Photo Tips: How to Take Magical Photos by the Christmas Tree

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I am Neyssa Lee a Seattle area photographer, mom of 6, planning obsessed, and who help you see the beauty, love and joy, in your own family’s chaos. I also use my super power of time management to help fellow photographers take control of their businesses. Learn more by heading to my ABOUT ME page.

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From the music, to the spirit of giving, the food (lots and lots of food), and the beautiful lights, there is so much to love and appreciate about the holidays. During a time of year when it is dark early, Christmas lights provide the light we so crave. They are also a perfect opportunity to photograph my children enjoying the magic of Christmas long after the sun has gone down. However, photographing busy kids can be tricky, let alone when you’re doing it in low light. That’s why I’m providing you with some easy photo tips to help you capture magical photos by the Christmas Tree.

Turn off all lights besides the Christmas tree.

When it’s dark so early, it might seem like you need to turn on all the lights to make up for the lack of light. However, we want the Christmas tree to shine and be our only light source.

A bonus photo tip here is to load the tree up with lights to give you enough light. When you think you have enough lights, add another 3 strings of lights on.

Photo tips for photos of kids by the Christmas tree.
Lens: Sigma 35 1.4 Art, ISO 4000, Shutter Speed: 1/100, Aperture: f/1.8

Make it a fun for the kids.

This photo tip is key to magical photos. Do not try for the sitting perfectly smiling at the camera.

Whether it’s eating a candy cane by the tree, singing Christmas Carols loudly, or even reading a favorite story, make it more about the fun and less about taking pictures. My kids favorite thing to do is play I-Spy with the ornaments. It’s a fun way to get them looking around the tree, keeping that light on their faces. They even play now on their own (even when I haven’t prompted them), giving me plenty of chances to capture them by the tree.

Three kids playing by the Christmas Tree at night
Lens: Sigma 35mm 1.4 ART, ISO: 2500, Shutter Speed: 1/160, Aperture: f/2.0

The next photo tip is to experiment with techniques and shoot from different angles.

Of course, get the obvious shot of everyone looking up at the tree. However, play around with different angles. (Another reason that photo tip above about making it fun is so important. It gives you time to get creative while the kids are enjoying themselves, too). Stand on a chair to shoot from above. Sneak behind the tree to to capture that light on their faces, with the tree only in it a little bit. Even wait for your kids to move around the tree so they are on the side of the tree instead of between you and the tree.

Another fun thing to do is play around with different techniques. Free lensing creates gorgeous bokeh with the tree lights. (Please only try free lensing if you have had instruction). You could also try shooting through something, like special Christmas 3D glasses.

Sisters hugging by the Christmas tree for Christmas photo tips
Sigma 35mm 1.4 ART – Freelensed ISO: 2500, Shutter Speed: 1/60, Aperture —-
Photo of boy by the tree taken through 3D classes
Sigma 35mm 1.4 ART – Shot through 3D glasses ISO: 5000, Shutter Speed: 1/160, Aperture: f/1.4

Another photo tip is to get in the frame, too.

The Christmas tree provides a great opportunity for you to jump in the frame. Using some of the photo tips above you can keep the kids all snuggled up with you for a few self portraits. Hand the camera off to your partner, or use a tripod.

You were there too. You should be in the photos!

Expecting mother with two children by the Christmas Tree.
Lens: Sigma 35mm 1.4 ART, ISO: 2500, Shutter Speed: 1/60, Aperture: f/1.4

Photograph the tree during the day too.

We have our lights on all the time to soak up the Christmas season. As the kids play, having the tree in the background adds a bit of sparkle while helping tell the story of our holiday season.

Photo tips for photo of girl drawing by the Christmas tree.
Lens Sigma 35mm 1.4 ART, ISO: 1600, Shutter Speed: 1/320, Aperture: f/2.0
Photo of mother and baby boy near the Christmas tree.
Lens Sigma 35mm 1.4 ART, ISO: 1600, Shutter Speed: 1/320, Aperture: f/2.0

In the end, just have fun with it and capture the magic that is the holiday season. I love the creative opportunity to capture my kids when the evenings are dark early.

Want to learn more about photography? Join my email list for more photo tips and any upcoming information on photography workshops.

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