Christmas trees are the symbol of the holidays themselves and the centerpiece for your home’s festive spirit. Fully decorated, they capture a sense of magic and wonder unique to winter – making them an excellent photo opportunity.
Because it’s such an obvious subject, it can be a little tricky to make your image stand out. So, what can you do to make the most of your Christmas tree through the lens?
Fill the space
Size might not be everything, but a big tree is not only impressive, it helps encourage the holiday spirit. A big part of the wonder we feel at a spectacular winter display is how it makes the impossible seem real.
No matter how big your tree actually is, there is always room for maximizing its impact. If you’ve ever seen a picture of something that seemed much larger or smaller than it actually is, then you’ve run into perspective.
Just like it sounds, it’s all about where you take the picture from. Our natural inclination is to take a photograph from head or chest height. We can’t make the tree bigger, but we can make the camera smaller. Taking the shot from low down and tilting your camera upwards, like you would crane your neck to look at a tall building, will give your tree the sense of lofty height it deserves.
Another example of changing the perspective:
A focus on the important
The main focus in a Christmas tree picture is, unsurprisingly, the tree itself. Photographs that are too busy will detract from your final shot, so make sure you find an angle which keeps distractions out of view.
Just because we have a clear main subject doesn’t mean we can’t make the background work for us. If you have Christmas lights and a DSLR, placing them behind your tree and using a narrow depth of field can create a wonderful festive light show in the background, while the lack of crisp focus keeps the background just that.
If you don’t have a DSLR, or your tree is in the corner, don’t worry. You might not be able to capture a supporting light show, but the corner itself will help frame the tree, with the nice, converging lines of the walls drawing the eye to its central, vertical line.
Red and green, gold and silver
Color plays a huge role in how we perceive the world – so much so, our eyes alter things for us, making things look consistent even when the light is different.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending) they don’t do this for us when we are looking at two-dimensional images, such as photographs. On one hand, this can make it tricky to capture things as they really are – but on the other, it lets us enhance things to make them just that touch more perfect than they were.
If buying into a beautiful illusion sounds a little like the holiday spirit, you’re not wrong and we can apply that to our Christmas tree pictures. If you’re using your phone’s camera, your options for color grading will be limited to filters, unless you intend to edit your photographs afterwards.
If you are using editing software, you have more control – but you are still looking for the same thing. So, whether you’re grading colors manually, or swiping to find a filter that’s just right, you are looking for vibrant colors.
Especially for the parts of your picture that are Christmas colors. Whether that’s the green needles on the tree itself, or red baubles hanging from it, make sure they stand out. The nice thing about Christmas pictures is we spend a few months every year of our lives learning what things are supposed to look like, so when you get your colors just right, you’ll know.
Setting the scene
While the tree is the main ingredient, it doesn’t have to be the only thing adding to the flavor of the image. Anything with a festive feel can play a supporting role, helping to set a stage for your photo to flourish.
Everything from gifts to candles can help create that Christmas feeling, and it never hurts to get creative. The surest way to stand out is to do something a little bit differently, as long as your addition makes sense.
Christmas is a time for everything to be perfect – why should your photograph be any different?