While every setup is different when it comes to where the natural light is compared to your Christmas tree, there are a few tricks that can help you get a picture that slightly rivals ones from years past. You know the ones — the baby is all BRIGHT! and WELL LIT! in front of an almost black-looking tree. I’ve been playing around a lot with different set ups and lighting techniques over the past month and while I haven’t yet gotten *the* tree photo that I have in my mind, I’ve figured out a few things that work and a few that don’t work so well at all. I figure the tree will be there for at least 23 more days so that’s 23 more days to practice and get the perfect photo.
Keep reading to find out a few tricks for improving your in-front-of-the-tree shots with whatever camera you happen to have available.
I’m lucky to have a window on one side of my tree. In the past I had to get pretty creative with reflective, shiny surfaces (think silver cookie sheets and white poster board) to get decent light shining in a baby’s face. I thankfully have a small arsenal of reflectors and off-camera lighting but a well-lit window is still my light of choice.
The first two photos were taken with a $150 Kodak point-and-shoot camera while the rest were taken with my Canon 40D and a 50mm 1.4 lens. To anyone with a DSLR a 50mm is one of the best multifunctional lenses you can get. A 1.8 can be bought for under $100 and is really fun to have around. (You have to move your body around with a 50mm, it doesn’t zoom in or out like other lenses which can be strange for some people to get used to.) Short of a maid, nothing will make a messy house look better than a shallow depth of field. *ahem*
Point and Shoot w/ Flash in Front of Tree. 1 of 8Bright baby, dark tree, no bueno.
Point and Shoot w/o Flash in Front of Window 2 of 8Better! The tree is more visible, the baby is more naturally lit. But look at the shoe pile by the door. That's all you can see now, huh? Better framing would have fixed this.
DSLR w/ 50mm No Flash in Front of Tree 3 of 8Lovely background, but the baby isn't very well lit. There's no light in her eyes.
DSLR w/ 50mm no Flash in Front of Window 4 of 8By just moving her three feet to the left and giving her a quarter turn she is lit by natural light coming in from a side window.
DSLR-Natural Light, Sitting on Floor 5 of 8She's a little baby, we have a lot of space from the bottom of our tree to the floor so there's a lot of not-tree space behind her.
DSLR-Natural Light, Sitting on Couch Cushion 6 of 8I sat her on a couch cushion bring her up just a bit and taking out that strange blank space. (If the tree were full of presents it would be a different story.)
DSLR-External Flash Set on Lowest Setting in the Dark 7 of 8If you want a darker background, take the photo at night with your external flash manually set to the lowest setting possible (mine is 1/64th power) This one takes a little practice but produces a lovely little glow.
This one’s just kind of funny. (DSLR-Natural Light) 8 of 8Her sister had just kissed her one time TOO MANY.
Play around with different settings, different angles and find out what works best in your house. Once you know you can plop a happy baby down any time during the day, practice until you get exactly what you’re looking for.
Now to actually print them out and put them in picture frames before NEXT Christmas.
Many thanks to Canon for sponsoring this post and for providing me with a brand new shiny PIXMA printer to play with.