The festive season is gaining momentum, and dancing around the kitchen to ‘Last Christmas’ is once again a daily ritual! With plenty of opportunities to take advantage of, it’s time to start thinking about how and when to capture your children enjoying the moment.
So here are some of my top tips for how to take festive photos of your children that you will treasure for years to come.
Rocking around the Christmas tree
In our house, decorating a tree is traditionally a family event. But photographing this can be challenging as it tends to be done after school when it’s dark. On the plus side, it allows me to take full advantage of the Christmas tree lights, and helps make the images Christmas-card worthy!
Evening: get the glow
If this is the effect you’re looking for – with glowing lights from the tree – the best time to shoot is around dusk to evening. At this time of day however, you’ll need to let more light into the camera. There are a couple of ways you can do this.
If you have a DSLR or bridge camera, you will want to increase your ISO and keep your aperture as wide open as possible. The more light you can let in, the less likely you are to get blurred images.
You may then wish to add an additional light source on your child’s face to make sure they are well lit. This could be done with candles, fairy lights, iPads or even the torch on your phone.
Finally, where you photograph from can make a big difference. If there is still some light coming in from outside, you want to stand as close to a window as possible, with your kids facing it. As you can see from the diagram below I was standing as close to the window as possible when taking the photo.
Daylight: get the twinkle twinkle ‘brokeh’
One of the shots we all want to get is our little ones in front of gorgeous twinkly fairy lights. The trick here is to put the lights as far behind your child as you can. The further away they are, the blurrier the lights will appear. However, you still need to manage the light so you can capture the twinkling lights.
Ideally you would be using a DSLR or bridge camera with a wide lens ( around 35mm or 50mm). I have the 85mm which also has a low aperture, but often find I need to stand too far back to get the shot I want. You can see the difference between the two shots below. The first is where Mummy and baby are right next to the tree. The second is where they are about a metre in front. Again, you want to keep your ISO high and your aperture as wide open as possible. This will let in as much light as possible to blur the lights.
Below is another example. I was going for a beautiful portrait of my daughter and god-daughter, but all they wanted to do was take selfies. Going with it, for the first image, I closed all the curtains around the Christmas tree. I only left the one where I was sitting with my camera open, so the girls were well lit as they were facing towards to light. This also meant the tree lights were visible as it was in the darker area.
On the second image, I opened the curtains all the way and then exposed the shot for her face. To get the ‘bokeh’ blur I had to shoot around the corner of the tree. For more technical information can see my camera settings on my website here.
I remember my own first Christmas with my son and daughter and how excited I was to capture it. If you have a newborn, it’s often easier to photograph them with someone so they are upright and supported. Again, you want to have them facing towards the window so they are well lit. It’s also a great opportunity to get them into a cute festive babygro, or matching PJ’s if there’s an older sibling in the picture!
If your baby is old enough to sit or push up onto their tummy, you can place them in front of some Christmas lights to get that lovely light-filled background again.
Photograph the fun
My final tip, as well as photographing the more obvious festive moments, is to keep the camera to hand. This will help to capture more of those unplanned moments. And why not take photos of everyone around the Christmas table, taking part in fun family traditions, engrossed in their favourite family movie, or during the excitement of the big unwrapping?
Often my favourite images end up being the out-takes!