You can get the best pictures during Christmas by following a few simply guidelines.
1 Get Candid – While posed photos have their place, our hearts lie in those candid unplanned moments. Watch for the thrill of surprise on a child opening a favorite gift. Catch that look of love in someone’s eye who is looking on the festivities from a distance. Maybe it’s that unexpected kiss under the mistletoe. You can really capture the spirit of the holidays and put on film the true nature of your subjects when you just shoot when they aren’t expecting it.
2 Be Prepared – In order to catch those unscripted moments, you have to be at the ready. You can’t call for a do-over because you weren’t in position to see what was happening and snap your shot. Have your camera ready, charged up if necessary, film or memory cards on hand and have your camera out and be prepared to shoot at a moments notice.
3 Close-Ups – Numerous shots of a room full of packages, decorations, the tree and a crowd of family won’t have near the impact of a close-up shot that is clearly focused in on an action, or a person. Get rid of all the distracting extra clutter and really zoom in on what you want to focus on.
4 Unusual Perspectives – I have taken pictures laying under the tree looking up into the lights and the ornaments and really appreciated the different point of view that it gives to the photos. Don’t be afraid to get down on the ground or up on the stairs and take a photo from a different angle. A close-up of a shiny ornament reflecting the face of a loved one takes advantage of the close-up tip and the unusual perspectives tip.
5 Ignore the Calendar – Great Christmas photos are not restricted to December 25th. There are plenty of great photo ops in the weeks leading up to the big day. Don’t neglect to record the gift wrapping and the tree trimming. Hanging decorations and sorting ornaments with the kids can be memorable moments that you will want to document just as much as the actual gift opening.
6 Share the Camera – Don’t put all the burden of the holiday photos on one individual. Pass off the camera to someone else and you will get totally different photos and perspectives on what is memorable and beautiful this holiday season.
7 Pose Purposefully – Posed photos should have a small group of subjects close together. You don’t want your family Christmas photos to come out looking like those elementary school class pictures where everyone is lined up in neat little rows on risers, looking stiff and uncomfortable.
8 Unexpected Events – While doing home photos, one usually looks for the smiles and happy moments. Sometimes the best memories come from what went wrong. Take that picture of the cat climbing up the tree to get the star. Maybe the kids decided to stick all the package bows to themselves. These are the types of images that will bring back the bittersweet memories of the season.
9 Get the Kids in the Game – One year we gave everyone of the children a disposable camera and let them snap away at whatever they wanted. Photo processing is inexpensive and the results are sometimes very surprising. Not only that, but they will have a great time taking their own photos.
10 Practice a little ahead of time. Play with the lighting and flash and see what kind of results you get before the actual holiday gathering happens.
Christmas Celebrations, How to Take Great Christmas Pictures
Better Photo, How to Photograph Christmas Lights and Other Holiday Events
Digital Photography School, 16 Digital Photography Tips For Christmas