Festive favourites – a Christmas photography toolkit

As well as the big day itself, the lead up to Christmas presents many wonderful opportunities for photographers (the pun, of course, was intentional).

We thought it useful, therefore, to put together a list of pointers which will hopefully be a source of inspiration this festive season.

1. Really busy? Plan ahead

Firstly, there is lots to think about at this busy time of year so perhaps photography is the last thing on your mind. If you consider photography to be a worthwhile hobby, however, perhaps it is worth sparing a few moments to consider how you can incorporate it into your busy schedule.

Trips out and about, wintery walks, family dinners or work parties? These will all provide festive fodder for the camera. Perhaps make a list (and check it twice?) of all the essential kit you need for such occasions: memory cards, batteries, charger packs, lenses and, of course, a camera!

And although DSLR cameras are far superior to anything else on the market, the image quality provided by most smartphones these days are a decent substitute if it is that you forget your camera – or if you are caught unprepared.

The view from a smartphone camera as it frames a photograph of a well-lit Christmas tree.
Above: if you are ever caught without your DSLR camera, although nothing can compare quality-wise, most smartphones provide a relatively good substitute when needed for capturing those impromptu Christmas photographs.

2. Photography is for life, not just for Christmas…

…so make sure not to focus solely on the main event.

Sure, a Christmas party or light switch-on will reap many rewards for your camera but there is also plenty to take stock of before and after: a starry-eyed commute, cooking, wrapping, table preparations, decorations, dressing up, the dog attempting to steal nibbles from the dining table… These things are just as worthy of capture as anything else.

3. May your photos be merry and bright

Christmas lights are in no short supply during this time of year but they can be quite tricky to photograph.

The key to this is getting the balance right between the ambient light and the artificial lighting that you want to capture. Contrary to what you may assume, it is better to start shooting before dark so that the lights and the surroundings can be exposed in the most effective way.

To assist with this, consider when framing your photograph, to include as much sky in the shot as possible. Shooting upwards or into the afterglow from the Christmas lights will also help reap some awesome results.

Additionally, try to limit your point of focus; there can be a lot of things, colour, decorations and people which may compete for focal attention in your shots but there is lots to say for a minimalist approach.

4. Full to bursting

Conversely, filling your frame can also have a profound impact on your shots.

When taking photos of subjects at Christmas, make sure they don’t get lost in too much space. Zoom in or, better yet, get up close to capture those fleeting expressions and priceless details.

5. Macro Christmas

Following on from the previous tip, macro photography can be particularly effective at Christmas time.

There’s usually an overload of detail which may be perfect to focus your camera on: fancy drinks bottles, coloured lights, tables full of food, glittering baubles, the twinkle of the cat’s eye as she peers out from underneath the Christmas tree. These shots can hold the most magic.

You don’t strictly need a specialist lens for this as most DSLRs come equipped with a macro mode to help enhance your perspective.

The iconic Regent Street in the City of London at Christmas time.
Above: iconic city locations, like Regent Street in the City of London, are ideal for capturing those quintessential Christmas streetlight photographs.

6. Looking a lot like Christmas in your neighbourhood?

During this time of year, you may not have to look very far for opportunities to capture on camera.

In your own back yard, in town or on your route home, there could be plenty of things to see: Christmas carollers, street lights, markets selling sweet treats and Santa hats, crowds of people in busy shopping centres.

These sorts of things can help to shed light on the more personal, everyday aspects of the festive season.

7. Time-lapsing Christmas

To round-off our seasonal photography tips, don’t forget time-lapse as a rewarding mode of capture at Christmastime.

We have already detailed how regular interval photography has been cleverly utilised to capture & celebrate one of the most beloved elements of this time of year: the Christmas tree.

Why not set-up a time-lapse camera to remotely capture other festive favourites, such as the whole family preparing and sitting down to dinner? You could end up with the most amazing set of photos and even edit this into an unforgettable time-lapse video.

This would also allow you to be in the moment while simultaneously capturing it – often the biggest conundrum for any budding photographer.

 

It really is the most wonderful time of the year to spend with your camera – so make the most of the holidays and have a very merry Christmas!

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