Get creative this Christmas with these tips & tricks

Krolop and Gerst Persoane & evenimente04 dec. 2023Citire timp de 9 min
CreateYourLight Theme 17 "Capture the Holiday" asset

From the decorations to the people around you, Krolop and Gerst photography team highlight how to use everyday objects and Christmas decorations to create unique festive shots

Sometimes, the best things to photograph are right there in front of us. By paying attention to the framing and colours, you can use everyday objects and seasonal decorations to create beautiful compositions.

Try glycerine for a professional finish 

A good tip is to choose objects with contrasting yet complimentary colours, such as red and green, and then create a diagonal arrangement. If you want to add a little wow factor, you can make your subject more interesting by adding drops that will look like water when they reflect the light.


All you need is a little glycerine — which you can find in most food stores and supermarkets — and a light source. Glycerine drops stay on a surface longer than water, but you can use water if you can’t get glycerine. Simply spray the drops onto the objects you’re photographing.

Krolop and Gerst
What’s in our kitbag?
Use your phone as a softbox

For the light source, you can use your smartphone as a softbox! A softbox is a common tool that professionals use to diffuse the light, but they’re often quite pricey. You can save money by downloading an app that makes the screen on your smartphone glow in a particular colour. If you’re using seasonal colours like red and green in your arrangement, then a white screen works nicely. If a friend or family member wants to help out, you can bring in a second light source: have them use a warmer colour like orange. It will look like there’s a fireplace glowing in the background!


Experiment with long exposure

For the best image quality set your camera on a tripod so you can shoot a long exposure (four seconds works well) at f/11, and set the ISO to 100. Before taking the shot, set your focus area, darken the room, and set your camera’s self-timer. Set the colour glow on your phone screen, and move your phone during the course of the exposure. This will make the light source seem bigger than it actually is and create a really nice effect in the final image.


That’s it. A super-simple way to create great holiday images with everyday objects.


Create bokeh with fairy lights 

Fairy lights — whether you love them or love them slightly less, there’s no denying that festive lights with beautiful bokeh look great in photos. Getting creative with bokeh ‘balls’ might be easier than you think — you can do a lot with some LED lights and a great lens.


NIKKOR Z lenses render beautifully smooth bokeh circles, and a lens like the NIKKOR Z DX 24mm f/1.7 (perfect for DX cameras), or for full-frame cameras try the NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 is ideal. Where you position the LED lights in relation to the lens is key: the closer the lights are, the bigger the circles of bokeh. The further away the lights are, the smaller the bokeh circles get.


How you arrange the lights is also important. To create a more three-dimensional effect, you need to set up a ‘light tunnel’. Arrange the lights so they create a tunnel, and then position the lens so you’re shooting through the tunnel. The final image will show larger circles of bokeh tapering off into smaller circles, creating a real feeling of depth.


You can try this with any LED lights, but non-dimmable lights with just one colour temperature tend to work best because there’s less chance of them flickering as you take the shot.


Read more: What is bokeh (and how should I use it?)

Take inspiration from fruit, paper crafts and toy race cars 

How can you make your holiday photos stand out from the rest? With some good old-fashioned paper crafts and some toy racing cars!


Snowflakes are a great way to add a winter holiday feeling to your images and you can create your own snowflake filter using small snowflake paper cut outs. All you need to do is cut a small snowflake shape into a piece of paper and attach it to the front of your lens using scotch tape. You may have to experiment with the size of the snowflake filter you create until you get the effect that you like the best.


The set-up is pretty simple: take an old wooden box, an interesting object to place in the centre (‘star fruit’ works nicely) and some fairy LED lights. You place the starfruit on the box and arrange the fairy lights in the background to create bokeh balls. To light the starfruit, you can use the torch on your smartphone.

When you shoot with your snowflake filter in front of the lens, the bokeh balls will turn into snowflakes made of light! The trick to capturing a shot like this is to make sure your paper snowflake filter is touching the front lens — that way, you get a clearly defined snowflake shape in our final image. 


And the cars? If you’re just dying for an excuse to play with your kid’s new racetrack, go ahead and check out the video tips. You’ll see how to create images that look like the race is on for real!

Grab a portrait lens and photoghraph your family

Looking to get the best photographs of your family and friends this holiday season? How about sending self-portraits to loved ones further away?


All you need to shoot a classic black-and-white portrait is your camera, a backdrop from simple black cloth, and a good portrait lens. A NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S, NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S or NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8 S (or f/2.8 equivalents) is ideal if you’re shooting with a full-frame Z camera like a Z f, Z 8 or Z 7II. For a DX camera, (Z fc, Z 50 and Z 30), try a NIKKOR Z DX 24mm f/1.7 to achieve beautiful bokeh, or the NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR and NIKKOR Z DX 12-28mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ VR to cover you all the way to from ultra-wide 16mm to ‘classic’ focal length 50mm (24mm to 75mm full-frame equivalent). Find a room where the only light source is a window, preferably one covered with translucent curtains to diffuse the light. It doesn’t matter how translucent the curtains are, you just don’t want any direct sunlight on the person’s face. If your curtains block out too much light, you could use any type of translucent cloth, so long as it’s big enough to cover the window and lets in enough light for a decent exposure.


Think of your window as being like a huge softbox which you cannot move — you need to position yourself and your subjects carefully in relation to it. There are two key aspects to making this shot work: you need to position yourself in front of the window and the model needs to be positioned to the side. You’ll be shooting with your back to the window, and you’ll need to get as close up against it as possible.


You can play around with the angle to generate everything from moody, side-lit shots to flattering beauty shots where your subject looks straight into the light. Your position stays the same — your back is as close to the window as possible. As you reposition the model, you turn to take the shot. In this way, you get a full 180 degrees to play with.


A good tip for portraits is to reduce the contrast: unless someone has had their make-up done professionally, softer contrast will be more flattering.


You could also create a self-portrait using the same simple set-up and SnapBridge so you can trigger the camera remotely using your smartphone! All you’d need to do is find a stable surface for your camera and position it as close to the window as possible and then strike your pose!


Read more: How to shoot candid family moments

Try artistic shots with candle smoke 

Smoke from a burning candle, perfectly lit up on a black background, makes for a beautifully artistic shot. The trick here is to have the light coming from the back.


All you need is the candle, a black background, and a small softbox. For the lighting, we used a 60-watt LED light and placed it inside the softbox. Imagine that your candle is the central point of a clock face: position the softbox with its LED light at about two o’clock and then check your image in the electronic viewfinder or in Live View. You don’t want to see the softbox in the frame. 


A telephoto lens is ideal for a shot like this because of the closer angle of view. We used a NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR zoom lens and shot between 135 and 200mm at ISO 800 with the shutter speed set to 1/160 of a second. You can always experiment with the camera settings to see what effect you like best. A short exposure of around 1/200 or shorter will really freeze the shapes for a very contrasty look. A longer exposure of 1/15 will lead to more milky, blurry shapes.

Shoot festive cookies 

If there’s someone in your family who just loves to bake, how about showing your appreciation with a stunning ‘top shot’ of their creations? To make this work, you must resist the urge to eat the arrangement before taking the shot. The rest is simple!


For our cookie shots, we used two light sources: one inside the frame and one outside. The main light source inside the frame came from some fairy lights, which we arranged around the cookies. The second, external light source came from a daylight LED light which we diffused with a 40cm square softbox. (If you don’t have a softbox, you can find out how to make your own here.)


In this set-up, it’s the fairy lights that impact the exposure of your image because they are inside the frame. If you want the fairy lights to give you the kind of warm glow that creates interesting shapes of shadow and light, you need to play with the LED light source outside the frame. We set ours at its lowest power (1 per cent), but if you want to lift the overall exposure a little more you could try raising the power of the external light source until you like what you see.


You can check your image in your electronic viewfinder or in Live View (using the camera’s LCD screen) to find an exposure where the fairy lights inside the frame look pretty and warm. If your external LED light source can’t be dimmed, you can experiment with moving it closer or farther away.


Read more: What is an electronic viewfinder?


Using a tripod lets you position the camera so you can take a photograph from a bird’s-eye perspective that looks straight down onto the cookies. We’re not used to looking at things from this perspective, so it lends real impact to the image.


For more tips, watch the video to see how you can use the cookie-making ingredients and Photoshop tools to create images where you are the snow angel.

Capture the holiday with Krolop and Gerst & the Create Your Light team!

Capture the holiday with Krolop and Gerst

Click the play button to watch

Partajare opțiuni

More in Tips & Tricks

Featured products

Dive into our festive content

Citire timp de 6 min
Marcello Zerletti Photos for Xmas Markets article
Călătorii & peisaje01 dec. 2023Marcello Zerletti

9 top tips for photographing Christmas markets

Citire timp de 4 min
Tehnologie și know-how01 dec. 2023Nikon Team

10 affordable Christmas gifts for photographers

Citire timp de 9 min
CreateYourLight Theme 17 "Capture the Holiday" asset
Persoane & evenimente04 dec. 2023Krolop and Gerst

Get creative this Christmas with these tips & tricks


For limitless creativity