With this photoshoot, I had pictured it was Christmas Eve. Families were sitting by the fireplace, with sleepy and excited kids. Mum or Dad were reading their favorite Christmas stories before bed. The kids putting out milk and cookies for Santa and falling asleep in front of the fire. Memories from my childhood.

Set the scene

Using a fabulous printed backdrop like this one from Kate Backdrop (UK, DE) is the perfect place to start. They’re so well made and beautifully printed.

Be sure that ALL the wrinkles are gone, as it makes the backdrop look perfect and gives you an easier time with editing. If it’s been folded up since last use, you can give a quick wash and tumble dry, or hang a day or two before you shoot for the wrinkles to drop out. A quick steam will do the job too. Here’s some other great ideas to get the wrinkles out.

The rod pocket is terrific for generic backdrop stands. It would be fantastic if they had a pocket on the bottom to weigh down with another pole. I hang clips on mine to stop the fabric from moving. Then I covered the bottom of the backdrop itself with some hobby fill (which looks like clouds) and some LED lights.

Make it your own

Just because it is a commercially-made backdrop, don’t forget to throw in some additional props. Make the scene your own. A few personal items, chairs, stools, throw rugs and some Christmas ornaments help to compliment the scene. I aimed to make everything non-breakable, as I was working with excitable, young kids and accidents can happen.

I also had items the children could interact with, presents and large oversized baubles, books and such. Don’t forget the cookies and milk for Santa too. Finally, I added a giant fur rug for in front of the fireplace.

Lights, camera, action

Once the scene is set, you can set up your lights, don’t forget to light your backdrop too. While maybe not the star of the show, it will be the glue that holds it all together. I had a 36″ Octobox on a Godox AD400Pro, then a Strip Box 9″ x 35″ Strip Box (also on a Godox AD400Pro). Then I lit the actual Backdrop itself with a Godox AD200 and a diffuser.

Test with a stand-in, before the kids arrive. I was shooting with my Sony a7R III and the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 G2 lens. I also had my 5.5″ 4K LED Mini Monitor setup. So that it was well lit and everyone was in focus, I shot at f/9.

The rest of the camera settings were ISO 200 and 1/125s. My lights were on 1/2 power (strip box), 1/8 (octobox) and 1/32 (speedlight).

Capture the magic

Now that the scene is set, the gear is ready it’s time to let in the kids and capture some magic. Work out ahead of time wardrobe choices (where possible) and the type of shots you wish to capture. Here are some ideas;

  • Kids snuggled in Mum or Dad’s lap reading a story
  • Kids on floor listening to a story
  • Snuggling on the fur rug in front of fire
  • Kids reading a “magical” book
  • Placing presents under the tree
  • Putting out milk and cookies for Santa

Perhaps make it look like you looking in through a window from outside, with snow gently falling. The color tone of the images will suggest a warm glow or cool winter tones.

Don’t forget to move around within your image, not just capture larger overall shots. Kids sparkle when excited, so try to capture that. I took some individual shots of the kids, as well as family shots.

Cute Christmas card idea

I put together a quick video on How I made the cute Christmas card above.

Cute Christmas card ideas

Backdrops from Kate Backdrop and Ubackdrop provide some really creative options to get your set headed in the right direction.