4 Tips for Shooting Family Holiday Photos on Your DSLR

Beth Forester


Happy holidays, everyone! Over the past few months, we’ve been sharing a lot of tips on DSLR photography, so we thought it only fitting to share a few more around shooting family holiday photos. Check them out in the video below and then read on to learn more.

Go manual & turn off your on-camera flash

This is a great time to take your camera out of automatic mode and use manual mode when shooting in front of the Christmas tree or other light-heavy decorations. In order to pick up all the details of the lights in your shots, increase your ISO and increase your aperture by lowering your f-stop. This will create a larger bokeh, or blurred, effect in the lights in the background of your photo and help your subject stand out. Read more about ISO here and read more about aperture here.

Move your subject several feet away from your tree

The tree itself, as well as the ornaments hanging on it, can be distracting if it’s directly behind the subject of your photo. Additionally, if your subject is too close it can actually make it look they’ve got strange items growing out of their head or ears! No one wants candy cane horns. Moving your subject three to four feet away from the tree will help to blur the background to avoid this issue.

Keep your shutter speed at 1/60 sec or higher

If you’re shooting handheld, you’ll need to keep your shutter speed at a minimum of 1/60 sec. If your shutter speed is lower than 1/60, you’ll record camera shake in your images, thanks to the lights in the background. Keeping the shutter speed fast is also helpful if you’re shooting small children who might be fidgety. If you’re shooting a still subject or using a tripod, you can try dropping your shutter speed to a slower setting. Read more about shutter speed here.

Use an LED light to light your subject’s face

One trick you can use when the indoor lighting isn’t great in your home is to use an inexpensive LED light to light your subject’s face. Overhead light can cause shadows in your subject’s eyes and create a raccoon effect. Use the LED light to force light into the eyes and correct this issue. Place it at a 45 degree angle to your subject’s face. A video light might sound expensive, but you can find an affordable LED light on Amazon.

Now that you’re armed with some tips, you’re ready to take great holiday family photos this year. We’d love to see what you shoot. Share your photos (or, even better, an Animoto video created with your photos) in the comments.