Every year I fill our entire wall gallery with prints of my favorite Christmas morning photos. I swap out the images and add a few new prints from the prior year. My jaw drops every time I get the chance to compare my older images with my newer ones. Of course there is the "Oh man, the kids are getting so much bigger!" every time, but I also notice the improvement in the images themselves. It is fun to see my progress as a photographer.
I thought you would get a kick out of seeing the progress too. This morning I dug up some Christmas morning photos from 2012 to compare to the ones I took in 2015.
Check this out:
Yep! That first image is an unedited, straight out of the camera shot. I checked my settings and that was the very best my camera could do (highest ISO, widest aperture, slowest shutter speed I could handle without hand shake).
The second image is my attempt to edit it. (And also a perfect example of why you should be shooting in RAW and using my favorite photo editing software!)
The third image is my favorite from that year. I love it but it bothers me a little that it is blurry. I had my shutter speed still too low and my hand must have shaken a little when I took it.
Compare those to my favorite Christmas morning photo from 2015:
The simple thing that made all the difference is so much easier than you think!
5 tips for taking the best Christmas Morning photos ever!
1. STALL!: The number one most important trick to better Christmas morning photos is to stall your kids from opening their presents until the sun is up! The difference between that first dark photo at the top and the better images I've taken? The sun. It doesn't matter which camera you have, if there is no natural light in your living room your pictures are going to be grainy, blurry, or have artificial yellow tints from your lamps.
We have several built-in Christmas morning traditions that delay the gift opening until I can open up all our blinds and let the natural light come streaming in. The kids think it is just part of the holiday fun and it delays the gratification of the gifts.
2. Assign seats: I try not to direct or pose our Christmas morning photos too much. This is a time the kids should just relax and have fun with their gifts. But backgrounds make an enormous difference in the final photo. I insist the kids sit on the floor by the tree and then I angle myself so that the background captures the twinkling lights. They are welcome to get up and show a special gift to Daddy or run around but when they are opening a gift, their bottoms hit that floor in front of the tree!
3. Sit on the floor: Shooting at the same eye level as your kids makes for such a better photo as opposed to shooting down at them from up high. Christmas morning finds me sitting on the floor right there with them. It works out great for more than just photos though. . . I'm there with a scissors for tricky boxes and am just an arm's length away for grateful hugs and kisses. I can't imagine any other place I'd rather be.
4. Keep your shutter speed up: Kids get excited and wiggle and jump and wave their arms a ton on Christmas morning. Don't let your shutter speed drop below 1/200 if you can help it. Raise your ISO a little more if you have to in order to compensate.
5. Get in the photo: Just because you're capturing most of the action doesn't mean you need to miss out being in the wall gallery or photo album yourself! Make a point to hand off the camera to another family member. Have them sit in your seat on the floor and crawl over to the spot you have your kids seated. Pull one of them onto your lap and cuddle in close. Think of it as your "Victory Lap Photo": you've got another successful holiday under your belt. You helped make magic for your family for another year. Get in there and be part of it!
If you would like to learn more tricks about how to capture Christmas morning photos and special memories all season long, be sure to come over and join my photography Facebook group where we'll be doing a "25 Days of Joy" Holiday photo challenge.
And above all, be kind to yourself this season. It is better to have missed the photo shot and to have witnessed the moment with your own eyes. Christmas is about the memories we make, not the photos we capture. I hope these tips help you find a balance between both!