Because my heart for photography started with my desire to document everyday memories, it’s no surprise that I LOVE taking Christmas morning photos! But since we have had kids, I have found myself more and more aware of the fact that, most of the time, I am not in the frame with my family. For a while, I felt totally ok with this… Us women are terribly self-critical, and not being in the photos meant not scrutinizing myself IN photos! Win, right?!?


The more I thought about this, the more I couldn’t stop thinking that these photos are not just for me. They are for my children. And their children. I want them to have photos WITH me long after I am gone someday. So when Christmas rolled around last year, I began thinking about how I could be in the photos with my family while we enjoyed one of the most special days of the year to us. I was determined to ENJOY the morning instead of fiddling with my camera the whole time. I was thrilled to find a way to document our Christmas morning while being FULLY PRESENT with my family, and was able to be IN the photos and paid virtually no attention to my camera! I would love to share with you how I did it! You won’t believe how easy this was!


  • A camera that has an interval timer, or one that is compatible with remote shutter release
  • A cheap wireless remote if you do not have an interval timer (like this one for Canon cameras), or an external interval timer (like this one)
  • A tripod, stack of books, or some other (preferable steady) contraption to set your camera on
  • Some comfy PJs
  • A piping hot cup of coffee to help you wake up and look your best in those photos!
how to photograph christmas morning


  • PLAN AHEAD. Christmas morning is not the time to get this all set up! Plan to get everything set up and ready to go the night before, so all you have to do is power on as the fun begins on Christmas morning. Your excited children will thank you!!!
  • Find a spot to set up where your camera is out of the way and has a good view of the action!
  • If you are shooting in Manual mode, it’s a good idea to close down your aperture more than you normally would. This will give you a reasonable depth of field for all of the movement and activity of the morning (for these images my aperture was set at f/6.3).
  • Get your focus set. The night before, I got my camera set up and had my husband sit in front of the Christmas tree in the general area where I knew we’d be opening gifts. I set my focus and then switched into Manual Focus so that the focus would stay put.

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  • If you have early risers in your house (I raise my coffee to you, fellow mamas of littles!!!), chances are it will be dark when Christmas Morning begins. Don’t be afraid to crank up that ISO! If you’re comfortable with flash, go that route. Whatever you choose, you want to have good exposure. I knew it would be dark as night when my early risers jumped out of bed, so I actually tested my settings out the morning before.
  • Pick your spot before everyone rushes in (I mean, YOU worked so hard to get this all set up, you deserve to at least have your good side showing in these photos, right?!?)
  • If you have an interval timer, set your timer to take a photo every 30 seconds or so for the duration of the morning, and don’t touch that camera again until the mess of the morning is cleaned up! If you’re using a remote, keep it nearby and click a photo every so often while all the action is happening. Even when using a remote, the involvement with your camera is so minimal that you can still focus on your family and get some great candid shots of your morning together!
  • Enjoy the photos of your ENTIRE family together on Christmas Morning! It is so much fun to look back at all of the expressions, the mounding pile of wrapping paper that begins to fill the room, Daddy disappearing to find scissors, then again for batteries… And best of all, everyone is there and accounted for in your photos.

how to photograph christmas morning

This Christmas, I encourage you to GET IN THE FRAME! Be present with your family, and still have wonderful photos to document all of those fun details and moments. You won’t regret it! You will treasure these photos for years to come!

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