With all the planning and preparation that goes in to Christmas , quite often any pictures we take – if we even remember to take any – can turn out disappointing. So I’ve come up with a few top tips to help you get the best pictures you can this Christmas. You don’t need a fancy DSLR. It is more than possible now to also get great shots from your phone or point and shoot.


1.  Plan Ahead

You’ve planned every other detail of the 25th so take a few minutes to think through beforehand what shots you would like, so you are ready with your camera at the right times. Do you want to catch the ‘just-awake-and-I-can’t-wait’ expression of your children when they come through with their stockings on Christmas morning? Or the beautifully set table before everyone tucks in? It’s all about thinking ahead and being in the right place at the right time.

2.  Keep Your Camera Handy

Is it too obvious to state?! Yet the number of times I wish I’d had my camera to hand because I missed a great shot! Not only keep it handy, but keep it ready to shoot in a moment. Which means, of course, make sure the battery is fully charged (plus any spares, or battery packs for your phone :-))

3.  Capture  Moments

I love capturing what is natural. So look for those moments when your child is opening their gifts, or your husband is in the kitchen – apron on and all, or adults are lost in conversation, grandparents having a moment with grandkids. Those are the moments that make the day.

4.  Capture  Details

Alongside those moments, look for the details. Someone (maybe you, or maybe someone else) has put thought and effort into those details, and no other time of the year is quite like Christmas for giving us so many pretty things to take pictures of. Get up close to decorations, get unusual angles on food, find reflections and sparkles in baubles and lights. If you have manual controls on your camera, get your aperture wide open (small f number) to really focus on one specific detail and get a soft out-of-focus background. A lot of smartphone cameras will now do this automatically for you as long as you get very close to your subject.

5.  Use Burst  Mode

Have a look at your camera and see if it can take multiple photos with one press of the shutter release button. Children and pets (and some adults 😉 ) rarely stay still in one position for long enough to get the picture you want. So try using ‘burst’ and pick the best of several shots.

6.  Low-light  Mode

Winter in Scotland (especially up in the north here!) sees very little sunlight in December, even around the middle of the day. As most of your shots will also be indoors on Christmas Day, use whatever features your camera has to offer for low-light shooting, whether it’s a ready-made low-light mode, or bumping up your ISO etc. You want to make sure enough light is getting to your camera to give you correctly exposed shots. Keeping your flash switched off will allow for some of the beautiful warm ambient light from your Christmas lights into your pictures.

teenage boy looking into camera on snowy day

7.  Get  Outside

So yes, we don’t get a lot of sunlight in December, but we do still get some, so take advantage of what there is. Get some brave souls to wrap up and get outdoors for some wintry portraits in the middle of the day.  Winter sun can actually give great, naturally filtered light for portraits. Snow makes for a wonderful natural reflector so make the most of it if we are lucky enough to get some.

8.  Think  Out  Of  The  Box 

Somehow when someone says to me ‘Be creative!’ I invariably freeze and can’t come up with a single thing. Yet the best photos are, more often than not, creative. Have a look at other people’s photos and find ideas or inspiration. One of the simplest tips is to find a new angle. So if your child is on the floor playing, get down for a low shot. Everyone is chit-chatting in the living room, why not nip outside and take a photo from the perspective of an outsider looking in through the window? Or can you take a photo from behind some Christmas decorations and have them frame some of your images? Or have people silhouetted with lights behind them? (See? Once I start thinking, more and more ideas come!!)


9.  Experiment…

What about trying something totally new? Do you fancy trying to create your own artistic shots? Here’s an example I did of some star bokeh using nothing more than a piece of cardboard in front of my lens. You simply make a home made filter for your lens from a piece of cardboard with a star shaped hole in it . Place this across the front of your lens and see what wonderful effects you can create.

Christmas tree with star bokeh

 10. Print  Them!

You’ve gone to so much effort and thought to take great pictures of a memorable day. Don’t stop there. Make a collage of your best shots,  create an album, or a gift for the grandparents. Enjoy the fruit of all your work and planning, long after the 25th is past…


If you would like to learn more about photography and how to get the most out of your DSLR or mirrorless camera in 2019 then I would love you to come and  join me on my one day Beginners Photography Workshops.

Follow this link to learn more and what dates still have places available:

Beginners DSLR Photography Workshop

Have a wonderful Christmas,



Beginner's DSLR Photography Workshop