4 Quick Tips for Great Pics in front of the Tree

We’re pulling this from the archives because it’s as timeless as parents wanting great pics of their kids in front of the Christmas Tree.

Sometime in the next few weeks, you’ll probably take a pic of your kiddo(s) in front of the Christmas Tree.

This year, let’s step it up a notch. Here are four quick tips to get you started.

1. Light It Well

You might be saying to yourself that this is my first tip for every tutorial.  And to that, I won’t argue.

If I can get you to start every picture with the thought: “light it well,” then I get a pat on the back.

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.  Lighting is an art all to itself.

So here are the lighting bullets for the annual-stand-in-front-of-the-Christmas-tree-photo:

  • 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.

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.

Example: In my house, we have the tree in a little hearth room off our kitchen.  The flow of the room suggest we place the subject in the middle of the room, and that I stand close by (in the middle) and shoot towards the walls. Like this:

Here are a couple pics from this “normal” stage (the first without the dreaded flash and the second with the dreaded flash)

Instead, ‘enter the room’ through a window.

Stop.  Stage the pic from there.  You’ll now be using the window light as front light or side light.

In the case of my house, I could perhaps enter the room from my patio sliding door.  So the stage would look like this:

What we’re left with is beautiful, natural, light:

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

If at all possible, try to leave a few feet between the subject and the tree. Even 5+ is ideal.

This will give tips #3 and #4 some room to work.

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, trying filling the frame (the 1st tip in our free Tiny Photo Course) with your subject.

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. I shot my pic with my 24-70mm zoom and zoomed all the way to 70mm.

4. Shoot wide open.

This means to use your largest aperture(smallest f number). 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…here’s what it looks like at f2.8:

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.

Wishing a hearty and very Merry Christmas from the SPS Family to yours!

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