17 ways to photograph your Christmas season

  • picture of girl sitting on Santa's lap by Marcie Reif

It’s the happiest time of year!

But if we’re not careful, we’ll stress away this happy time focusing on creating the perfect pictures.

Stress no more! The amazing Click Pros came together and are offering their best and easiest tips for photographing all the joy this holiday season brings.

Take notes, relax, and enjoy the coming weeks!

1. Background twinkle lights

Kate Luber says, “Twinkle light shots are probably cliche by now, but I have to admit, I still love them. I do one each year and compare how my babies are growing and capture their Christmas dresses each year.

Make sure to get white strings of lights with traditional bulbs. LED lights flicker and your shutter will catch half of them on and half of them off with each shot. Or you can use an overlay.”

picture of sisters with Christmas lights in the background by Kate Luber
Photo by Kate Luber
The photography journey of Oklahoma photographer Kate Luber
Photo by Kate Luber

2. Tree light starbursts

Everyone wants their tree to be full of sparkly starbursts and Tiffany Kelly has an alternative trick to getting them. “To get starbursts from Christmas lights, you don’t have to use a super narrow aperture.

Instead, buy an affordable star filter for your lens (I got mine from Amazon). The filter will turn points of light into pretty starbursts!” Tiffany has this star filter as well as this star filter set.

photo of girl standing in front of sparkly Christmas tree by Tiffany Kelly
Photo by Tiffany Kelly

3. Use a high ISO

When the Christmas lights are shining their brightest, it’s dark outside and can make it difficult to exposure your photos. Maria Manco says, “Don’t be afraid to crank up that ISO and open your aperture.

This photo was taken at f/1.4 and ISO 5000 while parked in front of one of the most decked out houses I’ve ever seen with holiday lights. I don’t normally shoot wide open like this, but when I do I dig my elbows into my body to create a human tripod and I hold my breath when clicking the shutter.”

pic of kid looking at Christmas lights outside by Maria Manco
Photo by Maria Manco

4. Include traditions

Kellie Brindley is a sucker for the details. “Get creative! Be sure to include the traditions that make your holiday special. Bonus points if you can include some of your decorations to fill the frame, you just need to figure out your best angle.

For this, I knew I wanted the excitement of setting up the Polar Express train. By lowering myself to the ground and using a wide open aperture, I could include my son and our tree with that pretty bokeh.

The result is a more dynamic photo and brings me right back to that moment in time.”

For Tammy Wahl, it’s about the gingerbread houses. “Christmas is our favorite time of the year, and we spend a lot of time on holiday traditions (baking cookies, cutting paper snowflakes, watching Christmas movies).

We have been decorating gingerbread houses since my daughter was only a couple years old, and it’s still her favorite thing to do each year, even at age 13. It’s really sweet having images capture the history of this from year to year!”

photo of Polar Express train by Kellie Brindley
Photo by Kellie Brindley
photo of kids and cat decorating gingerbread houses by Tammy Wahl
Photo by Tammy Wahl

5. Start a Christmas Story project

Marcie Reif has a fun project she has tackled! “Last year some friends and I documented the 12 days of Christmas in our homes. It was one of my favorite Christmas seasons to date.

I think it was because I truly slowed down and saw the beauty and joy in my children each day leading up to Christmas day. My eye was opened to so many more ‘little’ things about Christmas that make it so special. I will definitely be doing this again.

Making a video at the end of the project is a great way to see it all put together. We don’t live near most of our family so they really loved following this project and seeing what Christmas looked like in our home.”

6. Fake it

A white Christmas may be the dream but it isn’t everyone’s reality. But, you can fake it! While Reif buys fake snow to give the illusion that Jack Frost is nipping, Emily Ingalls and Nicole Begley use snow overlays.

Begley states, “There’s no need to wait for snow when you can have fun with snow overlays! This was shot against black paper with a beauty dish directly over my head, no need for a black background though… as if you have enough light you can make ANY background black!

The secret to snow overlays is to create different sizes and different brightness levels. Simply add overlays, adjust brightness, and mask out your subject!”

picture of dog in the snow by Nicole Begley
Photo by Nicole Begley
photo of boy in a red blanket with snow falling by Emily Ingalls
Photo by Emily Ingalls

7. Capture the before and after

The scene changes quickly on Christmas morning. Anita Perminova advices, “Be sure to capture the story. Get a before and after picture – a photo of the room before the presents opened, the decorations, the Christmas tree, etc.

Then, capture the details, children entering a room with presents, emotions on their faces, their tiny hands opening the presents, interactions between siblings and family members.

And when present time is all done, get a picture of the wrapping paper and opened presents all over the place. Shoot from different angles, below, above, close up, step back to get more variety.”

photos of kids opening Christmas presents by Anita Perminova
Photos by Anita Perminova

8. Include your pets

Erica Williams brings up a good point be saying, “Don’t forget your furbabies!! You can throw them in a few photos because, well, they are family too.

We don’t want to miss out on documenting the “whole” family. You will be glad that you did looking back years later.

You can try bribing the furbaby with doggie treats and commands to make them do what you want. Have someone assisting you while shooting so they can place the pup and quickly jump out of the frame.”

Christmas photo of girl and puppy by Erica Williams
Photo by Erica Williams

9. Letters to Santa

Elizabeth Ordonez says, “Don’t forget to capture your child’s letter to Santa! It’s so fun to see what they are hoping to get for Christmas and even more sentimental to read that adorable writing that improves year after year.

Encourage your child to put on some cute Christmas pajamas or lay under the Christmas tree to write their letter. Those little details help set the mood and enhance the magic of the moment.”

photo of girl writing a letter to Santa by Elizabeth Ordonez
Photo by Elizabeth Ordonez

10. The real moments

As a whole, it’s just best to capture the real moments that you’ll run across during this joyful season.

Renata Plaice said it best when she stated, “Capture real emotions and the loving relationships – Christmas Day is full of them: a hug from the Grandmother, laughter while singing or at the table, joy of opening presents, happiness of being together at the table, fun from playing with the new toys (and it will be so valuable for your children to look back at the gifts they received that year).

Position yourself to have the best perspective to capture those expression but shoot wide. Fill the rest of the frame with all the elements and the context that lead to that emotion.”

picture of dad and son playing with a race car track by Renata Plaice
Photo by Renata Plaice

11. Outside of your home

Plaice also suggests to “make sure to take a photo of your house from the outside, not just because you might want to document the decorations and lights.

Windows and doors serve as perfect framing elements and offer creative composition possibilities. Such a wide shot will be a perfect opening or closing image when you want to present your Christmas photos as a slideshow, blog post or in a photo book.

Additionally, taking this outsider’s perspective is a way to step back to appreciate your home and your family at this special time of the year.”

pic of girl decorating a Christmas tree by Renata Plaice
Photo by Renata Plaice

12. Christmas crafts

Part of the Christmas fun is all the crafts! Kathy Roberts says, “Make sure to record an image of the handmade ornaments your child may create during the holidays.

Years from now, you will laugh at their liberal use of glitter and glue and smile at their young, beginning handwriting. I should know. I’ve proudly hung my kids homemade ornaments on our tree for over 20 years.

They may be young adults now, but their childhood still envelopes me every Christmas when I decorate our tree with their special creations. I carefully store them, but should they ever not survive the yearly storage, I’ll still be able to remember them.”

kids homemade Christmas ornaments by Kathy Roberts
Photos by Kathy Roberts

13. Picture traditions

Traditions are fun and don’t have to be all about crafts and projects. Lauren Harris has a great suggestion! “Start a ‘picture tradition’ so that you can watch your kids grow throughout the years.

Our tradition is to photograph the children on the same bed in the same Hanna Anderson pajamas every single year. It’s so fun to watch the little changes that happen between each image!

I’m planning on continuing this tradition as long as they’ll let me (they make these same jammies in adult sizes!)”

Christmas pic of boys in their striped holiday pajamas by Lauren Harris
Photo by Lauren Harris

14. Capture the details

Kristen Ryan is right when she says you can’t “forget to capture the details. Little reminders of what the day was like, or special quiet moments that are fleeting on such a busy and hectic holiday.

Capture what the weather was like, or what Santa’s note said, it’s easy to forget these little details when we get caught up in the whirlwind that is Christmas.”

photo of a Starbucks Christmas mug by Kristen Ryan
Photo by Kristen Ryan

15. Include props

Props are a great way to get people excited for photos. They can be holiday related or just used to get your subjects in a holiday setting.

Angee Manns recalls her prop experience, “Props aren’t usually my thing, but last year I invested in some inexpensive ones for my family get together. I think I bought these off of Amazon for around $12.00.

The kids (and the adults) had the best time posing for the camera with these and they made a fun addition to my scrapbook page for the holiday.”

pic of boy holding up prop glasses by Angee Manns
Photo by Angee Manns

16. Picking your tree

Visiting a tree farm is a favorite and Lauren Grayson is here to remind us of that. “Picking out and decorating your tree are must have photos every holiday season!

Both events are great a time to capture your children’s excitement about the holiday, and it’s so fun for us to look back on past years and watch their growth each year.

If you pick out a live tree, adventuring through the field and showing how your family chose is definitely a moment you will want to remember. Don’t forget the tripod and remote and get yourself in the frame, too!”

photo of family picking out their Christmas tree by Lauren Grayson
Photo by Lauren Grayson

17. Print!

Regardless of what you end up shooting, Perminova stresses the importance of printing. “Whatever you document, make it tangible!

Don’t let your photos sit on your hard drive collecting ‘virtual’ dust. Gather your photos, edit them and then create something tangible. Something that you can hold for years to come!”

Christmas photo book by Anita Perminova
Photo by Anita Perminova

About the Author:

From the parent company Click & Company, Clickin Moms has revolutionized the photography industry as the first and largest organization to embrace and serve female photographers of all levels, from hobbyists to professionals.

One Comment

  1. Zuzana Dec 06 2016 at 2:51 am - Reply

    Brilliant tips! I had no idea something like star filter exists!!! Bought them right away from Amazon for my 2 lenses I will potentially use. Thank you!

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