Sometimes the photographs taken on Christmas morning of the children opening presents become more valuable than the presents we give the children. As with many photographs, we sometimes only see their value when time has passed and we look back on those fleeting moments, looking to relive them again. Christmas photographs should be left to a camera which has the sole purpose of photography, rather than the camera on a phone. The reason so many photographs are even taken is because we always carry phones with us. However handy the phones are, they cannot compete with the features and quality of a camera whose purpose is to take photographs. It is well worth a little time to make sure the camera is out and ready with a charged battery and an empty memory card. Do this before the kids wake up at too-early-thirty on Christmas morning. You may even want to do some presetting of your camera to help with getting a good exposure in the morning. This includes setting a shutter speed, aperture, white balance, and ISO sensitivity. Try these to start with: shutter speed 1/60 second; aperture F4; white balance incandescent light (or whatever the type of lighting you have in the tree room); and ISO 800.
When the kids do wake before dawn, help yourself out by turning on all the lights near where the tree is located, as well as the tree lights. I’m not a fan of flash photos, so I have all the lights on in a room so I can just use a high ISO, slow shutter speed, and wide aperture to get my photos. If you do end up using a flash, having all the lights on helps with the red eye effect of the flash. Just remember that the strength of the flash may make the tree lights look like they aren’t even on because the flash overpowers the brightness of the tree lights. Before there is a need to get the perfect shot, take a few practice shots to see if any adjustments are needed to improve your image capture. Keep adjusting until you get an acceptable exposure. Always remember that you may not be able to override the camera’s settings when it is set to automatic. You may want to see if there is any improvement to your ability to get the camera adjusted correctly if the camera is set to manual. This may be part of your day-before preparation if you are not up on exactly how your camera works.
As the kids start opening their presents, get down on the floor to the kids’ level and start framing your image so when the right moment happens all you need to do is click the shutter. Don’t stop with just one photo but make a series just in case one is better than the rest. If you preview the images and see a problem, act quickly to correct it. Usually it’s that the kids are moving so fast in their excitement that the preset shutter speed is not fast enough to stop the action of their movement. If you have several kids opening presents, don’t try and capture everything. Remember you want to enjoy the kids excitement too. There will be more opportunities to capture them playing with their toys and the boxes and wrapping paper. As the day progresses be ready to notice cute opportunities for images and don’t be afraid to get close and fill the frame on your viewfinder with cuteness. If the excitement moves outside, reset your camera’s settings to that environment or just turn it back to automatic. If you have a habit of previewing your images regularly you will quickly notice when you forget to reset the settings for a different environment.
Always remember that Christmas is supposed to be fun and not stressful, so give the kids the camera and see what they come up with rather than fretting over having everything perfect. You may want to experiment with doing something totally weird – like I did when my wife started taking down the Christmas tree and I found the pile of Christmas lights on the floor. I plugged them in and experimented with a slow shutter speed and wriggling my camera during the exposure. Hope everyone has a great holiday season.