With Christmas around the corner many photographers are wondering when should Christmas pictures be taken? It’s never too early to practice your Christmas photography skills and we recommend starting as early as September or October. Starting early gives you plenty of time to get your pictures shot and edited before ordering prints, cards and photo gifts, or simply ready for sharing across social channels.
As you start thinking about the season you’ll begin to notice Christmas photography ideas springing up all around, as lights are put up and our towns and villages are dressed for the holiday season.
Whether you’re a landscape photographer, enjoy portrait photography, still life or street photography, this guide will help you to discover inspiration to capture everything from your own personalised Christmas card photography, to creating festive studio backdrops and even the best camera settings to photograph Christmas lights, string lights and Christmas trees.
It can be inspiring to see beautiful snowy photos, but they can leave us wondering ‘how do you take good pictures of Christmas,’ without snow and perfect backdrops? It often comes down to planning, so before you reach for your camera bag and fill it with your gear, it’s good idea to plan out your Christmas shoot.
In order to help inspire you, we’ve got 10 mix and match Christmas photography ideas, which make a good starting point to customise for your own situation to create unique, memorable photos.
Adding seasonal photography props to any of these ideas will help set your pictures apart and items can be gathered throughout the year, ready for use. Decorate each scene with anything from candy canes or a wooden sledge, to fairy lights and tinsel. The clothing you choose for portraits also plays a part, with reds and greens providing seasonal cheer, and neutral tones – ochres and browns creating a rustic feel.
We hope these ideas spark your imagination and lead to the perfect Christmas photography – and remember it’s all about having fun, experimenting and capturing the mood while enjoying the process.
Using a grey Colorama background to capture seasonal props
Choosing Christmas photography backdrops can help set the mood for a wide range of festive images, including Christmas product photography, food photography and photography for your Christmas cards. For those of us who don’t have a dedicated studio space, a studio backdrop can be set-up to create a temporary Christmas photoshoot at home.
Colorama and Manfrotto are two of the best-known studio lighting brands, with reliable background systems and high quality packable photography backdrops. Choose from a variety of stands to hang vinyl and/or paper rolls, which can be selected according to the size of the subject you’re shooting.
The Colorama Solo Background Support 3m (10 feet) is easy for a solo photographer to set-up, as are the Manfrotto Background Support System LL LA1108 and Manfrotto Heavy Duty Background Support LL LB1128. Countless coloured paper rolls, vinyl and painted backdrops are available, as well as chromakey green for adding your own background during post processing. The most popular clean white backgrounds from Colorama include:
These are made with 70 to 90% recycled paper and all other raw material is sourced from managed renewable sources.
To photograph smaller items including Christmas product photography try the Newell M40 II Shadowless Tent and similar softboxes. These are also ideal for capturing close-up images of holly, twigs, seasonal red berries and other props to embellish your photos with.
Once you have a sturdy background system, props and are ready to shoot, you’ll need some type of artificial studio lighting to complement any available light from a window or doorway. Photography lights can be found for any budget and can get complicated pretty quickly, however a simple lighting kit provides almost everything you need.
The Phottix Nuada S3 II Bi-Colour Video LED Twin Kit comes with a remote, to control two LED light panels. The means you just need to add Sony-compatible NP Batteries, like the Sony NP-FZ100 or a third party alternative, such as the Newell Battery NP-FZ100.
For more experimental lighting you can have fun with a portable LED tube system. The Nanlite Pavotube 15C 2-LED Light Tube Kit. LED lights allow you to illuminate the subject and backgrounds with custom colours, which is perfect for capturing festive scenes. Simply pick a warm orange or red glow to emulate a fireplace for example and you can also capture videos using LED lighting, which broadens their versatility.
Add a portable collapsible reflector to your lighting set-up to bounce extra light and reduce unwanted shadows. Reflectors are also a simple addition when working purely with available light and can be found in silver, gold or white to enhance the final result.
Christmas card photography can be great fun, whether you want to print your own Christmas cards at home with a photo printer, or use a lab to print them for you. Making personalised cards is a good excuse to don your favourite Christmas jumper, decorate the dog and amuse the kids, while capturing images. Photographing for print typically requires sharp images with the least noise possible, so remember to shoot at fast enough speeds by using supplemental lighting. The list below offers some more tips for your photo shoot:
Adjusting aperture to change depth of field and create starbursts
A Christmas tree is often the centrepiece in our home throughout winter and capturing a good Christmas tree photo is essential when documenting the holidays. If you’ve been wondering how can I make my pictures look more Christmassy – just add a Christmas tree to enhance virtually any shot, whether indoors or outside.
These top tips will help you capture the perfect shot of a tree:
Have fun and push your creativity, while shooting through each scene, as impromptu moments often create captivating images.
Holding string lights in front of lens to create additional bokeh
Whether you want to take pictures of string lights, exterior house lights or your local town all lit up, try to match inspiring photo ideas for capturing Christmas lights with the best camera setting for Christmas lights.
String lights positioned immediately in front of camera for blur
The best camera setting for Christmas lights depends on the type of shot you want to create. Shoot wide open at f/1.4, or a similar wide aperture to allow more light and achieve a shallow depth of field. Choose a narrow aperture of f/16 or smaller, in order to capture starburst effects from all of the point light sources. Practice, play and have fun while dressing up warmly and packing plenty of spare camera batteries, as cold weather drains batteries more quickly.
We hope you found these tips for capturing Christmas photography inspiring. With the right creative accessories, lighting, camera settings and seasonal props you can capture unique photos to print, share and remember this magical season by.
By Nick Dautlich on 06/12/2022
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