It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… everywhere we go… or so the song says. Wherever you are in the world, whether your holidays are white and wintry or filled with blazing hot beaches, there are certain holiday staples that just unify the whole season together. Christmas trees, Christmas décor, Christmas lights, Christmas gifts, Santa in all his various forms, and of course, lots of food and festivities. It’s safe to say that Christmas is a pretty big production the world over, something that a lot of people await for the good cheer that it brings, and a lot of people dread for the extra calories.

These are what make Christmas such a monumental event every year, and what makes it such a treasure trove of photos. Capturing Christmas is not only a way to freeze your memories for that year and to create a catalogue of events. Everything about the holiday makes for inspiring, playful, dynamic, and beautiful photographs, from the lights to the colours to the drunken antics and the subsequent smiles on everyone’s faces.

Just a week ago NYIP, compiled a few great reminders on taking holiday shots. In this light, we thought we’d add some more tips of our own to pad out the how-to’s on Christmas photography. While it’s essentially the same as any other kind or time of photography, Christmas photography has the additional factor of so many variying elements present in a frame, which directly affect some factors happening behind the lens, all the way inside the photographer’s mind.

The following are four things to think about as you and your trusty camera embark on your Christmas journey.

It’s all about the Lighting

For some (me), it is the cheerful, colourful lights that are always the star of Christmas. It never ceases to be fascinating how many there are and all the various ways that they are designed or setup. As such, Christmas lights are always a favourite for creating holiday photos.

But capturing many tiny lights on a tree vs. a lot of lights all over a house vs. lights around a friend or family member you want to photograph are all totally different things and may require totally different settings of your camera.

To successfully capture all the lights, think first about your lighting. Is the room dark or bright? Is the light ambient or direct? Are the shadows it casts enhancing or unpleasant for the overall shot?

Once you have the answer to all these then it’s time to adjust your settings in order to capture the scene correctly. Tiny bright Christmas lights usually require longer shutter speeds in order for there to be enough time for light to register in the sensor. In addition, the general dimness of the whole shot means grains will be more obvious – this automatically advises against ISO’s that are too high since it makes the shot too noisy.

Using the flash is advised against as well because this washes out the effect of Christmas lights. Flashes are great though for photographing friends.

The tripod is your best friend

Considering the lighting conditions, especially for more artfully lit shots, it’s safe to say that you’ll need slower shutter speeds to capture the effects correctly. And the slower the shutter speeds, the less stable and sharp the shots will be. In these instances, the tripod, or any other flat, immovable surface is the best accessory.

Not only would a tripod provide stability though. A well-placed tripod is a great opportunity to create a home-made photo booth. Only, because this is a private gathering between friends and family, the shots you’re going to find are probably of crazed “I wanna get drunk!” or “I’m drunk!” guests who do not care about behaving too well. This could be a great opportunity to capture hilarious memories in the making, and creating keepsakes for your friends and family for years to come.

Foreground, Middle-ground, Background

One of the compositional elements that perhaps benefits best from the fanfare of the Christmas season is depth. There are always a thousand and one chances to have someone in front of a tree, with their face lit by the Christmas lights, somewhere behind them are Christmas balls hanging, giving the shot some texture, all the while unfocused lights and the silky bokeh in the background tie together the magical feel of the scene.

There are just so many little details and elements during Christmas that playing with composition could be such a blast, and could really result in winning photos.

Look into creating a Christmas vignette yourself by putting together some Christmas décor arranged in these three layers. Also be alert of any opportunities when you might use a face as a foreground. If you get really into it, you could even turn it into a mandatory Christmas shot for all your guests. A dramatically lit portrait by a Christmas tree could be a hit with all your guests.

Try Macro

Shooting the holidays really really close is a great way to gain new perspective, or provide a new view of something so familiar and regular it has practically become mundane. Try the tips of your Christmas tree, or the glitter on your Christmas balls, or the little wires in your Christmas lights. These are such constant parts of the season that year in and year out, these are the images of Christmas that we’re acquainted with. Capturing them in a new light could be refreshing and could also be a fun project.

What other Christmassy things you could shoot in macro? The Christmas dinner! How about show food in a new light too through ultra-close looks at the chicken’s juicy meat? How often do you encounter people capturing Christmas with such a fresh take on photos? This could pave the way for some high-art, fine art, food photography too if this goes well. And if not, well then you and the gang will have some good laughs to look back on next year.

Merry Chrismas.

Julia Escano – Shoot The Frame