How to Take Magical Photos by the Christmas Tree

Tips & Tutorials

Photo of three kids standing by a Christmas tree in a room only lit by the tree lights.

Christmas with kids is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Their natural joy and wonder make it even more meaningful and fun. Although our tree isn’t up quite yet, these shots from last year of my children in Christmas pajamas surrounding the tree is one of my favorites of all time! Since many are starting to put up your trees, I wanted to share a quick tutorial for how to take photos by the Christmas tree!

Portrait of children around the christmas tree.

The Lighting for Photos by the Christmas Tree

First, you can plan ahead for this shot by loading up your tree with lights! This shot is lit only by the Christmas tree, so the more light coming from the tree the better. I turned off all other lights in the house.

How to Position Your Children

Because the Christmas tree is the only source of light, you will want to position the children very close to the tree. To get light on their faces, they need to be partially facing tree. I angled my children so that I could see their profiles. This allowed me to see their faces while keeping them illuminated. Once I had everyone gathered around the tree, I just told them to look at the ornaments!

The Gear and Technical Details

For this shot I was using my Canon 5d Mark iv with a 35 mm lens. I always shoot in manual mode so I can fully control my settings. If you want to learn about that, you can read my series on manual mode! My settings: ISO 3200, Aperture f/1.4, Shutter speed 1/160. Shooting at an ISO of 3200 will produce some grain in your final image, but I knew my camera handles it well and that I could tolerate a little grain. The wide open aperture of 1.4 let in lots of light to help with the low light setting, and the shutter speed of 1/160 was slow enough to let in some light, but also not too low because I know my children won’t stay still for long, and I didn’t want motion blur in the shot. If you have a subject that can stand very still, you could lower your ISO and drop use a tripod so you can really drop your shutter speed!


All my editing is done in Lightroom. When editing I lifted the shadows quite a bit (+59). I also cooled the temperature just a bit so since the lights on my tree are warm, I retained some of the warmth in the image without making everyone too orange (Temperature of 2799).

photos by the Christmas tree, children around the christmas tree

I hope this helps you achieve some magical photos this year!

Molly is a photographer based in Greenville, South Carolina. To contact Molly and book your session, click here.

Come follow along on Instagram


Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Meet Molly

Molly specializes in family & newborn photography in  Greenville, SC. A former teacher and mother of three, she is known for capturing the joy & love of families.  Photo sessions with Molly turn family memories into artwork for your home and for generations to come.