Tips & How-Tos

Holiday Season Family Memories: How to Make Magical Photos

Sigma Art 135mm – To make falling snow pop, place your subject in front of a dark background like these pine trees behind my son. Using a longer focal length lens like the 135mm will also create beautiful snow bokeh. © Meg Loeks | 2017

The holiday season is a magical time of year. Seeing the wonder and excitement in my children’s eyes has made me realize that more than ever. They have helped me slow down and appreciate the little things. Growing up we had many family holiday traditions. Now with my own children, we have created our own. Here’s a list of fun activities to consider doing with your children during the holiday season.

Sigma Art 24mm – Using a wide angle lens like the 24mm is great for tight spaces, especially when shooting from above. © Meg Loeks | 2017
Sigma Art 35mm – One way to capture bokeh during the holidays within your own home is to pull your subject away from your tree and set a wide aperture like in this image at 1.6. © Meg Loeks | 2017
Sigma Art 85mm – To capture sun flare, place the sun at the very edge of your frame. It helps to have something partially blocking the sun like in this image with the treeline. © Meg Loeks | 2017

Christmas Tree Farms

Head to your local tree farm to find the perfect tree to put up in your home. This is my family’s absolute favorite tradition. My children have so much fun trying to find the perfect tree. The local farm we go to every year has a bonfire to roast marshmallows, hot cocoa to sip on and children are even able to meet Santa.

Sigma Art 85mm – © Meg Loeks | 2017
Sigma Art 85mm – © Meg Loeks | 2017
Sigma Art 85mm – Zoo lights are a great way to capture gorgeous bokeh during the holiday season. Place your subject close to the lights to allow for better light to shine on your subject. © Meg Loeks | 2017

Zoos and Nature Parks

Consider checking out your local zoo to see if they have an evening lights display during the holiday season. It’s a great way to get outside and see some magical lights on display, and of course maybe some animals too.

Sigma Art 35mm – If you are working with low light within your home, have your subject stand near a window for better light. © Meg Loeks | 2017

The Elf on the Shelf

You have probably heard of the Elf on the Shelf. This is a fun tradition my family started doing last year. I think my husband and I have more fun trying to come up with creative places to hide our Elf more than anything.

Sigma Art 85mm – One of the benefits of shooting with a longer focal length lens during the Santa parade is the beautiful compression it creates. This helps to separate your subject from the background and make them stand out. © Meg Loeks | 2017

Holiday Parades

The Santa Parade is another favorite for my family. Many towns big and small have one, and the excitement of the crowd is captivating. Not to mention all the incredible floats and Santa himself. My children always come home sticky from eating too much candy, but I can honestly say it’s always worth it.

Sigma Art 35mm – A wide angle lens like the 35mm allows you to easily work in tight spaces and is a great storytelling lens. It might not have gorgeous compression like the 135mm but it does allow for greater depth of field because it is a wide angle lens. © Meg Loeks | 2017

If you have a historical village near you, chances are they put on some sort of holiday event. It’s a wonderful way to step back in time and experience some old-timey holiday activities from candle making to playing with old train sets.

Sigma Art 35mm – © Meg Loeks | 2017
Sigma Art 85mm – The 85mm is a wonderful everyday lens because you don’t have to stand too far back when photographing your subject, yet still have beautiful compression. © Meg Loeks | 2017

Vintage Trains

Check to see if you have some sort of Polar Express or Santa train near you. We love this tradition so much that we go on two different trains near us. My boys are able to sip on hot cocoa and even sit with Santa.

Sigma Art 35mm – Placing your subject close to the light source will allow for the light to dramatically fall off and hide a lot of the distractions in the background, like in this image. There were a lot of people behind my son, but they don’t distract from the focal. © Meg Loeks | 2017
Sigma Art 85mm – © Meg Loeks | 2017

Botanical Gardens

If you have any botanical gardens near you, then you might want to look into whether they have a holiday display. Our local conservatory has the most incredible wooden train set on display. It’s also a great way to escape the cold.

Sigma Art 85mm – One creative way of capturing bokeh during the holidays is doing an in-camera multiple exposure. In this image the outdoor capture with my boys was taken first. Then I went inside, selected multiple exposure on my DSLR, and switched to manual to intentionally blur a string of lights. The blurred light capture was then layered on my outdoor image. Make sure to check your camera’s manual on how to do an in-camera double exposure. © Meg Loeks | 2017

Your own “backyard”

Don’t forget some of the most fun can be had right at home. If you live in a colder climate where you have snow, consider making snowmen or sledding. These are two things you will often find us doing during the holidays and the great thing is it is fun for free.

Sigma Art 85mm – © Meg Loeks | 2017
Sigma Art 135mm – © Meg Loeks | 2017
Sigma Art 35mm – If your kitchen doesn’t have great light consider setting up your cookie decorating in good light like in this image taken in my dining room. © Meg Loeks | 2017
Sigma Art 35mm – © Meg Loeks | 2017

Baking and making

We spend a lot of the holiday season baking. It’s always a little bit of a mess getting my children involved with cooking, but some of my fondest childhood memories were baking with my grandmother.

Sigma Art 35mm – To make your subject pop while shooting through a window, make sure your background is nice and dark like the pine trees directly behind me. A dark background will make your subject pop while looking out the window. © Meg Loeks | 2017
Sigma Art 135mm – © Meg Loeks | 2017

The holiday season is obviously a busy time, but in between the hustle and bustle I hope you are able to enjoy some holiday fun with your children. I’m reminded often that this time goes quick. More than anything, I hope these activities bring you as much joy as they do my family. And I hope these photos help you find your own inspiration for capturing your own holiday memories.


See all the lenses Meg used for the article here!

Comments (3)
  1. Nice work, yesterday we go snow for the first time in years but it was night and it’s stop and now melting. Great tutorial.

  2. them all.

  3. So Pretty trying to make to the snow this weekend

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