Every year I make a calendar, like many of you, to give to the grandparents and great grandparents, aunts and uncles who all live far and wide. This has been my tradition for 5 or so years, but as my business had gotten busier, the calendar has gotten harder. Right in the middle of the busy season I am trying to scrounge through the catalogs of my year looking for photos that are calendar worthy. Lately, I find that I don't have enough photos of my own family and it makes me a little sad. Now let's be clear, I have THOUSANDS of phone photo. And if you count child taken selfies, my middle child alone once logged 5,236 selfies on one iPad. (so not kidding) I do include cell phone shots, especially from fun family outings and trips to Disney when suddenly Mickey appeared. I also try to fill the calendar with some of my favorite more formal photos; as an artist I am not as drawn to the beauty of everyday moments as I am to the magic of special moments.
One of the hardest months to fill has been December. I have amazing summer beach photos, great fall family photos, and special Halloween shoots. Spring saw flower swings and blooming fields of mustard. December though, is hard. So this year I made a promise to myself to try to capture the magic of Christmas. I am a bonafide Christmas junkie. You know the movie Elf, totally me. I really truly believe in Christmas magic, and I believe in Santa. I love lights and sparkles and huge trees right in the middle of living space. (why can't that be an everyday thing?) So why is it that I was failing to capture this for my family? Honestly, it seemed like too much work to add one more thing onto the list of the EVERYTHING I do to make the holidays magic for my three little people and extended family.
Once I set my mind to it, I captured these magical Christmas photos for my family in under 10 minutes. Yes, under 10 minutes! I started with the youngest and then added them in order of age. My little one actually loves having her photo taken. My oldest, well let's just say he was bribed. All these photographs were take with a 35mm lens on a Nikon D600. Neither of which I use that often. I am, generally, a long lens gal. 200mm being my preferred focal length. The reason I tell you this, the 35mm lens is generally one of the most affordable lenses to branch out with when you have a new DSLR camera. If you don't have one, a 50mm will do, you will just have to place yourself further back. I find the 35mm to be the best lens for taking pictures inside the house. You too can absolutely capture photos just like this of your family!
In order to get the tree lights looking their best, place your subject a few feet away from the tree. I you want the lights to blur out and give you nice big balls of light, use an aperture around f1.8, or as open (low number) as your camera can go. I had my ISO at 800, which is the highest I go with this camera. All of these were hand held, with me laying on my belly on the floor. Spot meter to your subject and adjust the shutter speed until you have enough light. You can also get little flares on the lights by moving your focal length closer to f15. It's a totally different, and also fun look.
I can't tell you how happy I am to have these photos. They really capture, for me, what is magical about Christmas. The tree with sparkling lights, the togetherness of family, the magic of waiting for Santa. The book the kids are reading is The Night Before Christmas, and it's one of those books where you record your voice to read each page. My Dad made it when my oldest was a baby. Every Christmas eve, we gather around and let Gramps read us the Christmas book before we tuck in and wait for Santa. It really is Magic.