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How To: Christmas Photoshoots Setups 101

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

I decided to host my very first Christmas mini photoshoot in my home studio. I put together an elaborate set to really create that homey Christmas feel. It got me thinking on how to create a home photoshoot and what was required. Here is my post on how I set my Christmas mini and a few tips to help you set up yours.


Like any event, themes are important. It's Christmas and Christmas is my favourite time of year. It's time to get inspired whether that's doing a winter wonderland theme or a colour scheme theme. It's Christmas... go crazy I say.

For my theme, I wanted more of a cosy by the fire theme. I ordered a deer blanket and Christmas pillows from Amazon. I originally tested the theme out against a white backdrop and thought the scene was lacking. Luckily, my friend loaned me her snowy backdrop and the scene started to come together.

I had my dad do some test shots for the scene but noticed when cropped and printed on a card, there was some extra white space. It got me thinking about what I could do to enhance the scene a bit more. I ended up spending more money on wood grain contact paper from Amazon. I peeled and stuck the contact paper on some plywood to create fake flooring on either side of the scene. You can get contact paper in all types of patterns and when photographed look pretty realistic.

Lighting Setup

As for my lighting set up, I had two lights set up on either side of the scene to make sure everything was evenly lit. I used my base softboxes that came with the Elinchrom set, one square and the other octagonal. I set my key light to F8.0 and fill light to F5.6

The key light is the main light source. With the difference in the F-stop I had a 2:1 ratio. With this ratio, there is a small amount of shadow fall off on the subject's faces. A greater ratio of 4:1 would have more dramatic fall off on the shadow and would create a more edgy image. For my shoot, I wanted to keep everything light and fun. The white in the backdrop helped to bounce the light around more to soften the light and pictures.

Having the light being bounced around by the white made it easier to open up the shadows slightly in the images to create a more even look.

If you have any type of strobe at home whether studio strobes or off-camera speedlights, great, you can still achieve a home studio step up. You can also use constant lights like a lamp to achieve your desired results. Use your camera's metering system to get the exposures right so everything is well-lit. If you are using lamps from your home, make sure to set your white balance to incandescent. You'll end up with an image that is too orange or too blue if you set the wrong white balance. If you are using strobes, then set your white balance to flash or daylight.

Tips for a simple set up

1) Use what you have

Setting up a Christmas mini can be costly if you are looking for a certain look and do not already have the items on hand. Most of us would have Christmas supplies stored up from previous years. Make use of what you have. Using Christmas decorations against a white wall can work perfectly if you are looking for more of a simple look and don't want to spend too much on a Christmas scene starting out.

2) Fireplaces

If you have a fireplace, then dress that up and have your guests or clients pose against that as a backdrop. Nothing says Christmas like a nice warm fireplace.

3) Christmas Greens

I haven't personally bought any of those Christmas greens. But those would be perfect against a white wall with minimalistic decorations. I love those natural Christmas wreaths! Those against a white wall or on a fireplace make for a great photo opportunity.

4) Snow

You can purchase fake snow from Amazon if you want to do an indoor shoot. There are two kinds of snow you can purchase. There are the cotton bundles that you rip and place around your Christmas scene or the loose flakes. I want to photograph kids blowing the snow out of their hand. I think this would make a great shot. There is nothing stopping you from using what's in your own backyard for a Christmas shoot. We all hope for a white Christmas. Take blankets and decorations to set up a scene outdoors. Use the natural light to your advantage to create natural and evenly lit images.

What's your dream Christmas theme? Post your comments below!


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