Photographing Christmas: 6 top tips

Children giving Christmas presents

Photographing Christmas needn't be that hard.

But it's very easy to get so caught up in whipping your phone out to capture all the special moments of the day, you actually end up not being fully present and involved - which isn't great either for yourself or your family. 

Of course, I'm not suggesting you'd turn in That Person ... But it's still best to be intentional.

Find out here how to walk that line of capturing Christmas in photographs but still being fully there in the moment to enjoy it!

Personal Branding Photographer Edinburgh Scotland Christmas room 1

1) What to think about first

  • What are you actually going to DO with these pictures? 
  • Will they be a fleeting presence in a Facebook feed, or will you love looking back over them in the future? 
  • Have you ever gone back to have a really good look at old photos like this? If so, which images really matter to you now, photographing Christmas THIS time?
  • Is something quite unique taking place, such as a get-together of people who rarely see each other?
  • Are you in an unusual, special, location?
  • Is this your only chance to photograph certain people together?
  • Will people close to you who can’t be there really value seeing the photos you take?
Little girl with Christmas sweets

2) Decide what you DO need to capture 

When you're photographing Christmas, decide who’s involved and at what times of day everything's happening.

a) Identify the visual highlights

These could include:  

  • Children's first look at the Santa stockings
  • Unwrapping significant presents
  • Kids and the dog jumping with excitement
  • Dad opening a present from your youngest
  • Big sister giving wee brother a hug
  • Your youngest's "boak face" when tasting a sprout (just us??)
  • Will people close to you who can’t be there really value seeing the photos you take?

b) Think about the people 

Concentrate on showing relationships between people rather than mere “things”, as these are the moments you’ll find meaningful in years to come.

Assess/predict this by glancing through your old photos. What’s worthless and what’s valuable? Will you look back and think, yep, it was definitely worth photographing Christmas ... I'm so glad I did?

c) Details and scene-setting

Photograph the “establishing shots” in advance.

Take a few minutes for wide shots of the whole room with the Christmas table laden before everyone sits down and don’t forget to take a quick picture of all the Santa stockings before the kids demolish them!

Children in Christmas pyjamas

3) Evaluate on the spot

As the day goes on, ask yourself whether a moment is really worth getting your phone and photographing it. Ask yourself:

  • Is this just a pretty fluff image or does it add to the story of the day/evening?
  • Sparkly lights shining off a beautifully wrapped present may look lovely, but is it really worth preserving?
  • Will this mean anything to you in a year’s time?
  • If your eye is captured instead by the light shining off your daughter's hair, will you be glad you took the picture of her and her dad deep in conversation? (Hint: probably.)
  • Does what you see through the camera on your phone screen add to the who, what, when, where, or why of the day? To the story?

4) Limit the number of shots

You could put a limit on the number of shots you’ll take then put your phone AWAY.

5) Pick a time period 

You could decide the time period you’ll photograph in. Morning? Afternoon? Then put your phone AWAY.

6) Get in the shot yourself

Don’t forget to get in the frame yourself! Women, particularly mums, are the world’s worst at this. No matter what you’re doing, hand your phone to someone else to get a few shots of you doing it.

After all, you’re part of the story too, aren’t you? Don’t leave yourself out.

mother and daughter - the importance of being photographed together

7) Bonus tip

Don’t “post and party”! Just don’t! If it’s reactions on social media you’re after, your photo will be just as popular if it’s posted later on when you’re crashed out on the couch and the kids are in bed.

Or even on Boxing Day ...

Get in the photos yourself

Of all the tips here, I'd say the most important is to GET IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS YOURSELF when you're photographing Christmas. 

Not to be morbid, but after you're gone, imagine your kids or other family members looking back on these photos in years to come and you're just not in them ...

And don't forget to have an utterly fabulous day! You deserve it. 

Edinburgh branding photographer


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