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17 tips for getting your best Christmas photos yet

7. Keep a camera close to hand

Image: Marc Romanelli, Getty Images

Image: Marc Romanelli, Getty Images

It’s not exactly practical to always have a DSLR or mirrorless camera to hand, but Christmas always gives you a few unexpected moments that you may want to relive. 

Try to keep a small camera of some kind close to hand, be it a compact or even just your smartphone, so that you can be prepared for spontaneous events, from the lighting of the Christmas pudding to the tree falling over or any other mishaps. Obviously make sure you have a camera to hand when opening presents too!

8. Don’t forget about continuous shooting

We don’t tend to associate continuous shooting with capturing images indoors, as this is generally called upon when photographing sports and other outdoors-based action photography. Christmas is, however, filled with moments that pass in seconds ­– and it’s all too easy to miss them if you shoot too soon or too late.

Switching to your camera’s continuous shooting option will increase your chance of getting the shot at the very right moment, so take advantage of this. If needing to shoot for longer than a couple of seconds or so, see if you can switch to a slower burst option so that your buffer doesn’t fill up too soon, as this may prevent you from taking any more images. 

It’s also worth remembering that your camera is likely to offer video recording, which can be used in such a situation too. Some even allow you to extract individual frames from captured footage and save them as JPEGs.

9. Boost your bokeh with wide apertures

Image: Paul Mansfield, Getty Images

Image: Paul Mansfield, Getty Images

A quick Google Images search for Christmas photos shows a common theme among the most popular images: images that have out-of-focus Christmas tree lights in the background. 

It might be something you want to capture too, and you’ll achieve better results if you make sure that these out-of-focus parts (often called ‘bokeh’) turn out nice and round.

High-quality lenses will often be designed with rounded aperture blades to help you achieve this, but what can you do with cheaper lenses? As a general rule, the wider the aperture you use, the more likely it is that you’ll end up with smooth, round bokeh, rather than bokeh with defined edges. Start off with the widest aperture you can get away with and go from there.

10. Flash is your friend

Just because there may not be much light around doesn’t mean that you can’t add some yourself. A hotshoe-mounted flashgun, or even the small flash inside most cameras, can add some much needed illumination to a darker scene.

At this time of year flash is particularly useful for when you're capturing people against darker areas, whether it’s outdoor scenes studded with Christmas lights or indoors against the Christmas tree. The key here is to get a slow enough shutter speed to make sure the background is correctly exposed while filling in the foreground (where your subjects are) with the appropriate amount of flash. So, if you're using flash and your background is too dark, try using a slower shutter speed.

Bright and colourful lights typical of this time of year also make it a good time to experiment with slow-sync flash. This flash mode, which is available on even cheaper compact cameras, lets you capture a subject sharply while blurring the background through intentional movement, and this can look great when there are lots of different lights and colours in the scene.