How to Shoot Memorable Christmas Portraits

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The yuletide season is upon us and the pretty lights give us great backgrounds to do beautiful portraits for our friends and families.


Tip 1: Find The (Front) Light


Completing an excellent portrait requires quite a few things – ample light for the primary subject and attractive lights at the back.


Having a soft main light source can be done in several ways. You can find a nice ceiling spotlight or street lamp that gives ample illumination to your subject or you can bring along a LED video lamp that creates an off-camera lighting source to bring the subject off the background.


Your smartphone’s portrait allows circular effects behind the subject. IMAGE: Wilson Wong


Tip 2: Find the (Back) Light


Once you have sorted the light for your main subject, find a nice background that can make your portrait interesting.


Nice pockets of light can be found in Christmas and Chinese New Year decorations, such as the light bulbs around the Christmas trees or the glitters and reflections of Chinese New Year decorations.


These tiny dots of light will become big blobs of circular lights when shot with the correct settings on your smartphone or camera.


This is a pretty dark tunnel and the best way to light up the subject is using a LED Light Panel. Remember to darken the background a wee bit. IMAGE: Wilson Wong


Tip 3: Use the Right Camera Settings


For big cameras, the key is always to use lenses that allow bokeh (or blur) in your photos. Set the aperture to f2.8 or below and it helps to get the background blur that you would see on a typical portrait. The best lens to do this is a relatively cheap 50mm f1.8 lens.


We can do the same on a smartphone, even though Artificial Intelligence renders the blur and not considered ‘real’. There are two ways to do it – put your smartphone camera in Portrait or Aperture mode.


Shoot through objects such as these optic fiber fairy lights gives the shot a unique look. IMAGE: Wilson Wong


Tip 4: Shoot Through Objects


Having a shallow depth of field where only the subject is relatively sharper than the rest of the image, will also make the picture unique.


You can try shooting through frames, branches, decorations etc to give the image more context.


Tip 5: Adding More Light


One of the better ways to light up your subjects is to use additional lights apart from your flash on the camera or that tiny LED pin light on the back of your phone.


Circular lights can be used for both video streaming and photography. For more effective lighting, get at least the 12-inch in diameter. The bonus effect is the round light reflection in the eyes called the ‘Catch Light’ that lends the image a professional look.


Circular lights may be too bulky to bring out and the alternative is the rectangular video LED light panel you can easily buy online. Some can even be used as a powerbank and is great for your next holiday trip.