Capturing Your Christmas Tree

by Jamie MacDonald, Olympus Visionary
Shot by Jamie MacDonald, Olympus Visionary

There are few things more iconic during the holiday season than the Christmas tree. So much love and joy go into decorating and lighting it, yet so few people take photos to show off their handiwork. Today I’ll share a few tips on photographing your Christmas tree, or even your community or state tree.

Composition

The shape of Christmas trees makes shooting a portrait orientation photo the natural choice, but don’t feel like you can’t shoot them in landscape orientation as well, especially if there are presents and other decorations surrounding the tree. You might find that landscape orientation is the only way to capture your family members as they gather around the tree as well. Try to change the position of your camera to get a different perspective that just eye level. Try raising the camera over your head and shooting down on the tree, or get very low and shoot up. These views are not what most people see so offer a unique and playful perspective.

Choosing a wide-angle prime lens like the M.Zuiko 12mm f2.0, or a wide-angle zoom like the M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 PRO, will aid in getting the entire tree into your photo

Lighting

Shooting in a darkened room with the lights of the tree turned on is a great way to show off the beauty of your tree. To get the best possible photo in a darkened room put your camera on a tripod or a stable surface to avoid shaky or blurry photos.

Camera Settings

If you are shooting with the new OM-D E-M10 Mark III, I highly suggest using handheld starlight mode! This makes the need for a tripod nearly obsolete. If you do not have this mode on your camera, I suggest setting the camera to aperture priority mode, your ISO to 200, and using the widest aperture your lens has.

Remember to set your camera on something stable like a tripod or flat surface, set the in camera timer or use the O.I. Share app to trigger the camera without touching it. Depending on the scene your exposure could be up to a couple of seconds long.

Image shot with OM-D E-M10 Mark III, M.Zuiko 12mm F2.0. ISO 2500, f2.0, 1/60.

Image shot with OM-D E-M10 Mark III, M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO. ISO 200, f4.0, 1.3.

Details

While we discussed capturing the tree in its entirety, we have yet to talk about the little details that make your tree unique. I enjoy capturing close shots of family ornaments made by my children or those received as gifts. I try to frame the close-up photos with some Christmas lights behind them for that nice holiday light bokeh, or out-of-focus background.

Experiment

While we discussed capturing the tree in its entirety, we have yet to talk about the little details that make your tree unique. I enjoy capturing close shots of family ornaments made by my children, and especially photos of them hanging them! I try to frame the close-up photos with some Christmas lights behind them for that nice holiday light bokeh, or out-of-focus background.

And with the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, I use the Portrait + Nightscape mode (which takes advantage of the pop up flash) to freeze the movement of the children hanging ornaments on the tree, without losing the beauty of the tree’s lights.

Another fun technique is to use your Art Filters; Pop Art and Dramatic Tone are two that can provide exciting results (you can apply these filters directly in your camera, or later through the OI.Share app). Finally, if your camera has Photo Story mode, you can take a series of images to tell a holiday story. View Example.

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