As well as an opportunity to get together and indulge in some quality family time, the festive period is a fantastic chance to get behind your camera and try out some new techniques.
City streets and shopping precincts are transformed into photographer havens, with all sorts of glittering lights, characters and Christmassy details waiting to be captured by your lens.
If you’ve got enough standard snaps of the family Xmas tree, and are looking to find new ways of shooting all things festive, we’ve compiled a checklist to make your photographs Christmas card worthy.
All of the lights Photography is purely playing with light, so when Christmas comes around, and fairy lights are hung on every corner, there are plenty of opportunities to really get creative. In order to capture this gentle, colourful glow, you’ll need to ditch the flash, and work on some low light photography skills. Flash will cancel out the light coming from the decoration, resulting in a photo of a plain bulb instead.
Using a slower shutter speed to photograph Christmas lights will result in a soft glow and a great ambience in the shot that is often missed when using flash or the camera’s auto mode. It’s important to keep in mind that you may need to use a wider aperture or a tripod to make sure details remain sharp within the frame.
You can experiment with aperture to change how the light source appears in your photograph; a wide aperture will result in the light looking very soft and blurred around the edges, whereas you can create a starburst effect by upping your aperture.
Selective colour Colour plays a huge part in creating the atmosphere of an image, so being selective with the colours in the frame can give your photograph an instant Christmassy feel. Traditional festive colours are red and green, but you could experiment with a modern colour scheme of white, gold and silver.
You can maximise impact by sticking with just one or two of these colours, perhaps using the red on a candy cane against a white background, or a red bauble against green branches. Being selective with your colour choices will produce a stronger message in your image. You could even create a series of photographs focusing on one particular colour.
Finding a new perspective
When photographing a Christmas tree, most people snap away at eye level, but what’s stopping you from playing with perspective and finding a more interesting angle? Emphasise the height of a tree and capture it from a child’s point of view, or shoot from above to capture the decoration on top of the tree. Christmas is a magical time for kids, and photographing from their eye level will help recreate that sense of childhood excitement and wonder in your photographs.
Different lenses can also help you put a fresh perspective on typical Christmas details. Try a macro lens focusing on an intricate tree decoration or a wide angle shot of your town’s festivities. Taking the time to see things at a different angle can really help your shots stand out from the crowd.
Creative reflections Although shiny surfaces can be a logistical nightmare for photographers, this is the season to embrace all things mirrored and metallic. Photographing someone’s face reflected into a mirrored bauble provides you with an instant fish-eye effect, and can create some really interesting festive portraits!
Try it with some coloured fairy lights in the background, or you could even photograph outside to capture some summery scenery.
Bokeh As well as capturing fairy lights’ multi-coloured glow, you can also achieve a very Christmassy feel in your shots by using them to produce bokeh. This beautiful light effect is perfect for creating a soft, festive background that allows the viewer to focus on the subject of the photo. This is a great way of injecting a festive theme without having to add unnecessary distraction to your image. Once you’ve brushed up on how to achieve a ‘good bokeh’ here, there are all sorts of ways to incorporate this neat trick into your Christmas album.
Using a wide aperture to get up close and photograph a string of decorations or lights will allow you to keep the object closest to your camera sharp, and the rest will gradually fade into colourful bokeh as they get further and further away from your lens. You could also take a great portrait by positioning some lights a fair distance behind your subject, and using a low f-stop to frame their face with bokeh.
Explore your street and city There are always plenty of festive events happening around Christmas, which is a great opportunity to get out there with your camera. Consider photographing your street’s lights, carol singers and pop-up events. This is a great chance to sharpen up your street photography skills, and capture candid moments between strangers.
Capture kid’s reactions Christmas is a magical time for young kids, so make the most of the festive season by photographing their expressions and reactions as they discover decorations and that pile of presents beneath the tree!
There will also be moments of madness and tantrums, which can look hilariously photo-worthy when they happen to be dressed up in Christmas outfits. Don’t be afraid to keep snapping, even if things don’t look perfect. These sort of shots are great for dusting off in a few year’s time.
Stock up on props Props are a quick and easy way to immediately tell a story about your subject. There are so many ways to get creative with things you can pick up for super cheap at your local store! Think novelty santa hats, using a large wreath as a frame, snowflake sequins to create foreground bokeh and baubles!
You can set up your own Christmassy booth with baubles and fishing wire hanging from a branch, adding a chalkboard for someone to hold.