Tutorials: Christmas Portrait Photography

Flash photography

Many of your festive family pictures will be taken indoors. In the relatively low light most Canon cameras will automatically fire the built-in flash. Sometimes the built-in flash can give harsh background shadows. To avoid this you should keep your subject well away from light coloured walls or curtains.


If you use a Canon EOS (or selected Powershots) and a Canon Speedlite flashgun you can attach a Canon Off Camera Shoe Cord. This allows the flashgun to be used at arm’s length from the camera. If you hold it up and to the side of the camera you can obtain better portrait lighting. With autofocus, it is relatively easy to hold and fire the camera with your right hand while holding your left hand out with the Speedlite.

Ambient light

You might not need flash. Digital cameras are quite good at shooting in low-level ambient light, either daylight from a window or artificial light. You can change the ISO setting to increase the sensitivity of the camera to light. All Canon digital cameras offer ISO 1600; the top of the range EOS-1D X offers up to 204800!

The downside of high ISO speeds can be increased ‘noise’. Canon cameras use advanced noise reduction technology to minimize the effect. Take a few test shots at high ISO speeds to see if the results are acceptable.

In ambient light, the camera might set quite a slow shutter speed. Keep an eye on this. If the shutter speed drops below about 1/60 second you might need to use a tripod or support the camera on a table or chair back. You will also need to ask your subject to stay still for a moment as you take the picture.

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Photographic Composition
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Water photography
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Black and white photography
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Christmas portrait photography