Christmas Tree Family Photos

You’ve been wracking your brain about how to get the glowly christmas tree family photo, but you have no idea where to start. This is one of my favourite tutorials. This isn’t just another christmas family photo. There’s so much more magic involved. The innocence of childhood, how much they’re grown physically and maturity.

Technical Stuff:

If you want a low light glowy Christmas tree photo then you’ll need to shoot in manual mode.

If you don’t know Manual Mode, then check out my training on it, here. 

Discover Manual Mode

ISO: crank that baby as high as it will go. Yes, you’ll get some noise but it’ll be worth it, and some of that can be fixed in post editing.

SS: If you want to hand hold this one, don’t go below 1/160 and keep those elbows in to give yourself more stability. You can lower if you’ve got a tripod, but keep it above 1/80 because you’re kids don’t stay still.

AP: Ideally you want to be somewhere around 1.2 -2.2. The nifty fifty 50mm 1.8 is a great choice if you’re just starting out.

WB: Set to Auto, if you have warm tree lights.

Exposure: Setting your exposure is what makes the real difference on this type of photo. You’ll want to meter of the main subjects face and not off the scene as a whole, so set your metering

Top Tips for the perfect Christmas Tree Family Photo:

  • Don’t use your flash, if you really need more light. Add more christmas lights. I use at least two/three sets of white lights,
  • Turn off every other source of light there is, except if you’re tree is by an open fire.  
  • Presents make the tree look complete – Yes, I’ve used fake presents for this in the past.  
  • Looking for that sparkle in the tree lights.
    If it’s just the tree, then move your aperture to around f/16+ and you’ll get the starbursts you’re looking for. However, if you’re kids are in the shot, use a special filter.

*Cokin P056 Star 8 Filter


  • Don’t forget to take a close up shot of those favourite Christmas decorations.
  • Have fun. Experimenting with your settings and fine tuning them is suppose to me fun. Once you have the shot, start playing around, who knows you might just out do yourself.


Also published on Medium.