots when the moments right. Christmas Day is a family day so make sure you enjoy that family time as well.

Have a wonderful Christmas, I'd love to see your photos so feel free to tag me in your posts so I can see your wonderful images.