Christmas picture ideas: Create a human Christmas tree!

Get the right kit

Looking for a great Christmas picture idea? The holiday season has started early in these COVID times, with many people putting up their Christmas decorations already so that they can start feeling festive. 

Whether you've already got your decorations out, or you're looking for an excuse to pick up some more lights to start making your home more merry, here's a cool and creative Christmas picture idea that turns your subject into a human Christmas tree!

Our friends over at The School of Photography came up with this brilliant project, for which you're going to need a set of lights (single or multicolored, depending on the effect you'd like to achieve), along with a flashgun – or you could use a bright torch, if you don't have a strobe. 

(Image credit: The School of Photography)

You'll also need to mount your camera on a tripod, and you'll need to be shooting in a room that's as dark as possible, with a dark background. Use blackout curtains if you have them, but now that it gets dark so much earlier you can simply wait until the sun goes down. 

In addition to a subject to shoot, you'll also need an assistant to swing the lights for you and create the Christmas tree effect that we're going for. Your subject needs to be a bit off the ground, so they can stand on something like a fitness / yoga step to gain a bit of height. Your assistant needs to be be taller than your subject – otherwise, get them a small stepladder to stand on!

Here's what you'll need to do in order to create this quirky Christmas effect. Try experimenting with white lights instead of colored ones to create more of a winter image than a specifically Christmassy one – and you can also experiment with multiple subjects to create a grove of trees!

Get set up

(Image credit: The School of Photography)

Choose a lens that enables you to fit your whole subject in the frame. This will depend on the amount of space you have to work with, but your kit lens or a 50mm standard prime should do the trick. 

You'll need to shoot in manual mode to accommodate the lighting conditions. Set your ISO to 100 (or as low as it will go) and the aperture to f/22, and adjust the shutter speed to 15 seconds – you can increase this if you feel that you need more time to get the shot. 

Mount your camera to the tripod, and set it to a two-second timer to reduce camera shake when you depress the shutter. Alternatively, you could use a camera remote to activate the shutter from afar.

Lights, camera… swinging! 

(Image credit: The School of Photography)

With your subject elevated slightly on their step, get your assistant to carefully climb onto the ladder behind. Turn on your lights, and make sure that all external illumination in the room is switched off. 

Your assistant will need to swing the lights around the subject, in a conical shape. Experiment with your composition, and coordinate with your assistant on the pattern they're creating to get the look you want. 

With your framing set, once your assistant has established a rhythm it's time to take the shot! Make sure to experiment – try adding bursts of flash or even torch light, changing the color of lights you're using, add props, make faces… have fun taking your shot, and it will come through in the finished image!

Read more: 

Photography tips, techniques and videos
Home photography ideas
Create a Christmas photo card

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