Photo tip {Christmas tree pics}

UPDATE: 10.11

Welcome all those coming here from Pinterest. Funny how old posts find new life over there! This post is actually from 2008. You can find more random photo tips on my Photo page. I also teach photography online at SnapShop.


I thought I’d share a little tip on taking pictures of your kids (or whatever else) in front of the Christmas tree. Most that I see have the child right next to the tree and the picture is taken at night using a flash. I am guessing the reason for taking it at night is to see the lights on the tree. On the pictures below you will see the common way to take tree pictures on the left. On the right, I took this during the middle of the day. Our front window was to a bit behind and to the left of my boy. As you can see the lights still come out great and the lighting on him is much more natural.

To do this I recommend:

* Put your child a bit in front of the tree, not right up next to it

* Get natural light on your child’s face. This means you might have to move the tree a bit and put the child between the window and tree with you next to the window – if you don’t have great natural light already

* Use the Av mode (set it to the smallest number) and turn off your flash



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  • Ari - yes, I find this very helpful, Ashley. I love reading your blog! And your family is beautiful!

  • katie - Absolutely helpful! Thanks SO much for these wonderful tips! They are GREAT!

  • megan - Yes! I need all the help I can get.

  • Lesley - Rett looks so happy! Thanks for the tips, you’re so talented.

  • michele v. - Keep the great tips coming. I really enjoy your website.

  • Trinity - Your tips are SO helpful. Thanks!

  • Rachel - I definitely agree that the natural light picture looks tons better. Great tip. However, I have to mention that this before and after shot reminds me of the weight loss photos where, in the “before” picture the person is never smiling and then in the “after” picture the person has a huge smile (and usually tons of make-up). Anyway, I thought it was funny that Rett was smiling so big in the “after” picture.

  • yvonne - yes yes. love your helpful hints! i’m going to try it!! thanks. yvonne~

  • Jamin Garoutte - I love the feel that all of your images carry. As a photog-hobbyist, I know some about photography, but it’s the little details (like what you have outlined here) that make your images stand out. These techniques are the things that I miss and wouldn’t know without people like you being gracious enough to share. You won’t lose business by telling some of your secrets–Things like this will draw more people to your blog, which in turn can bring MORE clients.

  • sheridan - Yes Yes Yes these are so helpful and I feel like such a dork with how excited I get to see photo tip posts! Keep them coming and thank you so much! You are very talented and so generous to share with all us!

  • Lauren - We love your tips ASH!

  • Chelsea - Thanks so much Ashley! It was fun, they are super nice people.

    Your little guy is so cute!

  • Carrie Sowell - Very helpful, except we won’t have a tree this year. Moving the week of Christmas is too much stress. I’ll be doing good to get gifts!! πŸ™‚ I’m going to have to borrow someone’s tree to take pictures!

  • Jeannette Swan - I don’t know anything, so here is a dumb question…is the “smallest number” -2 or zero? I love tips and look forward to trying them out?

  • carrie - Yes These are very helpful! I can’t wait to hear about your classes! Keep us posted.

  • meg duerksen - you are a rock star.
    so helpful and you will improve so many people’s photos! what a HUGE difference the light makes.

  • Lesley - I’m going to have to agree with Rachel on this one. Too funny!

  • Brandi - I really love these photo tips. You have such great talent. πŸ™‚

  • jesse - This is great! You always have such great tips! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • bopha27 - Those posts are wonderful, I hope to one day attain photography greatness (although I put my camera on Av mode and have no idea how to adjust it down to the smallest, which is -2).

  • AshleyAnn - It is brought to my attention that the Canon Rebel has an Av mode (on the turn dial) and an Av button (on the back). Use the Av that is on the turn dial (which is aperture priority mode if you need to look in your manual). Once you select this you will change the Av number. For most kit lenses (the ones the come with a camera) the smallest number is around 4.0. It will be listed as f/4.0. Anything that goes from -2 to +2 deals with your exposure – a entirely different thing. So check your manual, go to Aperture Priority Mode and choose the smallest f/#. Mine were shot at f/2.8. If your lens only goes to f/4.0, you will need to buy a different lens to get a smaller number.

  • Jeannette Swan - Thanks for the last explanation…I ordered the lens you told me about the other night. I hope you don’t get tired of my silly questions! Can you just sign me up now for the class???? Just kidding – but you know I need it!

  • tania410bery - nice!

  • Melissa - This will be my first Christmas as a mommy so this is a very helpful tip for when it comes time for fun Christmas pictures!
    Thanks for sharing!

  • B - Great post! πŸ™‚ For those wondering what the small number is, it’s your f/stop (ie f/1.8).

    It’s also worth mentioning that you might need to really increase your ISO (800+) in AV mode to avoid camera shake/motion blur if there isn’t enough light. You don’t want your shutter speed to be slower than 1/160 for handheld/living subject. A lens like a 50mm f/1.8 will be really beneficial as it can open up much wider than a kit lens (ie. 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6). Also, the kit lens opens up to f/3.5 on the wider end of your lens (ie 18mm), whereas the 55mm end of your lens only opens up to f/5.6, which doesn’t let much light in at all. So shoot on the 18mm end, although keep in mind there is more distortion with the 18mm end. If you need to use a speedlite, keep the power really low, drag your shutter, and increase your ISO. You don’t want the flash to overpower the Christmas lights. Focus on the closest eye to the camera by you manually picking your focal point.

    …Shoot as close as possible to your subject, and ditto keeping your subject at least 4-6 feet away from the tree, so the tree/lights are blurry (bokeh).

    Sorry if I was butting in, just thought I’d add some more info! πŸ™‚

  • Becca - SO helpful! My cmas picks last year look exactly like yours on the left. I could see the difference right away I just don’t always think of making those changes.

    It would be helpful to know what kind of lens you are using or if you are using a point and shoot. You may have covered this in a previous post.


  • Maria - Thank you for this tutorial, I am going to try it out this year!!

  • Leslie Y - This is very helpful! This year is my son’s very first Christmas so this will definitely be a handy tip. By the way, how old is your son here? My Roman looks a lot like your son in this picture!

  • Tanaya - Very helpful I have a NikonD 3000 and love the camera but am by all means just a parent that enjoys taking phots of my daughter. Any good ideas would be appreciated.

  • Lauren - Very helpful! I would love to here more tips!

  • gretchen - Yes! I’m a sponge πŸ™‚ Thanks for the great, “enlightening” post.

  • Samantha M - Came here from interest. Such a great tip!! Loving your blog! πŸ˜€

  • Diane - thanks for the awesome tip! Can’t wait to use it…..

  • Tiffany - Great tips, thank you! By the way, your blog is wonderful!

  • Brandi King - Yes, very helpful….Thank you for sharing! I’ll be watching for more useful tips from you! I love taking pictures and I love any info that I can get!

  • giozi - Heyyyyy I came from Pinterest too. I recognized your child and I just wanted to say HI


  • Aimee - I love this tip! I’ll be using it soon!

  • Dawn - Thanks for the GREAT tip, LOVE Pinterest! πŸ™‚ But I’ll be back to check out the rest of your blog!

  • Leighann - Great tips!!
    Thank you!

  • Tasi - Yes, this was very helpful!

  • Jacqueline - Yes, thank you! I saw this on Pinterest and am passing it along.

  • Fotografie-tip: bij de kerstboom - Kaartje2go Nieuws - […] bron: Ashleyann Photography […]

  • Carrie - You’re awesome. Thank you for sharing. You are an inspiration.

    Merry Christmas

  • Monica - Absolutely helpful, thanks.

  • Becky - Very helpful and by moving the subject away from the tree they are less tempted to touch said tree!

  • Lori - couldnt have been better timing. Thanks

  • cheryl @ nefotlak - super healpful tip! found you through Pinterest.
    thanks for posting this.

  • Jessica - Taking decent photos of the kids in front of the tree is so difficult. Thank you so much for sharing this great tip! I shared a link to your blog post on a blog for which I write. I hope that’s okay! I’m still new at this. πŸ™‚ You can see it here:

  • Kristy - What a difference in those two pictures! I am guilty of the type on the left, so glad to find you from Pinterest. πŸ™‚

  • Photo Tips To Try Before you Take Down The Christmas Tree! β€” Julia's Kuku Parties - […] looking for tips I stumbled across one from Ashley Ann photography about taking better photos in front of the Christmas tree. She recommends a few simple things that […]

  • Nancy - You relly seem like you know your stuff thanks. I was oundering how to take good basketball action shots in gyms? Also how to take action football night shots. I probably need a different lens of 2 but not sure what is the one to look for . I shot with a Cannon digital Rebel XT have the 18-55 lens and the 75-300 zoom. Any help would be greatly apprectated!

  • Michelle - Great tips! My pics always look like the ”bad” example on the left when I really want a beautiful photo like the one ln the right! Thanks!

  • Vicki penner - Love the tips!

  • allison - when i saw this on Pinterest i thought it was 2 different trees and 2 different kids at first! thanks for the tips.

  • james - Yes very helpful cause I don’t know settings on my camera my fiance will love this thanks

  • Amanda - Absolutely!!! Thank you so much!!!

  • Jennifer - Thank you so much for the tips πŸ™‚

  • Siobhan - What a cute baby!! Thanks for the tip

  • Lana - This is very helpful information. I just got a Nikon Coolpix L105 and not all that sure how to use it like you suggest though. Can someone help me?

  • LaWanda - This helps alot! I have been doing it wrong for 25 years, who knew!!!

  • Laura - Love this tip and can’t wait to try it with my little one this Christmas!

  • Trish Basler - So simple and such a great idea…can’t wait to try it.1

  • Ali - Found your site on pinterest.
    Very helpful. I don’t have any fancy photography equipment, and am always looking for ways to get professional looking pics without paying an arm and a leg.
    I’ll have to try this!

  • Laura - I love this site…you have wonderful and very helpful tips especially when photographing children! Thanks again.

  • Larisa - I have an 11 month little girl and I don’t know much about photography, this was very helpful since all the homemade Christmas pictures came out blurry last year. Thanks for a really good tips πŸ™‚

  • Lindsey - Thank you so much for the tip! I have a Nikon D3000. I am not sure what the “AV mode” is. Do you have any ideas?

  • Tish G - What is the Av setting? I have a Nikon and I don’t see that option. (Sorry, still learning here)

  • karenina armstrong - Thank you!

  • Dee - This does help when taking pictures, thanks 4 taking the time 2 post, any other tips would be aprisiated .

  • Lisa - Love this… now we just have to get our tree up to give it a try! πŸ™‚

  • Charity - Yes! Very helpful. Simple, straightforward. Not bogged down with too many setting details. More! More!

  • candy - cant wait to try

  • Gayle Garrity - Yes, love this information. Thank you for sharing. Valuable information for me. I am a real estate agent and hearing your suggestion to use the AV mode and set it to the smallest number will be most helpful.

  • Judy - Great info!! Thanks for sharing the secret to good photos. I’m going to try this!

  • G-ma Debbie - I love your photography tips. I’m always trying to get good shots of our grandchildren but somehow seem to mess up. Thanks…..keep up the good work!

  • Stephany - yes very help full found the post on pinterest while looking up ideas for photos that I could do with a 9 month old.

  • International Decor - have cute face and smile πŸ™‚

  • amber - What lense would u recommend for a cannon rebel t3i for this type of pic?

  • Jeanie - Awesome photos and tips! It always bugs me how people always stand on top of something – a wall, bush, tree. I used to do that, guilty as charged. Now I have a digital camera I’ve learn it always looks better to have some distance (depth) in the photo between objects. Your comparison photos show that fabulously.

  • Esther Browning - I have three boys that I love to take photo’s of. They are young and tend to have short attention spans. This and any other family portrait idea’s, in and outdoors, would be wonderful.
    Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

  • Lori - What iSO do you us for these photos? What about Christmas morning? How do you set your camera then?

  • Sarah G - Lindsey – Thank you so much for the tip! I have a Nikon D3000. I am not sure what the β€œAV mode” is. Do you have any ideas?
    Tish G – What is the Av setting? I have a Nikon and I don’t see that option. (Sorry, still learning here)

    on a D3000 it is the “A” setting on the dial πŸ™‚

  • Evelyn T. - Can you do this with a normal digital camera? Mine is nice and has lots of settings but I just know a few.



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  • Kara Markley - What were your exact settings if you recall? ISO, Shutter speed?

  • Brooke - What if I don’t get natural light in the window behind the tree? We have an enclosed patio outside and it reduces the light in our living room dramatically. This is our daughter’s first Christmas and I’m recreating a photo of me on MY first Christmas. I really want them to turn out just as beautiful!

    Thanks for your help!
    Brooke & little Juniper <3

  • Rachel - I know this is an Old post but can you tell me what kind of settings I should use? I have a Canon Rebel T1I. I have 2 3 year olds and a 19m old who thinks he is 3. Not having to do so many trial and errors would be great! Thanks!

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