There’s nothing quite like blurred twinkly Christmas lights to get a heart fluttery. Or candy cane stripes, Nordic patterns, the bold red, white and greens of Christmas that really make a photo pop. Imagery is powerful, able to conjure up memories and feelings, physical proof that beauty surrounds you. Like the grandpa put it in Love The Coopers I convinced my ever-patient husband to sneak away and see with me for date night last night: “Such a fuss, and yet, everything you could ever want is right in front of you the whole time.”
And so, behold!
Here are 10 easy tips for capturing beautiful Christmassy images this holiday season, turning snapshots into better, more interesting photos.
- Change angles
It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to capture the moment that we forget to take a few steps back and look at a moment differently for a more fun, interesting photograph. Shoot from different angles: (overhead, level with subject/you crouching down, shooting upwards, etc.)
And always use natural light where possible. Try to position an activity or a posed photo near a bright window or door.
2. Capture the perfect blurry Christmas lights
If you have a DSLR, open up your aperture super wide to give that beautiful blurred bokeh effect. (These were taken at f/1.6)
Or if you like the starburst effect, which looks great at night when taking a photo of, say, a house lit up in Christmas lights, set your aperture high, around f/16.
3. Family Photo
Photographing Christmas would not be complete with a family photo. Make it an annual tradition and get a family photo with Santa, or have a friend or neighbour take a picture of you all in front of the tree, or even set the self-timer and take one with your iPhone. Even if you don’t get that perfect snap – and 9 times out of 10 you won’t! – it’s still so nice that have that tangible, can-hold-in-your-hand photo that embodies the “us” that hugs a family.
(Our Christmas card photo this year – our children did not co-operate but hey, what can you do? I actually love it even more.)
4. Front of camera, mamas!
Speaking of family photos, make sure you get in front of the camera too, mums, so you can be part of the memory. When I look at past photos with Ella, she’ll often say, “But where were you, mummy?”. It’s nice for your children to see you right there snuggled into them. It’s nice for you, too. Tell your husband how much it means to you to have photos of you in the moment with your children. Leave your phone somebody nearby. Have your DSLR on the kitchen bench in reaching distance. Hire a professional photographer if you have to! *ahem* However you help it happen, get in front of that camera, mamas!
5. Use mirrors
Mirrors add a great element to a photo, making them more fun and interesting and visually appealing. Try photographing your Christmas tree reflected in a mirror, or your children, or your decorations, or even some family activity playing out.
6. Use light to illuminate at night
Shooting at night is often tricky, having to use high ISO and often getting that grainy effect in photos, or needing a flash which leaves that horrible washed-out look to photos. And if you’re using your iPhone, you can forget about the whole thing altogether. At night, we often put our cameras away, saying “the light’s no good” BUT why not make use of the abundance of Christmassy lights to illuminate your subject and create an interesting photo that pops with the contrast of light and dark? Use a candle when carolling, or your outside lights to light up your child’s face. Sparklers and torches are also great light sources at night that make an interesting photo.
7. Capture the details
Capture all the details and traditions which make Christmas special to you. Maybe you love baking cookies this time of year? Or having family hot cocoa nights? Maybe you love the matching Christmas jammies you dress your kids in, or visiting your favourite Christmas lights, or maybe it’s even just a favourite Christmas movie you like watch. Photograph these details. Turn them into a Christmas photo book, full of family comforts and rituals you’ll be glad you captured when this season of your life is passed and gone.
8. Invest in a Christmas outfit or two.
Let’s be honest. It’s hard to make photographs look good when what’s in them….isn’t good. The cuter your subjects, though, the better your photos will be! It’s, like, basic maths here.
Matching Christmas outfits, striking colours, things which scream CHRISTMAS in shouty caps, well they are only going to give your Christmas photos an extra shine. Invest in a Christmas outfit or two, or – you know – ten. We all march to the beat of our own drums, folks.
9. Calm before the storm
A lot of us put great effort into making Christmas special for our friends and family. The meal plans, the table decorations, the presents wrapped and twinkly lights on, the traces of Santa and his reindeer and the other million ways we enhance the magic of Christmas for our children.
On Christmas eve, leave a little time to capture everything all laid out – the table, the presents, the anticipation — the calm before the storm. They’re special, those details. And they are worth documenting.
Finally, put the camera down and live the moment as well. Not everything can be captured. Not all moments can be remembered. On Christmas morning, spend that initial time taking photos of all the special things – seeking out reindeer evidence, unwrapping special presents, reading out the kids’ special notes from Santa Claus. But then put the camera down and soak in your efforts, your family, too.