Photo Tips

Christmas Tree Photo Tips and White Balance!

Me Ra Koh

Today I’d like to share some Christmas tree photo tips and white balance pointers.

We all want those adorable photos of the kids in front of the Christmas tree.Β  White balance can make or break the shot!

Anyone want a great shot of the tree? Check ou these Christmas Tree Photo Tips and White Balance by Me Ra Koh

When Brian and I first got married, I was busy with full time graduate school getting my Masters in Teaching. Brian was working overtime every week while getting paid $12 an hour. Needless to say, we loved it when our parents sent us Safeway dollars. πŸ™‚

Those first few year of marriage and Christmas are some of my favorite memories. We didn’t have any money so we had our own Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Since we couldn’t afford to buy ornaments, we found seashells and starfish and glued little beads to them. These little ornaments are still my most prized.

You must read this post for Christmas tree photo tips from Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom

As I was taking photos of the Christmas tree and playing with White Balance, I got inspired to share with all of YOU!Β  White balance can give you the biggest headache if you don’t understand how to use it to your benefit.

The first of my Christmas tree photo tips is to remove the saturation. I think the tree lights make the lighting look overkill and to yellowy in the photos. When I put the images on my computer and started looking through them, I decided to move the saturation scale down so the Christmas lights wouldn’t be so overpowering. Check it out below!

Before shot: full saturation.

You must read this post for Christmas tree photo tips from Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom

After shot: saturation removed a little for a cleaner white.

You must read this post for Christmas tree photo tips from Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom

One more example…

Before shot: full saturation. (Pascaline’s favorite ornament–Sleeping Beauty of course. :))

You must read this post for Christmas tree photo tips from Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom

After shot: saturation removed a little for a cleaner white.

You must read this post for Christmas tree photo tips from Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom

The photo of the Christmas tree is SUPER frustrating for everyone I think, unless…you’re French, live in France, and have your decorated tree in a pot on the front porch. Then you have fabulous natural light. But if your tree is in your home, like my tree, and surrounded with a mixture of lamp lighting and window light in the evening, ugh. Go easy on yourself friends, this is not an easy shot for anyone!

I played a little with white balance to see if that would help.

What is White Balance?

In plain English, White Balance is simply changing the color of white. You can change your white balance so the white is more blue toned…yuck. πŸ™‚

You must read this post for Christmas tree photo tips from Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom

Try changing your white balance to fluorescent. This changed my white tone to be a little more on the pink side.

You must read this post for Christmas tree photo tips from Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom

Or you can leave it on AWB which is Automatic White Balance. This tends to be on the colder side if you’re shooting Canon and on the warmer side if you shoot Nikon.

You must read this post for Christmas tree photo tips from Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom

You can use the Cloudy white balance, the little icon of the cloud which will add more yellow to your white…better. But even with this one, I took a hint of the yellow out because Cloudy White Balancing can overall be too yellow for my taste, but a little felt good.

You must read this post for Christmas tree photo tips from Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom

Seriously, don’t stress about White Balance. Brian and I shoot in AWB most the time and don’t even bother with it. Unless it’s a cold, winter day and we want a little more warmth to the photos, then we may try switching the Shade or Cloudy White balance.

People can make white balance out to be this HUGE deal, but like I explain in Beyond the Green Box,Β women have been working with white balance since the first time they wore make up and left the house. You knew when you walked into direct sunlight if the “white” color in your bathroom lights were loyal or betrayed you. πŸ™‚ Remember being caught with cover up lines along your jaw…oh the pain of junior high!

White balance is a great thing to play with. Every camera has different icons for the Automatic White Balance Setting, the Cloudy, the Shade, the Fluorescent, etc. Browse through your manual and play around with it.

But feel safe in the comments to post ANY questions. You can totally get this whole White Balance thing!

On a fun side note, another of my Christmas tree photo tips is . . . don’t miss the shots that are not as obvious as shooting the tree straight on. One of my favorite view points of our tree is actually on the opposite wall in the mirror’s reflection. Cozy…

You must read this post for Christmas tree photo tips from Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom

And we can’t forget Blazey’s favorite ornament!!!

You must read this post for Christmas tree photo tips from Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom


Recipe for the Christmas Tree Photos

Aperture was all the way up to a F16 because I wanted lots of detail.

ISO was down to 100 for best color saturation.

The Shutter Speed is the trick. With a high f-stop/aperture and low ISO, I need the shutter to stay open for a long time. These were all shot with the shutter open for 13 seconds. You can either use a tripod or set your camera on a stable surface and then let the shutter stay open as long as it needs to for enough light to record.

Recipe for the Ornament Photos

Aperture was down to a 1.2. This means it was WIDE open, lots of blur and enough light coming in for me to hand hold it.

ISO was 400.

Shutter Speed was at a 60th (1/60) of a second. (Remember, when you go below a 1/60 of a second in shutter speed (1/40, 1/20, 2 seconds, etc), you need a tripod or stable surface for your camera so the image doesn’t record camera shake from your hand. But with practice you should be okay at 1/60.


WANT MORE Christmas Tree Photo Tips?

More tips, 7 MORE TIPS to be exact! When I thought of this blog topic, I asked my friend Carey to play with it too. She ended up sending me 7 fabulous tips for taking photos of Christmas tree ornaments. Love them all! Check them out here!

Share your Christmas tree photos on my facebook page, I’d love to see how you’ve mastered White Balance this season and I’d love to give you feedback!




  1. Denise says:

    wow – that was a GREAT POST! I’ve been waiting for it too ever since you mentioned it a few posts ago.

    I do love the extra blury photos – I’ve always wanted to do detail shots like that but I only can do down to a 3.5. And it seems like all the lenses that can do a 1.2 are SO EXPENSIVE! Are there any affordable 1.2 lenses out there that you know of?

    Again, thanks for this post! I’ve been wondering about WB ever since Brian’s post when he mentioned it! πŸ™‚

  2. Jen Sulak says:

    ahahahah love the superman ornament…i have one myself LOL and me & my hubby have matching superman shirts!!!! πŸ™‚

    happy picture taking!

  3. Kelli Kalish says:

    Great post! I am very frustrated though. I have all sigma lenses. My camera is a nikon d80. I sweasr I cannot get my f stop to go below 4 even though it states it does. If anyone has any tips that would help that would be great! I am shootin on Aperture priority mode. Ughhh…

  4. gina says:

    i am so grateful for this post… i was getting SO frustrated taking pictures of the tree… i am going to go practice RIGHT NOW!!!

  5. Amanda Mays says:

    Great Post!

    This was the first year my little guy helped me decorate. Altough I really enjoyed watching him put on the ornaments in the back of my mind I was praying that he wouldnt break any. I’ve had some of them most of my life and would be heartbroken if the broke.

    Now I think I will take pictures, following your recipe, of all my favorites so that if one just does happen to break I will still have a way to remember them by πŸ˜‰
    Great Scrapbooking layout too!

  6. Amanda Mays says:


    The Canon EF 50mm goes to 1.8 at the low low cost of approx $75. It’s a set 50mm but is a great cheap lens!

  7. Amanda Mays says:

    Oops, I assumed you shoot canon!
    Silly me πŸ˜‰

    Nikon also has a 50mm f/1.8D AF for a little more expensive at about $120

  8. Denise says:

    Thank you, Amanda!!!

  9. Myssie says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I have been VERY frustrated with trying to get good photos of the tree. I just got my camera so I am still trying to learn, πŸ™‚

    Thanks again!

  10. Beth says:

    I completely agree with everyone else…GREAT POST! Thanks for sharing such helpful information.

    *Christmas Blessings*

  11. Me Ra says:

    I’m so glad you all liked this post! It’s 6:30pm, and I’m just now looking at the blog. What great news to here that the tips where helpful! Wait till you see Carey’s tips tomorrow!

    Kelli, the frustration you’re running into with not being able to go lower that an fstop of 4 is something we talk a lot about in the workshops. It’s very frustrating for many b/c the lense says it will go lower, but it won’t unless you shoot your image as a wider angle type shot (lots in the frame), and then it doesn’t matter if you have a low fstop b/c there is too much in the image.

    You want the low fstop when you’re getting in close to your subject. If your lense that came with your camera says it ranges from 3.5-4.5, this means the wider you are it will go down to 3.5 and the closer you zoom in…well, it will ONLY go to 4.5. Frustrating, I know. So much I could say here, but we need half a day!!! πŸ™‚ Hope this little bit helps though!

  12. Kelli Kalish says:

    Thanks for the tips everyone! Thanks Mera! I will try and try again. I need to get you here to Highland Park (Illinois) for a workshop! If I can’t make that happen then please tell me you are going to have a workshop somewhere in the midwest. I am still gunning for the Chicago area though!!!

  13. Truck parts. says:

    Truck parts….

    Truck parts….

  14. thai bar says:

    I really liked your blog! Im heading to phuket and pattaya this summer to all the information i can get on thailand events are useful. I Will subscribe to your feed.

  15. LARRY says:

    Wow, I can’t belive it’s almost Christmas! Time for white snow, snowmans, sleds, santa, cookie, and everything else! Thanks for the post very Cool and keep them coming!

  16. […] To try Me Ra’s 8 steps for photographing a Christmas tree, CLICK HERE! […]

  17. Kim says:

    Yay I can’t wait to go home and give this a go!!

  18. Peggy says:

    I just found you….just in time. Can’t wait to try your tips. Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  19. I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. I’m very excited and longing for your next article. Hopefully I will get it this week. Really value this post especially. It’s hard to separate the very good from the bad these days, but I believe you’ve pushed the right key! Is it possible to write a guest articles here? I would like to write a one or two articles here.

  20. […] Merakoh has some great tips for taking digital photos of your Christmas tree and ornaments; also, here are my own tips: […]

  21. Shawn Testa says:

    Hi, I tried all the above tips. Thanks! Question on taking a picture of the Christmas Tree to make the lights look like a stars. This worked but I had to zoom the picture in to see the effect. How did you take a far away picture and get that effect. My camera is a Olympus E-500. Thank you.

  22. […] is and it out-beats the flash on my camera. Here are a few links that are worth reading through: Tips for Taking Photos of Christmas Tree Ornaments and the Tree with White Balance! | Me Ra Koh Phot… Taking Photos of a Christmas Tree/Lights – Strobist: How to Photograph Christmas […]