Christmas photography tips

christmas photography portrait

Slowing down your shutter speed to pick up the overall room exposure, then using a bit of gelled strobe to shoot your subjects, results in a photo that captures the look and feel of the event. Canon EOS-1D Mark IV camera with 50mm f2.5 macro lens, 1/10th sec @ f2.5, ISO 400. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

One of the duties that tends to fall to you as the photographer in your family will be that of holiday photographer. This is never more expected than during the Christmas season. How to make actually decent photos of your family gathering, more than the expected lined-up group shots? Here are some suggestions to get you started on your Christmas photography:

Try to capture the ambiance

christmas photography ambiance

What’s the look and feel of your holiday setting? Make sure your images reflect this. (Copyright 2013/ Andrew Boyd)

You want to attempt to convey the mood and feel of a holiday celebration. Are there candles lighting the space? Is the tree glowing with its twinkling lights? Maybe there’s a fire in the fireplace, or beautiful light late in the day through a big window.

Try some gel on your strobe

christmas photography strobe gels

These are the gels I carry for my small Canon 580EX II strobe. The dark orange one, 2nd from right, is the full tungsten conversion gel which converts your strobe into basically lamp light. That’s what I ‘m using for these holiday portraits. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Whatever the situation, you don’t want to wash all of that mood away with harsh strobe lighting. So the key is learning how to balance your strobe with the existing room light. A good place to start is with a tungsten conversion gel. I’ve written about light balancing gels here on The Discerning Photographer before, but the essential thing you need to know is that your strobe is outputting the equivalent of sunlight in the middle of the day (5500 degrees Kelvin, or close) and your room light is much, much warmer, something around 2800 degrees Kelvin. (Read my post that explains Kelvin temperature here.) You need to bring your strobe into balance with the existing room light if you want to create beautiful, mood-driven images and the gels allow this to happen.

Shooting Better Group Shots

Some of your best portraits will come BEFORE or AFTER the shot you were setting up to shoot. Be ready to react quickly when your crowd decides to make a better photo. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Some of your best portraits will come BEFORE or AFTER the shot you were setting up to shoot. Be ready to react quickly when your crowd decides to make a better photo. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Shoot the group shots, but watch for spontaneous moments too. This is one of the tricks that all good portrait shooters know. While shooting group photos, great moments will occur BEFORE and AFTER the expected group shot. Be ready to capture those moments! Sometimes these will be the best photos you shoot.

Look for details

Shooting details will round out your holiday photos, don't neglect them. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Shooting details will round out your holiday photos, don’t neglect them. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Little room details can really help round out your photo coverage. Keep an eye out for those ‘still life’ images and shoot them! They’ll be shots you’re glad to have later when you’re thinking about that time your family was all together.

Don’t forget the pets

Getting a bit of the Christmas tree in the background, and balancing the strobe to the existing warmth of the incandescent lighting in the room, creates a photo that doesn't look or feel like a strobe shot. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Getting a bit of the Christmas tree in the background, and balancing the strobe to the existing warmth of the incandescent lighting in the room, creates a photo that doesn’t look or feel like a strobe shot. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

If you have pets, include them in the photos! After all, they are members of the family, right? Sometimes your best photos will be of your four-legged companions.

Summing up:

Capture the ambience

Try some gel on your strobe

Watch for spontaneous moments

Look for details

Don’t forget the pets!

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Or subscribe to our Facebook page ,Google+ page or our Twitter feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: How To

2 Comments on "Christmas photography tips"

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  1. Dianne Madden says:

    I think the Christmas photos are beautiful, and so are your lovely models! Thank you Andrew for this great site and congratulations on reaching a million!
    Dianne

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