There are few things more iconic during the holiday season than the Christmas tree. So much love and joy go into decorating and lighting it, yet so few people take photos to show off their handiwork. Today I’ll share a few tips on photographing your Christmas tree, or even your community or state tree.

Christmas Tree
OM-D E-M10 Mark III, M.Zuiko 12mm F2.0. ISO 2500, f2.0, 1/60.

Composition

The shape of Christmas trees makes shooting a portrait orientation photo the natural choice, but don’t feel like you can’t shoot them in landscape orientation as well, especially if there are presents and other decorations surrounding the tree. You might find that landscape orientation is the only way to capture your family members as they gather around the tree as well.

Choosing a wide-angle prime lens like the M.Zuiko 12mm f2.0, or a wide-angle zoom like the M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 PRO, will aid in getting the entire tree into your photo.

Try to change the position of your camera to get a different perspective that just eye level. Try raising the camera over your head and shooting down on the tree, or get very low and shoot up. These views are not what most people see so offer a unique and playful perspective.

Lighting

Shooting in a darkened room with the lights of the tree turned on is a great way to show off the beauty of your tree. To get the best possible photo in a darkened room put your camera on a tripod or a stable surface to avoid shaky or blurry photos.

Camera Settings

If you are shooting with a camera like the new OM-D E-M5 Mark III or OM-D E-M10 Mark III, I highly suggest using Handheld Starlight mode! This makes the need for a tripod nearly obsolete by taking multiple exposures and combines them into a single photograph. 

If you do not have this mode on your camera, I suggest setting the camera to aperture priority mode, your ISO to 200, and using the widest aperture your lens has. Remember to set your camera on something stable like a tripod or flat surface, set the in camera timer or use the O.I. Share app to trigger the camera without touching it. Depending on the scene your exposure could be up to a couple of seconds long.

Details

While we discussed capturing the tree in its entirety, we have yet to talk about the little details that make your tree unique. I enjoy capturing close shots of family ornaments made by my children or those received as gifts. I try to frame the close-up photos with some Christmas lights behind them for that nice holiday light bokeh, or out-of-focus background.

LEARN MORE ABOUT CREATING HOLIDAY BOKEH

Decorating Tree
OM-D E-M10 Mark III, M.Zuiko ED 25mm F1.2 PRO. ISO 200, f4.0, 1.3.

Experiment

While we discussed capturing the tree in its entirety, we have yet to talk about the little details that make your tree unique. I enjoy capturing close shots of family ornaments made by my children, and especially photos of them hanging them! I try to frame the close-up photos with some Christmas lights behind them for that nice holiday light bokeh, or out-of-focus background. 

And with the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, I use the Portrait + Nightscape mode (which takes advantage of the pop up flash) to freeze the movement of the children hanging ornaments on the tree, without losing the beauty of the tree’s lights. 

Another fun technique is to use your Art Filters; Pop Art and Dramatic Tone are two that can provide exciting results (you can apply these filters directly in your camera, or later through the OI.Share app). Finally, if your camera has Photo Story mode, you can take a series of images to tell a holiday story.

Bonus Christmas Tree Capturing Tips from the Olympus Team

  • Did you know you can make the lights on your tree appear as shapes? Learn how to make Christmas Tree-shaped lighting effects right in your camera. VIEW TIPS FOR CREATING LIGHT SHAPES 
  • Timelapes are a fun way to capture trimming (or even taking down) your Christmas Tree. VIEW TIPS FOR HOLIDAY TIMELAPSES.
  • After Santa puts the last present under the tree and everyone has gone to bed for the night, turn on your tree's lights and get a few wide shots of your tree and the presents underneath before the chaos of the morning present-rush.
  • For more holiday photography tips, visit our Holiday Photography Tips resource center.

ABOUT JAMIE MACDONALD

Web: jmacdonaldphoto.com
Twitter: @MacDonald_Photo
Instagram: @MacDonald_Photo

Jamie MacDonald is a nature and stock photographer and social influencer living in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. A husband and the father of two boys who are widely featured in his work, he describes his love of photography as one that is “rooted in the desire to move people to see the world around them in new ways.

LEARN MORE ABOUT JAMIE

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