How I Photograph Christmas Morning

I realize that there are a lot of different ways to do photos and video on Christmas morning.  However, I thought I’d share my take on how I’ve been rolling on Christmas morning as the kids tear open presents and empty stockings.

I use my Canon 5D Mark II and a 50mm f/1.4 lens.  I shoot with available light since we have windows that face east in our living room.  Even with the blinds closed, they’re like a great big softbox on the wall in the morning.  I also turn on the overhead lights for good measure.

I shoot with a pretty wide aperture and work and manual mode most of the time.  I usually keep the aperture below f/2.8 and shoot mostly full shots of the kids as the open presents, with a handful of medium close-up shots along the way.

I’ve got 3 kids, so I’m like a turret shooting each one as they open presents.

My wife generally handles the Flip camera for video, so we generally come away with some pretty good moments documented each Christmas morning.

My photos of Christmas morning are hardly any sort of masterpieces; however, I want take part in the excitement with my kids instead of fidgeting with my camera settings.  Even, simple lighting and a single camera setting that I know gets the exposure real close for every shot is what’s important to me.

If you’ve got bright, even light in your designated area for present-opening, I’m big fan of shooting in manual mode and turning the flash off.  This is harder with point and shoot cameras, but with the recent high-ISO improvements these cameras are getting better and better.

Sometimes it’s hard to beat shooting with a fast lens and available light.  Last year on the day after Christmas, my son was playing his new Nintendo game in bed with the lights off.  As I walked by, I saw an opportunity for a fun shot with the 50mm f/1.4 using only the screen light of his game.

Flash would have ruined this shot for me.  Shooting at f/1.4 and ISO 6400 for a 1/50s shutter speed was just right for what turned out to be one of my favorite shots from Christmas 2010.

This is just one more reason why everyone should have a 50mm lens.

What are your tips/ideas for capturing family photos on Christmas?



  1. Dave Pierce says

    Very nice article, it hits on what is important on Christmas … the kids and involvement with them. As photographers, we due tend to get a little wrapped up in the technical. There is nothing wrong with just recording memories.