Christmas is the time of year when garnishing your home, both inside and out, with garish decorations is not only acceptable but expected and fun, it is also the time of year when colours and textures are abundant and there is a great opportunity for many great portrait and candid photographs.
Christmas Photography Ideas
Photos of decorations
Let’s start with the obvious, the decorations…..Christmas decorations are traditionally put up prior to the actual day and so this offers some time to think about the specific set up of the tree, tinsel and baubles etc (you could even erect the decorations specifically for photography but obviously don’t tell your loved ones this!!).
As most decorations are bright in colour, reflective, shiny and contain contrasting colours and textures, they make excellent subjects for macro photography as well as photos containing depth of field. Taking shots of the tree decorations for example and using a very shallow depth of field to create a bokeh effect from the tree branches and other decorations in the background is great for photos to be used for future Christmas cards.
Macro photos of decorations, especially where there is added texture such as glitter or other elements make for great abstract photos and done correctly can be used for Christmas cards or even stock photos. Macro photos within the Christmas tree also provide lots of texture, depth of field and colour for your images.
Using the reflections created by a shiny decorative ornament such as a bauble or similar can also provide interesting results, if the reflection is of someone opening a present or even putting up other decorations then this all adds to the festive feel of the photo. The great thing about the reflection from a bauble or other spherical ornament is that it creates a fisheye effect due to its shape. Using this in your photos will allow you to bring a subject right into the foreground and capture more of a scene than the lens you are using would be able to without the reflection.
Remember whenever taking photos where the reflection is the primary effect, ensure that YOU are not in it taking the shot (unless you want this of course!).
Photos of Christmas Lights
Christmas lights, both internal and external are something that (obviously) are only available once a year, whole streets both residential and commercial are lit up, well, like Christmas trees and take on a whole new feel. If your neighbourhood is anything like mine then there is always a couple of houses that go over the top and deck out their entire house, outside and in, in thousands of pounds worth of light, this makes for a great photo and quite often, the owner of the house will be more than happy for someone to take a photo of this spectacle, with their permission you could also send it in to the local press!
Using a star filter will give a great effect on top of the colourful Christmas lights and you can really achieve some great results given a little patience and the correct settings for low light shots.
Another great effect that you can achieve using the colours from the lights against the dark background is bokeh. Use a shallow depth of field (which also helps with the low light conditions) and your photo will be full of a glorious hexagonal bokeh effect with a nice sharp foreground subject (if you want one).
Photos of Christmas presents
Presents are usually strong shapes and (as long as your not like me!) are wrapped well, garnished with ribbon and tags and make for a truly typical Christmas image. Try piling the presents neatly (and carefully!) for your shot and take lots of image using different angles, distances and apertures, this way you will have a lot more images to choose from when considering the best photo.
Presents under the tree or even a child shaking the gift to try and guess what’s inside make great photos with plenty of atmosphere, emotion and interest.
Wrapping paper on the roll is not a particularly interesting subject however, once the paper has been ripped off a present and discarded it takes on texture and depth which make a great abstract photo.
Photos of Christmas ornaments
Many Christmas ornaments contain a candle of some kind, if you get the light low in the room which contains the candle you can then create some great ‘warming’ images of the festive season. If you have an ornament that contains several candles then you can also start to think about the depth of field.
More elaborate ornaments which have a movement to them can be used to create some images which include motion blur by slowing the shutter speed down, you will require a tripod or other means by which you can steady the camera for these shots.
HDR photos of Christmas
For all of the above subjects HDR is a great technique to experiment with to enhance the colours and textures and give the image a different feel, for a guide on HDR click here.
Portrait/Candid photos at Christmas
One great thing about Christmas is that it is the season of good cheer and as such people, (especially kids) are really excited and curious about what they will get. Using this emotion in portrait shots should yield some great results in portrait photos.
Kids opening presents while excited and the look on their face when they finally get the present they asked for and have been waiting for will make for awesome portrait photos with real emotion and joy.
If you have children that are of the young age when they find the box which contained the gift more exciting than the actual present then be sure to capture them crawling inside the box or playing with the wrapping paper!
Children carrying their stockings downstairs or into your room to open the presents also provide great portrait shots for future Christmas cards or family portraits.
Parents handing out the presents to the children and other family members is an opportunity not to be missed, as there is movement in these photos. Just be sure to have the correct settings selected such as shutter speed, as the light may be a bit lower being early morning, make sure to adjust the ISO is required to enable a fast enough shutter speed to avoid blur (unless you want this effect).
A traditional family portrait using the colour of the decorations in the background is a great way of achieving a festive photo (you could even take one of these through the years for a log of the Christmas’ from when the children are really young until they are teenagers and no longer want to take part in photos! ;)
The family walk after or just before the Christmas dinner is also a great way to capture some wonderful family portraits and should also present some great candid opportunities.
Candid shots of people bustling about while the do their Christmas shopping are also a nice alternative to the traditional image of Christmas. Often everyone will be carrying colourful Christmas styled bags with presents poking out of the top of them. There is usually an abundance of people wearing novelty Santa Clause hats as well which is always good for a candid photo or two!
Photos of Santa’s grotto or Father Christmas collecting for charity are also great candid shots not to be missed.
REMEMBER – In today’s world you need to think about taking photos where there are a lot of children about, it’s a sad fact but be mindful about it. Where possible take photos without children in them or take shots of your own children or those of family members or friends who are happy for you to take the pictures.
Photos of Christmas dinner
Be careful not to annoy everyone by stopping them eating while you set up your camera and tripod etc (if needed) but photos of the traditional Christmas dinner are great family portrait shots. The turkey being served with the hungry faces waiting to be fed, the children (and adults) diving into the deserts and the pulling of crackers after or during the meal all make superb portrait and candid shots which make up a great gallery.
Try different perspectives of the people at the table by using the food on the table as the foreground subject such as someone carving the turkey or cutting the cake etc.
Photos of the food should not be overlooked as these could be used for stock photos etc.
If you’re anything like me then you have a family which try and chill out after the dinner to let their food go down prior to board games etc. Candid shots of family members having a drink or chatting and laughing all contain emotion and togetherness, the true meaning of Christmas which provide not just a lovely Christmas image but also memories of the day for all to remember.
Family members falling asleep with the hat from the cracker they opened at dinner is a great shot (maybe one that the subject would not be overly impressed with so don’t publish it to Flickr unless its really good!!) heheh
Photos of board games etc
If you play board games something like charades then do not miss this as an opportunity for photographs. For comedy and candid shots alike, the expressions and emotion you can capture are priceless! You can also slow the shutter right down so that the movement of the people playing the board game or similar creates a blurred effect which is almost a still movie of the games.
Taking shots from the level of the actual board used in certain games creates a great effect and a different point of view of the festivities. If you play Monopoly, try putting the camera behind a hotel playing piece or take a shot of the dice being rolled towards the camera with the family member in the background.
Photos of carol singers
Ask prior to taking photos of anyone but if they are OK with it then carol singers are one of the most widely recognised images of Christmas scenes. If they are at your door then that’s great but if you can go to a carol concert then this all adds to the overall effect and atmosphere of the photograph and will usually contain other elements such as lights, decorations and the crowds watching the proceedings. Be sure to take a tripod as again, these concerts are usually held after dark.
Christmas landscape photos
Using the early morning frost if you do not have a white Christmas to portray the feeling of cold and adding that white tinge to an image which evokes the Christmas feeling can be used along with smoking chimneys, street lights/lanterns on until the sun rises and decorations to illustrate the Christmas season.
If you can get to a hill near a town or village and capture a scene of the whole area then this is an iconic country Christmas image, if you do not live in an area like this then it is worth investigating the nearest area where this type of landscape shot is possible.
Urban landscapes of the Christmas lights down a high street with the shops along the road with their colourful decorations in the windows makes for a great shot. If there is an opportunity where the ground is wet then you can get some interesting shots of the lights colours reflecting off the shiny concrete and windows of surrounding shop front windows.
You could create a calendar of photos that you have taken to give as a gift for next year (or this year if you are quick enough). If you take photos of the different seasons or a specific theme that the recipient of the gift is interested in then this will be a much appreciated gift due to the thought given to the photos and the relevancy of the content.
You can now get mini cards made by sites such as Moo that can be used as gift tags, they also provide stickers which could be used to fasten wrapping paper or envelopes. Using different images you have taken for an added bit of thought and also (maybe) publicity! Other ideas that you can use to illustrate your talent through gifts at Christmas regarding photography are;
- Mouse Mats
- Mug mats
- Tea Towels
The above may seem like a lame and cheaper sort of present to give but if the image printed on any one of the above is something relevant and special to the recipient, such as there pet or a photo of a memorable event etc, then this can prove a really successful gift. So remember, at Christmas, it’s the thought that counts!