Photographing The Magic of Christmas Morning

Photographing Christmas morning can be exciting and overwhelming. Check a few last minutes details before Christmas morning:

  • Charge your batteries.
  • Clear your memory card and have extras ready.
  • Check the batteries in your flash. Have spares ready.
  • Dial in your settings for the morning.

If your house is like mine, our living room gets really cluttered. People and things tend to be everywhere. This year I’m not going to worry about perfect composition and clean backgrounds. I want my Christmas morning to feel and look like the actual event.

I love that the clutter in Christmas morning images can trigger memories of moments, gifts, and special time spent with family.


You may be reluctant to use your flash on Christmas morning. I know my family is never thrilled to have a bright strobe greet them first thing in the morning!

If you want great Christmas morning photos without the flash, you will need to create a little light! You can get light from adjusting:

  • ISO – bump it up to a higher number.
  • Aperture – choose a wide aperture (small f/#).
  • Shutter speed – leave it open longer.

On Christmas morning, get your light from ISO and Aperture. If you slow your shutter speed down, you will have blurry photos with unidentifiable people in them.

Let me give you one more source for light, not a source I typically suggest. Turn your room lights on.  Create ambient light by turning on lamps, overhead lights, and Christmas lights to brighten your room.

Open the shades and let any light from outside pour in. This will give you that extra boost so you can get a shutter speed fast enough to stop motion.

If you have available window light, try to position yourself so the window light is on the faces of the people you are shooting and on your back.

Christmas morning, no flash, AV mode

  1. Set your camera to Aperture Priority mode (AV or A).
  2. Choose spot metering.
  3. Choose an ISO of 800. This number may vary based on your light, don’t be afraid to bump it up.
  4. Make sure your shutter speed stays above 1/125 to avoid motion blur. If you can’t keep it there, you may want to consider adding flash.
  5. Shoot.
  6. Check your histogram and LCD.
  7. Adjust your exposure compensation if necessary.
  8. Reshoot.
  9. Have a wonderful day.

Christmas Morning With Flash

My photos are always better on Christmas morning when I do use my flash. I need that extra light. It seems we get up earlier and earlier the older my son gets! This will change when he hits the teen years, right?!

  1. Set your camera to Manual Mode (M).
  2. Choose spot metering.
  3. Choose an ISO of 400.
  4. Set your shutter speed to 1/125th of a second.
  5. Set your aperture to f/5.6.
  6. Turn your flash on.
  7. If you are using an external flash, adjust it to bounce off of a ceiling or wall.
  8. Shoot.
  9. Check your histogram and LCD.
  10. Adjust your flash compensation if necessary.
  11. Reshoot.
  12. Have a wonderful day.

Point & Shoot Without A Flash

For Christmas morning photos without your flash, shoot in portrait mode. It will give you a large aperture, bringing in more light. Review your images to make sure you like the results. Point and shoot cameras are not as sensitive to light and may need the flash.

If you need your flash consider diffusing it some! To reduce the direct burst of flash, cover it with tissue paper or a plastic container. The light will be reduced and diffused, eliminating its harshness.

Some point and shoots, but not all, will let you adjust the intensity of the flash. Check in your manual to see if that is an option for you!

If you feel like you’ve messed up your camera somehow, you can reset to factory defaults in your menu. That can be helpful just in case something got bumped unintentionally.


Enjoy the moments on Christmas morning.

If all your photography knowledge jumbles together on Christmas morning, place your camera on Auto and don’t worry about. There are no camera settings police!

Whether you get good or “not so great” photos, it is the moment you want to treasure! Enjoy your holiday.

Merry Christmas!

Katrina is a team member here at The Daily Digi, be sure to also check out Katrina’s CaptureYour365 for more great photography tips and daily photo prompts!