Every parent wants to know how to take better pictures, especially around Christmas.  A few years ago I received the completely awesome gift of a DSLR camera, but I admit I haven’t entirely learned how to use it properly. I’ve taken thousands of pictures in auto mode, or if I’m shooting pics while my kids are playing, I’ll switch the setting over to that one that looks like a little boy running. (Hangs head sheepishly).

With Christmas nearly here, I combed the web to find so many fantastic photographers willing to share their expertise on how to make my pictures way, way better. Here are some of the best online photo tutorials specifically for holiday shots–though plenty of these tips can be used all year round. Get that clicking finger ready.

Christmas Photo Tutorials Christmas Tree | Cool Mom Picks

How to Take Better Pictures of the Christmas Tree

The picture everybody wants to capture is that magical shot of kids in front of the Christmas tree, but it’s hard. The lights can backlight your subject, and using a flash washes out all the sparkling lights Christina. Christina Conklin helps with an amazing tutorial explaining all the settings you need to capture this sweet moment. It’s really detailed and will be a huge help.


Christmas Photo Tutorials | Cool Mom Picks | Snow

How to Take Better Pictures in the Snow

Some of my very favorite pictures of my kids are in the snow. The light reflecting upward on them is just beautiful, but it can cause a whole host of photography problems if you don’t have your exposure settings right. For some great details on settings for shooting images in the snow, check out what The Photo Argus has to say, from exposure adjustments to white balance adjustment. Great hint: set the white balance for tungsten in the daylight for a pretty blue cast.

For inspiration and tips on creating beautiful images of your children playing in the snow? Read Amy Lucy Lockhart‘s very cool post at Clickin’ Moms. Her photos are exquisite, and I love the tilt-shift shots using a Lensbaby. And because she’s a mom, she even talks about the importance of keeping your kids warm enough.


Christmas Photo Tutorials Stage Performances | Cool Mom Picks

How to Take Better Pictures of Dance Performances and Recitals

This is the question that originally got me looking for photography tutorials–how to take the best pictures at my kids’ performances this winter. At most of these events you’re not allowed to use a flash, and my pictures always turn out blurry with an ugly yellow hue. I find that Phototuts+ has some fantastic tips, from where to set your aperture to how to look for the right shapes and layers in composition. Really good stuff.


Christmas Photography Tutorials bokeh | Cool Mom Picks

How to Take Better Bokeh Photos

I love when photos play with light. Bokeh is the Japanese term about making use of the aesthetics of what’s blurred or out of focus, like the beautiful bokeh Christmas lights in the background on this sweet penguin shot by Simon Keeping. If you want to create similar effects on your pictures, check out Darren Rowse’s wonderful post at Digital Photography School. He’s pulled 31 stunning examples of bokeh (including the candy cane shot at the top by Phil Peck). The trick is to use a fast or large aperture to throw the Christmas lights in the background out of focus while highlighting a main subject in the foreground. You’ll end up with little blown-out balls of light that bring the photo a magical quality.


Christmas Photography Tutorials Black & White | Cool Mom Picks

How to Take Better Photos in Black and White

While Christmas is often about lots of color, there’s something about a simple, stunning black-and-white photograph that tugs at my heart. They can be so sweet and timeless, if you’re willing to forgo the neon lights and colorful packages of the season. But it’s not easy to get that perfect balance of shadow and highlight in editing, so Katie Evans Photography has a really helpful tutorial for converting your pictures to black-and-white in Lightroom.

If you don’t use lightroom, the same idea applies to any photo editing software. We like apps like Snapseed, Afterglow, and the PicMonkey website which give more control than just a straight black-and-white filter through your phone or Instagram.


Christmas Photography Tutorials on Food | Cool Mom Picks

How to Take Better Pictures of Food

Sharing pictures of your food is a huge trend on Instagram–and the butt of many jokes. (Yes, yes, you’re eating a $30 steak au poivre at a fancy restaurant with no kids. We get it.)  Mostly, those photos are terrible; food is hard to shoot!  But if you’re interested in learning how to take high-quality photos of your Christmas spread or those lovingly decorated Christmas cookies to really wow your friends, read Pioneer Woman‘s photography tips in which she shares some hilariously humble photo “misses” of hers.

If you’re really serious about taking better food shots, also check out Jaden Hair’s tips about lighting on Steamy Kitchen which include some great side-by-side comparisons, and a ringing endorsement for Lowel EGO tabletop lights.  Maybe something to add to your Christmas wish list.


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