4 Quick Tips For A Better Pic In Front Of The Christmas Tree

Are you planning some Christmas Tree shots in the next week or so? We’ve got some quick and easy tips for you that will take your ‘in front of the tree ‘ shots to the next level.

1. Light It Well

You might be saying to yourself that we say this a lot. We won’t argue. We do. If we can get you to start every picture with the thought: “light it well,” then we’re doing our job here at SPS.

Every great photo starts with great light.  Light is way more important than the camera you choose, the lens you choose, and by golly the shirt you choose.  

So here are our quick lighting tips for the the annual-stand-in-front-of-the-Christmas-tree-photo tradition:

  • Turn your flash off.  There’s nothing worse people.  Unless you’re going to bounce.
  • Use natural window light if possible.  Yes, choose daytime.
  • If you’re using window light, kill any overhead lights / lamps.
  • If all else fails (it’s dark or no windows will work), crank the ISO and move along.
In this image from SPS Member, Shannon Wald, placing her subject closer to
her tree would have made her subject much darker. She chose great light and still
got the glow of her tree in the shot.

Tip within a tip – stage the pic for better light.

We usually default to staging this pic with the flow of the room.  But the flow of the room usually looks OUT the windows.

Reposition yourself.  Stage the pic as if you just walked into the room through the window. For an in depth example of this idea, check out our past post about Christmas Tree pics!

SPS Member, Jenna Thiessen, used window light to get beautiful, dynamic light on her son (who has his THREE front teeth on his Christmas wish list).

2. Leave some space between the subject and the tree.

If at all possible, try and leave a few feet between the subject and the tree. Even 5+ is ideal.
This will give tip #3 and #4 some room to work.

If SPS Member, Amy Head, had moved this little gal super close to the tree she would have missed out on some great light and very little of her tree would have been included. She also ticked off a bonus tip – getting on her subject’s eye level.

3. Resist the wide angle.

Perhaps try keeping the pic waist up??  I know, sometimes we just want to get the whole outfit.  But after the full outfit is captured, try filling the frame. The effect will be much more dramatic than a full body shot.

Sure, you might be cutting off the tree. But if you want the pic to be all about the tree, then remove your kid.  Make the tree the subject…or the background.  Not both.

Also, choose a longer focal length (zoom in as far as you can). This will compress the background towards the subject all while still letting it be…the background.

You’d probably miss the cottony texture of Santa’s beard and the gleam in his eye if SPS Member, Beth Reed, had shot this as a full body shot. Who wants to miss this kind of magic?!

4. Shoot wide open.

This means to use your largest aperture. We’re trying to minimize depth of field in combo with #3 above. The goal is to have a bit of magical Christmas tree bokeh (those glowy balls of light).

Of course, any time you’re shooting below 3.5 you need to take a bit of special care to nail the focus.  But I believe in you.  And if you don’t understand aperture, we’d love to have you join us and learn!

We had to leave one throwback pic of Kyle’s in the post, but check out that beautiful bokeh behind tiny little Payson!

Cheers! And an early Merry Christmas from all of us to all of you!

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