Everyone enjoys sitting by their tree during the holidays. We see cute photos of kids standing by their tree. This blog is written to help you capture Christmas photos by the tree without using flash or mixed tungsten lighting from your lamps and overhead lights.
Turn off EVERY LIGHT. Yes! You will turn off all the lights except for your tree! You will not use a camera flash either! This will help create the magical glow in your photos. If you have a fireplace or other festive light sources near the tree, turn on those! Once again, turn off the lights.
Aperture / F-stop
Start with a lens that allows lots of light to enter! This is achieved with low aperture settings like f2.0. For this series I used my 50mm 1.4. I set the aperture all the way down to f1.4 to allow lots of light into the camera. This also helps create the creamy blurry bokeh background we all love. Other lenses with low aperture include the 35mm, 85mm, and anything with f2.8. I prefer lower than f2.8, but if that is what you have, use it.
Just like the f-stop, set the shutter speed pretty low to allow in light! Since I was not using a tripod to steady the camera, I did not go below 1/160. Be careful with setting the shutter speed too low, as this will create photo blur of moving objects. Shaky hands holding the camera can also cause a blurred photo. Generally, 1/200 is a safe bet. Play with it and adjust as needed, depending on how quickly your subjects move!
The last bit to set up is the camera’s ISO. The ISO changes your camera’s sensitivity to light. The lower the ISO, the less light the camera “adds” to the photo. Outdoor photos use very low ISO. We are inside in a dark setting for these photos, so your ISO will be rather high. Cameras range in ISO capabilities, but I set mine to above 1200 ISO. I set it very high. A fair warning, when ISO is high, more grain and noise will be in your photo. However, in post processing, most of the noise and grain can be corrected. Some folks prefer some grain in their images to help create a certain mood. It is up to you. In my photos, I corrected most of the noise.
Place your subject very close to the tree so the lights shine on their face. You want their face to glow in the image. I used the 50mm, so I was rather close to the subject in order to capture the details of her face.
Portraits and Details
To achieve a portrait type image, face your subject angled toward the tree. The glow of the lights will create moody shadows illuminating different parts of their body. Focus on their hands holding an ornament. The intense lighting will help emphasize emotions.
Gain a full view of the scene by backing away from the subject. Have them find favorite ornaments. Also, have the subject stand in front of the tree with their back facing you to create a silhouette photo! However your subject is positioned, notice what the light creates. Are their shadows and reflections on the floor? Do certain parts of your subject glow? Have fun as you notice the light!
Have the subject hold a favorite ornament or piece of candy. Take a close up for the details! Perhaps you photograph a family ornament, a craft your child made, or an ornament made by special family member. The detailed images will remind you of the stories about the special decorations and people.
Most importantly, have fun! Be creative. Try new things!
Learn more about Jennifer Carley Photography!