Taking Christmas images is fun and challenging and the photos are something you can look back on and appreciate for years to come.
But what you should focus on when it comes to taking Christmas images isn’t always clear. Sometimes you need some inspiration to give you ideas on how to approach it. Then you can take that inspiration and put your own twist on it to make it your own.
Below, you’ll find some Christmas images that will hopefully inspire you to do your best photography this holiday season.
You can’t go wrong with taking family portraits in front of the Christmas tree, which instantly conveys that it’s Christmas time. You don’t even need to put on the cheesy Santa hats (but by all means do so if you want). You could easily do this without the help of a photographer by using a tripod (or even just find a surface that’s about eye level, which in this case you could probably use a coffee table because they’re sitting on the floor) and your camera’s timer.
This portrait is well-lit, likely with a pop of flash up into the ceiling or off a wall. The photographer filled the frame with the family but left some headroom, which lets the photo breathe a bit.
This is one of my preferred approaches to taking Christmas images or photographing family gatherings in general. And by that, I mean taking candid shots of the family interacting and framing them in an interesting or creative way.
I like how the photographer filled the frame here and included multiple subjects for some interesting layering. The one thing I think could have been improved is if the photographer stepped to the left, then they would have been able to get the older woman’s head in the frame and not had the older man’s head overlapping hers. But overall, it’s a great moment captured.
If you’re celebrating Christmas at a decorated house rather than an apartment or condo, it’s worth taking a snap of as part of your album for the day. It’s pretty cool that this photographer was able to shoot this house with a full moon directly above.
If you’re photographing your house with all its decorations up for Christmas, I would expose for the Christmas lights and bring up the exposure later in post so you keep the natural color of the lights and don’t lose detail in the highlights.
Part of the whole Christmas experience is putting up your Christmas tree and other decorations. If you keep your camera around for when you put up your Christmas tree, you can get some shots that are really easy to make look good by snapping some photos when a spouse or family member is putting up the Christmas tree and the decorations. In this instance I think it’s fine to use either natural light or use a flash bounced off the ceiling or a wall for a little extra pop.
A mantle is frequently going to be a place where you gather around for Christmas. When you put decorations on it and some stockings, it’s an easy thing to photograph for Christmas because it’s so representative of Christmas.
Even considering this photo doesn’t include the fireplace underneath, you still get the implication of that and reminds you of a warm fireplace during winter.
The pine cones, red Christmas balls, and green wreath on the mantle are such a nice color combination and make this image pop.
I really like the contrasting greens of this Christmas tree with its red ornaments. It’s also nice how you can see the trees and white-gray sky outside of the window, which gives you more of an indication that it’s winter and Christmas time.
I’m going to include more of these images of decorated Christmas trees from angles like this because they look so good and they’re really easy to take.
Here’s another example of a photo of Christmas tree details similar to the one above. You just put the Christmas tree partially in the frame, choose an ornament to focus on, and take the picture. In this one, the photographer included what looks like a fireplace and mantle in the background with some Christmas lights in front of it, for some nice out-of-focus bokeh balls.
This is another shot of your Christmas tree you can take, but with someone either putting up ornaments or admiring them, like in this photo. I don’t like to stage photos so if you’re like me, the move is to keep your camera on you when your Christmas tree is being put up and you have to pay attention to interesting moments like this.
This is another creative angle you can use to take photos of someone putting up Christmas tree decorations. I’m not sure what’s in the foreground of this Christmas image but you can tell it’s a Christmas decoration of some sort. There are many angles you can find to do something similar to this, where you include something in the foreground of your frame and then focus on the subject of the frame in the background, in this case, a woman putting up decorations on a Christmas tree.
Not everyone makes wreaths or knows someone who does, but if you can photograph someone doing this or something like this, it makes for great Christmas images. If you can frame it as good as this image, then that’s a plus.
This Christmas image reminds me of Christmas eve nights wondering what presents were in those boxes as a kid.
For your Christmas photography album, I think it would be a good idea to take a photo like this during this day, at night where you can showcase the lights like this, and on Christmas day after all the presents have been opened and the wrapping has been taken off.
Like the photo taken of the house with Christmas decorations above, I would meter for the Christmas lights so that you don’t lose so much detail in the Christmas lights.
A good way to showcase your Christmas tree is to light it well to put all or your ornaments on display. I like how this Christmas image included the mantle with its stockings and other decorations on it, as you can make it out even though it’s in slight bokeh blur.
There are a lot of Christmas-themed things you can frame in front of your tree so that everything you see is Christmas-related, for a very festive feel. In this case, a dining table with nice plates and silverware, festive candles, and a gift box. I don’t think you have to stick with such a monochromatic theme like this but it is kind of nice.
Christmas is all about making the most of the wintertime and that means snowmen. The photographer of this image did a good job of using a wide aperture, that way the snowman pops from its background, which has a lot of white because of the snow. Otherwise, you would have a hard time seeing the outline of the snowman because it would just look like a blob of white with all the snow on the ground behind it.
This is a creative way of using foreground focus. The subject of this photo are the Christmas presents on the table but you get enough context to see two people in front of their Christmas tree who look like they’re smiling and having a good time.
You could also potentially do this photo framed in the same way but with the focus on the people in the background. Then you would get the people’s faces in focus but the present would be blurred.
This Christmas image must have taken some preparation. The egg nog drinks (or whatever they happen to be) look just about perfect, complete with floating cookies and cinnamon.
The textures in this shot are done really well too. I like how the wood cutting board contrasts with the gray table and the gift packaging. The holly is placed nicely around the edges of the frame as well. The lateral light coming from the left side of the frame makes for some nice, contrasty shadows.
If I wanted the perfect table for wrapping Christmas presents, this is about as good as it gets with a fire in the background and some jazz Christmas music playing. Unfortunately for me though, my wrapping table will probably always just look like a complete mess.
Like the previous image, I like how all these Christmas-related items contrast with the wood of the table. The ribbons are this rich red and the holly’s deep greens, and the shiny gold from the ornaments. Even the black scissors in this image look nice.
I’m sure this shot took some preparation to get it all set up before photographing it.
If you want a guaranteed good Christmas image, here’s one good way to do it. Just put some decorations or anything Christmas-related in front of a fireplace and bam, you have yourself a merry little Christmas and a nice photo. In this photo, it looks like the photographer used a flash or some other sort of artificial light source from the left side of the frame.
Here’s another good example of the kind of Christmas image that I really value — showing multiple people reacting to something. These types of images do the best job of telling a story within a photo in my opinion.
You get people interacting in a space and some context of where they are around them to give you an idea of what the event is. In this case, you know it’s Christmas because you can see the wreath on the fireplace and the Christmas tree. This is a similar approach that I like to take for wedding photography.
If you want to get some great Christmas images of your Christmas tree, a great way to do it is to get up close on the ornaments that you like the best. For this photo, the photographer used a wide aperture and focused on the ornament while leaving the background and Christmas lights in the frame to the left side, which is a great way to incorporate bokeh in your Christmas photography.
Here’s another Christmas image that’s similar to the previous one but zoomed out a bit. This one includes more than one Christmas tree ornament and works really well too. In this shot, the red ornament is the subject in focus while you have a yellow ornament out of focus in the foreground and a few other ornaments in the shot in the background that are out of focus but add to the photo too. I like how the photographer incorporated bokeh light balls in this image too.
As you can see, the subject matter of this shot is very similar to photo number twenty. However, you can see that this one was likely shot at night while the other was shot during the day. The result is a very different vibe and you can shoot both so that you can choose which one you like better after the fact.
This photo is a great example of what you can do with some Christmas-themed objects and some good lighting. The hot chocolate drink with marshmallows and cinnamon make for a very Christmasy-looking drink along with the pinecones and gifts, Christmas lights, and fir tree branches.
It’s another good example of how you can take pretty much any Christmas-related items, put them together, and arrange them in a photogenic way. If you understand lighting, it’s that much better.
Again, you could do this with all of your ornaments that you use for your Christmas tree, and I think that’s a good idea. Christmas ornaments can hold a significant meaning because they remind you of a time period of your life you used them and you may have received certain ornaments as gifts from friends or family or you may have gotten them from your parents, which can mean a lot if they were used when you were a kid.
Pets are part of the family so it makes sense to include your pets in your Christmas images, whether it be for portraits or candids. As you can see in this image, the framing isn’t all that important; it’s the subjects of the photo that matter. I may have framed this a little to the right and with slightly less headroom, but again, when you look back on your Christmas images, that’s not what matters.
Dogs make for great portrait subjects during the Christmas season and you can put them in Christmas outfits just like people. I like how the photographer of this image photographed the dog slightly off-center for a unique framing and in front of the Christmas tree.
If you keep your camera ready, you can photograph some cute moments of your pets doing their thing on Christmas day, just as you can with people opening their presents or whatever. You can approach lighting pets as subjects just like you do with people and in this photo, the photographer did a really good job of lighting the scene, probably with flash it looks like.
I’m not sure whether this was staged or the dog owner just took a picture after the dog picked up this gift bag, but it goes to show how photogenic dogs are for Christmas images. Just put your dog in front of the tree and you’re good to go. I like how the framing of this image is sort of tight but includes all of the dog and you can see the Christmas tree for context.
Here’s yet another example of how you can put the Christmas accessories on the dog for comedic effect. I really like the framing of this photo, how the dog has a little headroom and is placed in the right side of the frame in front of the Christmas tree.
I’m not sure either of my cats would keep a Santa hat on long enough to take a photo but it would be cool if they did. I love the framing and contrasting colors of this image; the deep greens in the Christmas tree to the red in the hat and the gifts and the cat’s bright yellow eyes.
Christmas isn’t just the time on Christmas day that you spend around the Christmas tree opening presents. It’s also the time leading up to it when you spend time with family doing things like taking sleigh/carriage rides, going ice skating, playing in the snow, going skiing, etc.
This photo gives you a sense of movement because it’s slightly out of focus, which can work really well when you have a fast-moving subject like this.
There might not always be snow on the ground for Christmas day, but snow and sledding certainly remind me of Christmas time. Great framing of this man and child in the upper middle part of the frame, leaving the pathway in front of them in the frame so you get some context to know they’re going down a hill.
When it comes to Christmas images, you can’t leave out the places where people celebrate Christmas in warm climates. I like how this sand snowman is framed and how the photographer used a wide to medium aperture to get the snowman in focus while giving you some context of the ocean waves in the background.
Last Thoughts On Taking Good Christmas Images
When it comes to taking great Christmas images, you can use a lot of the concepts you use for other types of photography.
You can approach it like wedding or event photography by taking pictures of the location/decor, doing candids of people during Christmas day (like when someone hands a family member a gift), and doing portraits.
Good luck with taking your Christmas images and merry Christmas.
Brandon Ballweg is a photographer from the Kansas City area. He is the founder of ComposeClick.