Taking Photos of Your Child In Front of the Christmas Tree // Tutorial
One of my favorite clients requested a photography tutorial on how to take the best photos of kiddos in front of the Christmas tree. I’m happy to oblige! While I did a quick lesson on my Facebook page last year, I’ll go into a little more depth with this blog post for you amateur photographers, and readers wanting more detail. Feel free to post questions in the comment section. There is no such thing as a dumb one! Really, I’m here to help you learn, no matter what level you’re at.
Below are 3 ways of taking the photo – natural light and two flash settings.
Setting 1: No Flash
f/2.5, 1/60 second, ISO 800, Auto White balance
With the first photo, I chose to use the available natural light, since flash isn’t my favorite (obviously my son is happiest with this setting!). I recommend using Aperture Priority mode rather than full Auto, as it will allow you to set a custom aperture. You can set this mode using the dial on the top left of your camera (see photo below). It’s usually noted as “Av”.
I set my aperture to a narrow depth of field (f/2.5) as I wanted my son in focus but a blurred background. If you want more of the background in focus, or if you’re photographing multiple children who need a larger depth of field, punch your aperture to f/3.5 or higher.
Because I was shooting in aperture-priority mode the camera chose the shutter speed for me – 1/60 of a second. This is about as slow as I’d want to go with a wiggly subject. If the camera had set the shutter speed lower, I would have chosen a more narrow aperture and/or raised my ISO to get the camera to react faster.
I set my ISO to 800. ISO is film speed, or the sensitivity of the camera sensor on digital cameras. The more light you have, the lower the needed ISO (i.e. sunny day – use 200). Since I was indoors for this photo, and there wasn’t a lot of available natural light, I used an ISO of 800. If you take the photo and it’s still blurry at this ISO, feel free to go higher – 1250 or even 2500. Keep in mind the higher you go, the grainier the photos.
For purposes of demonstration, I used an auto white balance, which is the reason for the yellow/orange coloring. I’ll show you how to fix this later on in this post.
Setting 2: Flash Bounced off Ceiling
f/2.5, 1/60 second, ISO 800, Auto White Balance
For the second photo, I kept all the settings the same (Aperture Priority, aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance) but added a flash. My flash is separate from my camera, which allows me to position it lots of different ways. When using flash, I choose to aim it up at the ceiling, rather than straight onto my subject. This makes for softer, prettier light.
Setting 3: Direct Flash
f/2.5, 1/60 second, ISO 800, Auto White balance
Again, all the other settings were the same but I changed the flash to aim directly at my son. You can see a big difference! The photo is sharper but the light is unnatural, harsh, and less flattering. By his expression, it’s obvious my son agreed with me! If you have a built-in flash, it will only let you shoot direct, not bounce. In that case, try turning your flash off and using natural light as with Setting 1, or put a white piece of paper in front of the camera (see Video here).
WHITE BALANCE CORRECTION
If we’re sticking with Setting #1 and natural light, we want to make sure the photo doesn’t come out too yellow/orange. This is done by choosing correct white balance. White balance, simply put, makes sure colors look the way they should – whites look white, blues look blue, etc. Here’s the original image, then one I corrected in Lightroom using a grey card:
You can set the white balance in using the top screen of the camera, or the back screen of the camera.
It will show a menu with symbols noted in the photo and chart below. For the Christmas tree photo, you could use AWB, Custom, Kelvin or Tungsten…
AWB – Auto White Balance. Least accurate but easiest. Just shoot and click.
Custom – Using an Expodisc or Grey Card, you can take a photo then go back into the camera and use that example photo as your Target Neutral. The camera will recognize it as the basis for white balance, and choose the most accurate setting (this gets complicated I know).
Tungsten – Appropriate for indoors where you have artificial light (if you’re in a retail or corporate building the lights could be fluorescent so use that setting instead). It’ll get you closer to correct white balance than AWB but is not as accurate as a custom setting.
Kelvin – Any white balance setting is simply a number on the Kelvin Scale. If you set your white balance to the “K” symbol, you can manually play with the numbers and keep taking photos until you find the white balance you think looks best. This strategy is kind of like playing music by ear.
Flash – If you choose to use a flash (settings 1 or 2 in this post), you can set white balance to Flash rather than AWB for a more accurate setting.
Thanks so much for reading! I know this post was a more complicated than other tutorials, but I want to get into detail for you amateurs wanting to learn the ins and outs of your camera, and increase your photography knowledge. Again, post any questions in the comment section below and I’ll be happy to answer them.
Merry Christmas everyone!