Christmas is right around the corner (again) and if you’re like me when any big holiday or event rolls around, you’re already thinking about how you’ll document it. Maybe you have lofty goals for the photo album you’ll create about Christmas morning this year or maybe you’re stressing out about capturing baby’s first Christmas perfectly. You might be totally overwhelmed by the thought of trying to photograph Christmas morning; you know how hectic it can be with presents flying and maybe a kid crying. Don’t worry! Over the years I’ve learned how to capture the joy of the day without driving myself crazy trying to get everything while still staying present. Ready to learn how to do the same this year?
1. Don’t try to capture it all.
No joke, there were a few Christmases growing up when my parents would set up the camcorder and record the entire morning. I don’t know if we ever sat down to watch those videos, but we had those tapes just in case. Now, setting up a camera on a tripod and letting it run doesn’t take much effort, but the point is, we didn’t need every second recorded. If you’re ready with your camera before the kids walk into the room and don’t stop shooting until they’ve eaten lunch, that’s not going to be much fun for you and you probably won’t even do anything with half of the images you take. Slow down, take breaks from the camera and open some gifts. Focus instead on capturing some of the moments I highlight below.
2. First Look
If you can manage to get in position before the kids come into the room to see their presents, definitely try to get their reactions to the tree and pile of gifts. This is the first moment of the day so you won’t feel run down yet and you won’t have to take yourself out of the excitement to get this shot. If I make it a priority to get the First Look when excitement is peaking, I don’t feel pressured to continue shooting the whole day.
3. A Few Big Reactions
You know your kids. You know what the big ticket items on their Christmas lists are so be ready when they’re opening those gifts. Take a break when they’re opening socks and sweaters and wait for their ear-to-ear smiles when they open their new Lego set or scooter.
Yep, I’m going to talk about details again. When there’s so much going on, it can be a nice break to focus on capturing a few details that are unique to your Christmas experience. All of our Christmas trees and piles of presents look different. Take a picture of the set up before the kids tear it apart (I know you stayed up all night on Christmas Eve wrapping those gifts). Take a picture of the stockings lined up and stuffed full. Get a shot of those decorations that have been in your family for years and your favorite ornament before it’s broken.
What do we do after we finish opening presents and have had some coffee? We play! All day. In our house, we spend hours opening our new toys and playing as much as we can. Because this takes up most of our day, there’s no real rush to get shots of it. Take your time with getting pictures of the kids playing in between playing with your own new gifts.
6. The Aftermath
The mess. The never ending, room destroying mess. There’s something different about the mess from Christmas morning and literally any other mess. Those twisty ties scattered on the floor, the candy wrappers, the tape stuck to the bottom of your foot and the mountains of wrapping paper all mean that Christmas hit hard. It’s a happy mess and one that consumes the house with unmatched speed. Take a picture of it. And then start deep cleaning because the mess is stressing you out… unless that’s just me.
7. Special Traditions
Every family celebrates Christmas a little bit differently from the next family. Sure, most of us follow the same rough schedule, but I’m sure not everyone watches The Muppet’s Christmas Carol the night before. You all don’t eat donuts for breakfast. What do you do with your family beyond opening presents? How fun will it be for your kids to see pictures of your family traditions in 20 years when they’re carrying them on with their own families? They don’t have to be flashy or really amazing, but if they’re special to you, try to get a picture or two.
Hey self-appointed family photographer, can you get in a couple of shots? I know you did most of the shopping and stayed up too late wrapping presents on Christmas eve. Hand the camera over to your partner or kids so THEY can see your reactions. Try setting your camera up for a self-portrait so you can get in the frame with everyone. Still struggling? Check out my free self-portrait guide here.
But of course you can always just keep the camera on its shelf. Everyone will still have a good time and remember how awesome Christmas morning was. I hope you use this list to have a wonderful and stress-free holiday season this year!