As a child some of my fondest memories of Christmas were of me waking up on Christmas morning and rushing out to the living room to see all the presents under the tree.

I remember going to bed each year on Christmas Eve and pretending to be asleep. I would then hear my parents wrapping gifts and pulling out presents that they had ‘secretly’ hidden away in cupboards. As I listened my excitement grew. I knew the truth, but I’d play along. I just couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to see what presents I would get.

Unfortunately, taking photos back then was not big in my family and I don’t have any images to remember what it was really like. If only I could see photos of what my expression was like those times I woke up to find a Christmas tree laden with presents.

These days everyone has a camera so there is no excuse not to capture those priceless memories of your kids on Christmas morning.

Here are a few tips on how to make your images better as well as listing six important photos and scenes you should take so that when combined you will have a beautiful story.

Take quality photos

To avoid blurry photos you need to increase the amount of light coming into the room where you will be taking the photos. So open up all the blinds and allow as much natural light in as possible. Turning on the overhead room lights is an option but you run the risk of giving everyone dark shadows under their eyes and across their face. Using flash should be your last resort because unless done correctly it looks very unnatural. Natural window light is the best.

The best way to tell a story with your pictures

Your goal should be to tell a story with your final collection of images. So rather than having a random set of images, you could then use the images in other more creative ways. For instance you could create a family photo book or create a simple slideshow of the images with background Christmas music. By doing this you (and your kids) will have something to look back on years from now and remember the morning as it unfolded.

The best way to get all the images you need for a story is to remember E. P. G. A. D. C. or “Every Photo Gets Appreciated During Christmas”. The letters stand for Establishing, Portrait, Group, Action, Detail and Concluding. These are all the shots you need.

Apart from the Establishing and the Concluding shots the order can be randomised, but one good rule of thumb is to start off with wider shots (eg. large group shot) and then progressively get tighter and closer (eg. shot of a single person, then close up detail of something small but important to the story).

Here is the list of the six most important photos you should try to capture in order to tell your family’s story this Christmas morning.

1. The Christmas tree (Establishing shot)

Set the scene. This is Christmas so you will need a photo of the Christmas tree with all the wrapped presents underneath it. Do this before the kids wake up.

Another option would be to take a similar photo the night before on Christmas Eve. Turn the main room lights off to create atmosphere but make sure that some light is coming into the room either from nearby lamps or from adjacent rooms to avoid blur. Remember we want to create an emotional scene with the tree lights on so don’t use a flash.

2. Expressions (Portrait shots)

For me as a kid, jumping out of bed and running into the living room to see all the presents under the tree was a highlight. Almost as exciting as opening the presents.

So you’re definitely going to need photos of your kids expressions as they see the Christmas tree laden with presents for the first time. Photograph their expressions as they run into the room or when they find their present with their name on it and after they open it and have pure excitement on their face.

3. Opening their presents (Action shots)

You are definitely going to need photos of your kids as they tear wrapping paper or open boxes or while assembling their toys. Maybe even one of Dad with instruction manual in hand looking confused, wondering how the heck that bike is going to piece together.

4. Family group shots

After all the presents have been opened and things have calmed down a bit, now is your chance to take some group shots. Have the kids come together with their presents and have them looking at the camera. Next have your partner pose with kids and then it’s your turn!  Know how to set your camera to timer and position it somewhere where you can get a family photo in front of the Christmas tree.

5. Don’t forget the little things (Detail shots)

Detail shots are important especially if one day you decide to create a photo book for your family of the morning’s event. They act as great filler images that break up your story and put everything into context. Great examples of detail shots would be close-ups of decorations on the Christmas tree, the name labels or cards on the kids presents or close-up photos of their little hands as they play with their toys. The possibilities are endless.

6. Concluding photos

These are photos that wrap up your story and bring it to a conclusion. Think about how you are going to end your story. It could be photos of an empty room with wrapping paper and ripped boxes strewn everywhere. Maybe photos of your kids trying to assemble their toys or photos of your kids outside playing with their toys. I remember when I was young, well before children received electronic devices as Christmas presents, all the kids in the neighbourhood would be outside after breakfast on Christmas morning playing with their new toys. If you gave your child something like a bike imagine a beautiful photo of you or your partner trying to teach your child to ride their first bike as a conclusion to your photo story.

Final thoughts

Don’t forget to include yourself in the photos. Hand the camera over to your partner or set the camera on timer and frame it in a way that allows you be in the photos.

Try randomising your point of view. If you take all of your photos standing up and pointing the camera at your kids who are on the floor it can get boring. For different points of view try taking photos of the kids at their level, lie down on your belly or stand up on a stool.

Well there you have it, a very simple formula for telling your family’s story at Christmas. Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and an amazing New Year.

By Warren Knower, Photographer, Volare Photography