Christmas Photography – Capture the Warm Holiday Glow

Christmas time is one of the most colorful and joyful times of the year.  It is a time for festivities and celebrations. The smell of nutmeg and cinnamon fills the air.  It’s also time for bright and colorful decorations.  The glowing Christmas trees dazzle with twinkling lights create a warm and cozy atmosphere.  This is also a great time for some Christmas photography.  DSLR cameras are exceptionally well suited for bright and colorful lights and decor.  The larger sensors on these cameras produce rich and vibrant colors.  You can also use point and shoot camera if don’t have access to a DSLR. Check your camera settings if it allows you to shoot in manual mode.

Be Ready

Just like any other, Christmas photography requires preparation. You want to be well-prepared for all type of photo shoot conditions that your may encounter. Simple things like making sure your have a full battery charge, extra memory card, and a few lenses, can go a long way. A fast 35mm prime lens will give your stunning detail and clarity. If your’re doing a night shoot indoors, carefully observe the lighting condition. You may need to use a flash if the lighting is poor. If you must use a flash, then either bounce the flash or use a diffuser to eliminate harsh reflection.  During an indoor photo shoot, your’ll be using very slow shutter speeds, therefore a good tripod is also recommended.

Here’s the List

      • A DSLR with few good lenses.Christmas toddler
      • Zoom Lens (55mm -200mm)
      • Fast 35mm Prime Lens.
      • Spare Battery
      • Spare memory card
      • Tripod
      • Flash with Diffuser

Holiday Photo shoot

It can be challenging to get everyone involved in the photo shoot process.  Everyone is busy with their conversations and cocktails.  It’s ultimately photographer’s job to keep on the lookout for the right moments.  Especially when trying to photograph young children and toddlers.  Some priceless moments with toddlers are very quick and are gone within a second.  Again, here your preparation will pay off and save your the frustrations.

Christmas Photography – Group shots

Photographer is responsible for arranging group photos.  Look for well lit spots with colorful backgrounds.  Try to avoid excessively brightly lit background.  Preparation again is very crucial for a group photograph.  People don’t like spending too much time waiting around for the photo shoot. Choose your location and camera setting ahead of time.  Also, make a mental note how your will position everyone.  Some people are tall, others short.  Position them in a way so no one hidden.

It is also a good idea to shoot group photos in continuous mode.  Most DSLR cameras allow for 5 pictures per second.  You will be able see some adjustments to your photos in continuous mode.  People tend to relax after the first photo, and everyone naturally look into the camera while it is firing repeatedly.  Take more than one photo. Make sure your fill the entire frame with the group without cutting off sides and keeping your back ground in the shot.

Some common flaws in group photos are:

        • People looking in different directions
        • Facial expressions are not consistent
        • Blinking
        • Subjects not properly spaced.
        • Distance to the subject – Background may be missing or choppy


Christmas Lights

Photographing Christmas lights can be tricky for beginners if your’re using an SLR camera.  The camera settings can be daunting at first.  Mainly it is a combination of aperture, shutter speed,  and ISO.  I have separate posts describing these three main elements of photography.

To capture a Christmas lit scene, it’s recommended to use low shutter speeds.  Also, try to stick with ISO setting of 400 or under. Aperture can be set to around f/2.8.  A tripod is needed because your’ll be shooting at low shutter speeds. This will eliminate blurring caused by the camera shake.

If your’re shooting outdoors, the best time is just before it get too dark.  It is just after sunset when the sky still have some evening hue to it. You want your scene to include this natural light.  You can keep your white balance to auto. But try taking photographs with the white balance set to tungsten. This will bring out the blue in the sky and add gleam to the lights. Take several test shots. You may have to readjust, the shutter speed as it gets darker. Also, plays around with the ISO, but don’t try to go over 800.

Long Exposure

Long exposure is a method that can produce spectacular results. But it requires more planning and preparation. A tripod is a must for long exposure photography. This method is not for if your want moving objects to be in focus. This it best suited for still subjects. Although moving lit objects such as vehicles can be included in the photograph, but it will only capture the moving head and tail-lamps. You might have seen some photographs of the streets with red and white streaks that look like trails. Those are the lights of the vehicles creating a sweeping effect on the image sensor. This method can also be used for fireworks or astronomical photography or anywhere there’s a desire to capture the trail of a light or glow. Be sure to read my dedicated post on Long Exposure Photograhy <–Link

I hope this article has given your some startup skills necessary for Christmas photography. Think creatively and enjoy the moments. Christmas is a wonderful and joyous time as festivities and bright lights add another dimension to life.

So get your camera out and start taking photos…. Please leave any questions or comments below.

Happy Holidays!


  1. Wow, I wasn’t aware that there was so much involved when in came to taking a picture.  I usually just point and shoot, with my camera phone or my digital camera.  Good to know though.  I like the way you have your pictures placed within the post.  Your pictures are bright and look good and I find it easy to navigate between different posts.

    1. Author

      Let me know if you need any help., if you decided to upgrade your camera to a DSLR, 

  2. This is great information as I do have a digital SLR camera.  I had a friend who used to set my settings for me but it was always in manual mode.  Now I try to take pictures in manual and I just get a black picture.  I am going to try the settings you have listed and take it out of manual.  I sure hope this helps.  If not, could something be wrong with my camera?

    1. Author

      You’re getting a black picture because lack of sufficient light.  There should be a light meter indicator when you look through the view finder. It should be around center. If it is way below center, then you images will be dark.  If it is way higher, then your photos will be overexposed and look washed.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with your camera.  And don’t forget to take the lens cover off. This could be another reason why your picture is coming out black

  3. this is very useful and very thoughtful of you to write this post as family Christmas photos are not the easiest things to get organised purely for the points you raise like getting everyone to look in the same direction especially if there’s kids involved and being families there likely is.

    I’m glad you wrote about the Christmas lights as a slightly shaken hand can cause blurring do its good tip to use a tripod.

    Thanks for a great post! 

  4. Setting the white balance to tungsten is good informmation as I have struggled in the past of getting the white balance just right. I have tried it on auto but have not liked it as it does have some flaws especially when trying to photograph things like Christmas lights and fireworks.

  5. This is a very interesting article and touches on a major source of frustration when trying to take night photos over the years. Especially when walking and looking at Christmas decorations they do not ever seem to be caught in the pictures the way they look in real life. 

    Your pictures in this article show that you know what you are talking about. Is it more about the equipment or is this something that just needs to be learned? 

    I bought an expensive camera for my wife several years ago but I never have spent any time to try and learn how to use it. And now the camera on my phone is all I use, and have not tried it at night yet. 

    It is kinda a sore subject because my wife doesn’t use the expensive camera either. but thanks for sharing this information it makes me stop and think about how to approach taking night photos.

    1. Author

      It’s something that has to be learned.  An expensive camera may not give you the desired results if you don’t understand the settings and what they mean.   

  6. My son has recently gotten back into photography, and I’m so happy I found your site.  I’m going to direct him to it. He was taking pictures like crazy a couple of years ago, and then someone stole his camera with all his pictures in it, and he literally went into a depression.  I didn’t think he’d ever pick up a camera again.  He was so discouraged.  I was thrilled to see when he bought another camera a month ago, and now he’s buying lenses and taking pictures, and I’m excited for him.  Great article.  I’m going to share this site with him.  He’ll love it.

    1. Author

      Sorry to hear about his loss.  Making backup copies of those images is very crucial in an event like that or data loss.  Thanks for sharing the site

  7. I have bookmarked your site and I will be regularly visiting it! There is so much useful content here! I greatly appreciate the suggestions you make explaining them in a way that we beginners can understand!

    Photographing outdoors at night and with Christmas lights can be quite challenging! That recommendation concerning the best time to take pictures just after sunset when the sky still has some evening hue to it is priceless. I’ll start taking advantage of that!

    Carrying a tripod, in my book, is also key. Our hand just can’t remain unmovable when we’re shooting at low shutter speeds.

    1. Author

      Hope you will find photography rewarding.  It’s a great feeling when you start to see results.  Be patience, and it all will start to come together.

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