How to take DIY Christmas photos around your tree

Nov 20, 2020

DIY Christmas photos

Taking DIY Christmas photos is no easy feat. Add in difficult lighting & children who can’t keep still long enough for you to open your iPhone camera, let alone take a photo, and you’ll wonder why you thought this was a good idea to begin with. But have no fear, I’ve put together some top tips to make sure you get some great Christmas photos around your tree this year.

Don’t wait till it’s too dark

In fact, try to do the tree decorating during the day when it’s light outside. I know this may seem like an odd time to get those lovely photos of the tree lights sparkling but trust me, you’ll need all the natural light you can get when photographing children inside. Especially if you’re using your phone and your house is particularly dark. I did these photos at 1pm and it just so happened to be an extremely dark day.

little boy holding a Christmas baubles

Place your tree near a window

This one may not be ideal for everyone, especially if your tree is going to be nowhere near a window, but I can’t stress enough how important a good source of natural light is for photography. Sometimes you have to ‘improvise’ for good images. When I’m shooting a bride getting into her dress during her wedding day, I will often place her somewhere near a window so the light pours in on her and her bridesmaids. You’re still going for a natural shot but you need to make it a tad easier for yourself.

Don’t rush

Get everything you need before you get the kids involved and plan where you think you’ll be able to get the best light for your images. Initially I was shooting with the window as my back drop but it wasn’t working out for me so I switched positions to make sure the light was more on Dexter’s face. Take your time, check your images to make sure you’re getting what you want and if not, try moving to a better angle.

diy Christmas photos

Get level with your subject

The thing I see the most when non-photographers take photos of their children is they shoot down on them and end up capturing weird angles or the top of their kids head. Try getting down to their level, even if this means lying on your belly on the floor! Good angles will completely change your photos for the better. In the image below I am sitting down on the sofa level with Dexter.

DIY Christmas photos

Give them lights to hold

Children love Christmas lights and including them in your shot always looks really pretty. It can be tricky though so don’t worry if you find this hard work to capture. Dexter was concentrating so hard on the lights that I was able to snap away without him moving too much but if you find your child isn’t keeping still long enough, try lying them down and making a fun game out of it. This works really well for babies who can’t walk and I did this with Dexter when he was really small. I recreated it again the other day and it worked just as well. Although he did poke himself in the eye a few times with the lights. Anything for a great photo eh?

DIY Christmas photos
DIY Christmas photos

Turn your phone and shoot landscape

We are so used to using our phones for Instagram stories and selfies that portrait mode just feels more natural doesn’t it? Try to remember to shoot landscape too where you will find you’ll be able to get more in your frame. This is especially helpful if you have more than one child and you’d like a picture of them altogether. Sounds like such an obvious one but I bet if you look through your phone images the majority of them are portraits. Am I right?

I managed to get the edge of my plant in shot as well as Rich and Dexter for more of a creative image.

Get creative

Speaking of getting creative, why not try something different for your photos. I know I said to keep level with your subject but this isn’t always the case. Try standing up above your child whilst they hang a decoration on the tree like I did in the image below. I was stood on the sofa ready to take the shot and I asked Dexter to slowly put the decoration on the tree. I like to capture little details to help tell a story so I knew the main focus would be on his hands. Get above them for a different angle or hold the lights in front of your camera and shoot through them to create a little blur of sparkly magic.

DIY Christmas photos
DIY Christmas photos

Don’t ask them to pose

I didn’t take one image of Dexter looking at me because I really don’t like to make my life harder by trying to capture him perfectly smiling at the camera, plus, does anyone really like cheesy, look at the camera photos? I certainly don’t and would much rather look back at photos of him and see his little concentration face as he played with the lights over him pulling a fake smile because I’d asked him to.

Taking good photos of kids is all about capturing them naturally and you need to be one step ahead of them at all times if you’re going to succeed at this. If you know something will make them laugh or keep them occupied for longer than 2.5 seconds, do that over trying to force them to look at your camera. Get one of you to hold your child up as they hang a decoration on the tree and this way you’re more likely to keep them still long enough to take a good photo.

DIY Christmas photos

Edit your images

Every single photographer edits their images. And so should you.

I use Lightroom Mobile for editing images on my phone and I bought some cheap presets off Etsy. Just a note about presets– there isn’t a one click fits all. Most images will need tweaking so if you buy a preset and wonder why it looks bad on your photos, you just need to adjust a few things. Play round with the exposure, contrast and white balance in Lightroom and see how it looks. I actually had to have the lights on for some of these shots as it was just too dark. So I had edit out the orange glow from the artificial lighting. Something to bear in mind.

For editing images on my camera I use a mixture of Lightroom desktop with various presets and Photoshop actions for most of my outdoor family sessions.

Try portrait mode on the iPhone

Portrait mode is amazing. You can even change the aperture (f number) to get less or more blur to your back ground. In portrait mode, look for the circle with ‘f’ inside which is located in the top right of the screen. For less blur you’ll want a higher f number, so f4 or 5 for example. And for all the blur you’ll want a lower f number such as f2. But just be prepared to work a little harder to get the right shot in his mode as you’re asking more of the camera.

So that just about sums it up! I think the most important thing to remember about taking photos of kids is that it’s actually really hard (LOL) and you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you don’t get great shots. Just let them have fun and I know you’ll capture something worth sharing on the gram.

little boy lying on the floor looking up at Christmas lights


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