Aah, Christmas morning. As kids, my sister and I used to wake up at the crack of dawn and wait on the steps 20 minutes for Santa to figure out how to use the camcorder and make any last-minute adjustments under the tree.

Long are the days of sitting on the downstairs steps before we could come upstairs. Now, I’m in charge of capturing those ever-important moments by the tree.

Below are a few techniques I use when photographing every Christmas, that will ultimately lead to sharper, more creative photographs that will help you better remember your family’s Christmas.

Get Your Subjects Engaged

There are two types of Christmas morning photographers. There’s the “dad photographer,” who has each person hold up their gifts and smile at the camera. Sure, it has its time and place. But no one’s going to look at those and get excited.

Instead, have your subjects get engaged with the gifts they open, and with each other. For me, I treat Christmas like any other type of event, and try to capture the emotion and liveliness it brings. If they got a really cool gift for Christmas, show the excitement that happens when it’s being opened. Have them try it on, and play around with it.

Use a Shallow Depth of Field

While it’s important to have your primary subject in focus, you probably don’t care much about the wrapping paper thrown all over the floor. Choose a standard zoom lens that allows for a f/2.8 aperture or lower (something like a 24-70mm is great) and be sure to focus on the subject’s eyes when shooting.

In addition to using an aperture of f/2.8 or lower, get up closer to your subject. Doing so will blur the background more and make for a more creative take on the scene.

Go With a Warm White Balance

Especially when shooting things like Christmas trees, ornaments, etc. I use a warmer white balance. This helps to contrast the snow-covered trees outside, bringing a warmth to the interior decorations. Doing so can also help to enhance things like shadows that a Christmas tree might give off on the wall behind.

Add Looks and Creativity in Post-Processing

I don’t usually get super creative in terms of post-processing with my client work. Christmas photos are the perfect time to do this! I’ve been using Luminar 2018 for a lot of my personal photographs, and a Festive Preset Pack was just released for current and new customers. This can add some really nice-looking effects and textures that fit the holiday season perfectly. All of the photos in this article were edited with this preset pack, to give you an idea of what they can do.

If you don’t already have Luminar 2018, get started here!

The Art of the Handoff

Ultimately, your family members will want some photos of you too. So before you hand off your camera to them, put it on the Auto setting.

This will get rid of any custom settings you might have setup for yourself (things like back button focusing, for instance) and instead will make the camera do the work for them. You’ll still have to instruct them on how to properly focus the camera, but but putting it on Auto, you should get a lot more usable photos.


Christmas photos can be a ton of fun if you go about it in a creative way. By playing around with angles, depth of field and different post-processing effects, you can turn out photographs that will be as memorable as your favorite gift!