Have you ever wanted to have professional (or at least nice) looking photos of your babies or toddlers around the holidays? I know I would. Chances are, you do to. So what stops us from getting nice looking Christmas photos of our kids?
A lot of times, a lack of money prevents us from getting great looking photos. I know personally, I can’t afford to pay for a professional photo shoot for my family. And even if I could, it can be hard to schedule it between holiday activities and the availability of a photographer.
But did you know that you can take awesome looking pictures of your kids all by yourself, without a professional photographer? Yes, it takes a bit of time and effort to learn how to, but surprisingly it isn’t as hard as it sounds. And chances are you won’t need any extra or special equipment to do it.
In this post, I’m going to walk you step by step through the process I use to take nice photos of my family, and how you can too!
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Taking Christmas Photos Of Kids
In the first section of this post, I’m going to give you the basics of getting good photos of your kids. This will include things like your setup and equipment, and how to get that perfect shot.
In the second section, I’ll cover how to edit those photos to get that professional, polished look. And finally, I’ll walk you step by step through the process of how I get great Christmas—or any—photos of my son and family.
Basics Of Taking Pictures Of Kids
Don’t get me wrong, if you want truly professional pictures, you’ll want to get yourself a good camera. However, don’t feel like you have to get a new camera in order to take great pictures.
In all likelihood, your smartphone camera will be more than enough to do the job. These days, most smartphones come equipped with pretty quality cameras (unless you have a really old phone).
The only other piece of equipment you may need is a tripod. Tripods are a great way to ensure that you can get in the picture too. They are also a great solution if you have a hard time keeping a steady hand. If you can’t stay steady while snapping pictures, your photos will turn out blurry. Tripods can help to keep the camera steady so that you don’t run into this problem.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the tripod I got off Amazon. It was inexpensive, easy to use, and very portable. I love that the tripod legs are able to be bent, which means that you can attach it to something no matter where you go. It also has a Bluetooth remote to easily take pictures of yourself or of the whole family (including you!).
When you’re aiming to take staged Christmas photos of your kids, it’s a good idea to take into consideration the setting you want to shoot at. Do you want to take pictures in front of the Christmas tree? Or maybe against a blank wall with some photo props?
Where ever you decide to take the pictures, be sure the setting has enough natural light, and in the right place. Typically you don’t want to shoot toward a window or natural light source. Doing so will cause your picture to be too bright and possibly wash out part of your photo.
Instead, aim to shoot from an angle that puts the light source behind you whenever possible. If your tree or setting is unavoidably right by a window, try shooting from an angle so that the window is not directly behind your kids and props.
Think of your props as anything you’re going to add to your setting. For example, you might use your Christmas tree as a prop, or a Christmas stocking.
Another great Christmas prop is a simple string of white Christmas lights. Personally I’ve used this prop for several Christmas photo shoots, and am never disappointed with the outcome. Just be sure to keep it out of your child’s mouth, and check it periodically to ensure the lights aren’t getting too hot.
I also like to use a white blanket for my son to sit on during the shoot, especially since our apartment carpet is kind of an ugly color. You might also try using plastic tree baubles, bells, candy canes, and any other safe decorations you have around the house already.
When you’re taking pictures of kids, the time of day is always important. Morning and early afternoon often have the best natural light, but pictures of Christmas lights typically come out better at night when it’s dark. Depending on the kind of photo you are hoping to get, this can play a part.
More than that, though, you want your kids to be well rested and happy. Trying to take pictures just before or immediately after can lead to crabby, tired, and irritable kids. And if your kids aren’t feeling well or in good spirits, you can forget about getting good pictures.
Try to take your pictures during a time of day when your kids are well rested and in good moods. This is worth sacrificing good lighting if you can’t have both rested kids and good lighting.
How To Get Great Photos
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s talk about how to get good shots. Remember, be patient. Don’t expect to get the perfect picture the first try. Also, avoid the temptation to look at every picture right after you take it. Instead, focus on taking all the pictures before you look through them.
Keep it natural
When you’re trying to take nice Christmas photos, you will likely find that it is hard to have babies and little kids, such as toddlers, pose for the pictures. It’s also pretty hit or miss for trying to get small children to smile for the camera, if they are old enough to even know what that means.
Instead, try keeping things natural. Don’t focus on posing your kids. Instead, let them interact with props and catch them enjoying themselves. Often these candid pictures are far better than stiff, posed photos. And it will be easier on your patience.
Let them have fun
Don’t be afraid to let your kids have fun. Let them play with the setting and props. Let them be in wonder of the twinkling lights, and the bright colors of baubles and candy canes. Just let them be kids.
Typically, letting your kids have fun during a photo shoot leaves you with far greater pictures than if you try to pose your child. Smiles will be natural, and you’ll probably catch some pretty funny faces!
Take a ton of pictures
When you’re taking a photo shoot of kids, the real key to getting quality pictures is to take a ton pictures. Make sure you have a good size memory card or plenty of storage space if you’re using a phone.
Don’t get discouraged if you take tons and only have a few good ones come out. Recently I did a Christmas shoot with my toddler, where I took over 160 photos. Out of all those photos, only 29 made the final cut. But that’s okay!
The point of taking a ton of pictures is to ensure that you do in fact get those handful of good pictures. Little kids move a lot, and it can be hard to get clear, focused pictures. A lot of my pictures turned out blurry, or partly blurry. But it was okay, because I took more than enough to ensure there were some good ones in there.
Another option is to take video instead of pictures, and later saving the frames. While I’ve never tried this myself, I’ve heard of a few photographers and social influences having good luck with this method.
If you’ve tried taking lots of photos but still seem to miss out on good ones, the video method may be a good option to try.
Editing Christmas Photos For A Professional Look
Now that you know how to take great photos of your kids for Christmas, it’s time to talk about editing. Anyone can take clear, quality photos (if you put in the time and effort), but the editing is really what gives photos that professional feel.
Download Editing Apps/Software
Technically I could do everything on Snapseed, but I prefer to do my basic, initial editing on Lightroom. Snapseed, on the other hand, is my go to for things like cropping, brushing, and healing certain parts of the picture.
You can get both these apps for free on your smartphone.
Experiment With Settings
Depending on what look you’re hoping to achieve, you’ll need to experiment with the settings a bit until you get the hang of editing things.
For my photos, I usually go for a brighter, vibrantly colored photo. To get this look and feel, I usually need to up the exposure, saturation, and sometimes vibrance of the photo.
Use A Preset
An alternative to manually editing the settings is to buy photo presets. Presets are settings that have been developed by professional photographers and editors and saved so that you can apply them yourself.
Presets are usually as simple as uploading them into your editing software, and then clicking a button to apply them to your photos. If you’d rather pay for a professional editing or can’t figure out settings on your own, this can be a great way to go.
Edit: I found some Lightroom presets I really liked from Lou & Marks and decided to give them a try. They are awesome!
My photos still come out with the same “feel” I had before, but it’s a much better balance of settings than I was pulling off on my own. Overall it looks much, much better. Plus, it has saved me a ton of time since I can now edit with one click.
I went with the Everyday Bright, Bright & Airy, and Aloe Vera preset packs.
How I Edited My Christmas Photos: Step By Step
In this section of the post, I’m going to take you step by step through the process I use to edit my photos. This is the same process I use for Christmas photos, and general photos that I take and use for my blog and social media.
I do all this on my phone.
1. Sort through the photos
First thing’s first. I usually take far more photos than I’ll ever use, to ensure that I get a handful of clear, quality pictures.
Before I can do any editing, I have to sort through all the photos and pick out the ones I want to keep and use. Typically I look for the photos that come out clear and focused. Sometimes that means I don’t get a smile from my toddler, but usually I get a few candid smiles along with some mischievous faces.
2. Open each photo in Lightroom
Next I open each photo in Lightroom, and adjust the following settings.
Typically, I’ll use the “auto” setting to get a baseline to work with. The auto setting will adjust what the software thinks needs to be adjusted. It also adjusts settings such as the blacks and whites, as well as highlights.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still learning to edit well, so the auto setting helps me to get a good starting point.
Exposure & Highlights
Next, I usually up the exposure into the +0.70 range. Now, that’s just my personal preference. Upping the exposure makes my photos brighter and lighter, which is the kind of photo I prefer. You may adjust it to a lower setting depending on your personal preferences.
After I’ve adjusted the exposure, I’ll sometimes edit the highlights setting. This setting adjusts any “highlighted” areas, such as an area where sun glares. This often happens on the sides of faces when the photo was taken on a bright, sunny day.
Because I heighten the exposure, sometimes the highlights need to be lowered in order to avoid washing out parts of the picture.
Saturation & Vibrance
Next, I usually heighten the saturation, and sometimes the vibrance. Saturation has to do with how much color shows up. The higher the saturation, the brighter the colors will be, whereas lowering it will make the colors duller.
How much I adjust this setting depends on the individual picture.
I also like to lower the temperature of my photos about 2-4 points. This just gives my photos a cooler tone, whereas raising it would give them a more warm tone. Again, this is my personal preference and how I adjust pictures for consistency within my blog and social media. If you prefer warmer or cooler toned pictures, by all means, do that.
3. Save to phone
Once I’m done adjusting things in Lightroom, I always save the edited photos to my phone.
4. Open in Snapseed
Next, I opened the Lightroom edited photos in Snapseed to do my final round of editing.
First, I always crop my photos as necessary. If I plan to use them on social media or on my blog, I typically crop them to a square shape.
I don’t always use an exposure brush, but I often will if the photo in question includes a wall of my apartment. We rent, and our apartment has that standard tan painted walls. My hubby swears it isn’t that bad of a color, but I don’t like it! Haha!
For that reason, I usually use an exposure brush on the walls that appear in my photos. An exposure brush basically allows you to “brush” where you want to adjust the exposure. Rather than adjusting it for the entire picture, you’re able to do it to a specific part of the photo.
For me, heightening the exposure on walls causes the walls to look like a creamier color rather than tan. Personally I prefer that look. The exposure brush can also be a good tool to lower any areas that were overexposed when the picture was taken.
While I don’t use the healing tool regularly, I will occasionally for minor touch ups. For example, in my recent Christmas photo shoot with my toddler, where was a small part of the wall behind him that had some peeled paint.
Using the healing tool, I was able to remove the peeled off paint from the picture and cause that part of the wall to look just like the rest of it. When you are trying to take more professional photos, you may find that you encounter similar problems with your setting. In this case, the healing tool can be of help to remove minor flaws.
Finally, I use Snapseed to watermark the photos that I use for social media and my blog. Of course, if you are taking photos for your personal use, you won’t need to do this.
5. Save to phone & cloud
And lastly, be sure to save your final edited photo! I also upload the final copies to a cloud storage, such as Google photos. You definitely don’t want to lose copies after all your hard editing work!
Have you taken your own Christmas photos of your kids before?
Share with me in the comments about your own experiences taking photos of your kids! Do you usually take some around the holidays? What’s the biggest thing you struggle with when it comes to taking quality photos of your children?