5 Tips for Magical Holiday Photos


You have shopped, wrapped, cleaned, and cooked. You are exhausted, but happy and feeling blessed.

As you collect torn up tissue paper, and stash away for next year any bows that managed to not get mangled during the great unwrap attack of 2013, you remember your camera. You jump up to download your photos to make sure you captured all of the magic you want to keep alive forever.

Capturing Magical Moments

As a mom and a photographer, I admit, one of the most important parts of Christmas to me is catching as much of the magic as I can with photographs. I want to remember each precious Christmas with my children.
But having said that, there are some definite barriers to getting fabulous holiday photos. To name just a few:

  1.  I don’t want me to spend the entire holiday behind my camera.
  2. Bad lighting. I am usually dealing with difficult lighting complications.
  3. My kids are wound up with excitement and don’t want to pause for mom to take a picture.

Tip 1 – Have a “Photo Shoot” Ahead of Time

On the big day, you are busy! Things are moving fast and getting messy. So a trick I do every year, is to put my kids in their “holiday outfits” and do a Christmas photo shoot before Christmas.
This year, I was on top of things and photographed them at my studio last weekend. But some years, I don’t get a chance to grab Christmas portraits until Christmas Eve. But by getting some beautiful portraits of them before Christmas Day, the pressure is off trying to get “perfect shots” of them in the midst of the celebrations. This way, I can focus on the candid shots and the detail shots on Christmas Day.

Tip 2 – Take Photos Early in the Day for Natural Lighting

The best lighting for photos is natural light. So pull out your camera as early in the day as possible. You will be thrilled to have photos of your kids in their jammies anyway — because how cute is that!


And if you didn’t get a chance to take portraits of your family ahead of time, grab your kids as soon as they put on their holiday finery and get them to the nearest window (or even outside if you have to,) to photograph them with that gorgeous natural light.

Tip 3 – Turn off your Flash Whenever Possible

Simply put, using natural light is ideal and using on-camera flash is worst case scenario. You see, when we photographers use artificial light sources, we do all sorts of tricks to have our light sources not shining directly, and undiffused, in our subjects’ faces like an on-camera flash does.

When you use the flash on your camera, you often get red eye in your subjects, and you lose the ambient light, such as Christmas tree lights, that make the scene lovely. You also often light up your subject really bright and have a dark mess behind them.

But you don’t have to be chained to flashing your subjects with unflattering light. If you are shooting in “auto” mode on your camera, then your camera will often pop up your flash when it could have adjusted other settings to allow the photo to work without flash.
Shooting in manual mode is more than we can cover in this post, but remember that you can often turn off your flash or move to one of your camera’s settings, such as portrait mode, night mode, or natural light mode. Check your camera’s manual to see what modes your camera model offers.

It is important to know that when photographing with less light, your camera cannot handle moving subjects and even hand-holding your camera can sometimes cause blurriness.

So, if you are trying to shoot without enough light and your pictures are blurry, you will have to add light. And yes, sometimes that means using your flash. It happens to all of us.

(I have actually made a video tutorial on how to “save” flash photos with some easy edit features on PicMonkey.com. A quick filter can bea  great remedy to a photo that has been “flashed.”)

Tip 4 – Remember the Details

Your favorite ornament. Your child’s stocking. Your grandmother’s china.

Christmas is full of special details and they are often the easiest things to photograph.
So, don’t worry if your kids are “done” with posing for you. Take your camera and photograph all the details that make your holidays sparkle with sentiment.

Tip 5 – Capture Your Kids’ Wild Side

Yes, I always try to get a “portrait” shot of my kids. I do love to have those “smiling at the camera” photos with them looking all spiffy in their Christmas clothes. But, my kids are wild. I mean really, really wild. They live life on full speed and at full volume.

So, capturing our holidays means preserving those wild times too! And the best part is that kids are more than happy to have you take their photos when they are showing off who they really are.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!

And, a little secret, for every fantastic photo I treasure, there are countless shots I toss away. So don’t be hard on yourself. Shoot lots and have fun!

Janice Croze

Janice Croze is a Vancouver-based family and children’s photographer and co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom.com. You can find more of her photography at Janice Croze Photography.com and on Facebook.com/JaniceCrozePhotography.

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2 Responses to "5 Tips for Magical Holiday Photos"

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  1. Desiree Fawn

    December 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Great tips!! :) Happy holidays!

  2. Caryl Anne

    April 22, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Great article! I love the idea of capturing a child’s wild side. Most of the time children are posed a certain way or just told to smile. This shows who they are and what they are about by capturing them in the moment. These are captured treasures that can’t be duplicated. Thanks for sharing!

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