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12.05.2017

The look in the wide, excited eyes of a child, staring up at the old man with the full white beard, tells the story completely. There is magic in that man with the round belly and red suit. With his soft smile and gentle voice, the children are mesmerized by him and the dream of what’s to come on Christmas day.

Santa photographed in studio with the Sigma 24-105mm f4 Art lens at 1/60 sec, f9 at ISO 250. © Steve Chelser | 2017

At our photography studio in Canandaigua, NY, we’ve been working with the same Santa for the last 17 years for our annual Santa shoot. For many of our clients, he is the only Santa they’ve ever known. For them, he is the “real” Santa. Having used the same gentleman year after year, we have built a rapport with sayings, antics and timing to be able to capture some incredible, if not truly magical images for our clients.

“See if Santa’s beard is real,” I encourage the kids. “Go ahead, pull on it,” he says. With a little tug and a great surprised expression from Santa, the families Christmas card photo is immortalized.

With a great relationship between the photographer and Santa, creating perfectly timed images is effortless. Shot with the Sigma 24-105mm f4 Art lens at 1/125 sec, f7.1 at ISO 500 with studio strobes. © Steve Chelser | 2017

We first met Skip Thomas (A.K.A., Santa) by replying to an ad in the Penny Saver for Santa. Our first four or five years with him were at a barn that doubled as a flower shop in the small town of Bloomfield, NY. It didn’t take long to gain a sell-out following year after year. Due to changes at the floral shop, we moved our holiday shoot to our studio in Canandaigua for about 10 years, allowing for more sets and greater control of the light. With this year’s photos, we ventured back out of the studio, going full circle back to a rustic barn setting. We do our photos in 15 minute sessions, allowing us time to get creative with multiple angles, different settings and a variety of Sigma lenses.

6-year-old Brock Years of Canandaigua, NY, excitedly shows Santa his Christmas wishlist in a rustic barn setting. For Brock, this is the only Santa he has ever known. Shot with the Sigma 24-105mm f4 Art lens at 1/60 sec, f6.3 at ISO 1600 to balance the strobe with the ambient barn lighting. © Steve Chelser | 2017

Emma Haers of Phelps, NY watches a video with Santa during Chesler Photography’s Sessions with Santa in a rustic barn. Shot with the Sigma 24-105mm f4 Art lens at 1/60 sec, f6.3 at ISO 1600 to balance the strobes with the ambient barn light. © Steve Chelser | 2017

Through out the years, our sessions with Santa kept creeping earlier and earlier in the season to allow for editing and lab production times to ensure holiday delivery. As the date crept closer and closer to Halloween, our chances of a snow-blanketed Santa shoot began to disappear. In the earlier years, we had days in the barn with temperatures hovering a few degrees above zero.

When I came on board as one of the Sigma Pros three years ago, every time a Sigma box would show up at my door, it was like Christmas any day of the year. I would open each box with the same wide eyed excitement of a child on Christmas morning. As one gets older, the belief in Santa may fade, however, the wonderful, exciting world of photography brings with it a magic of it’s own.

I relished the opportunities in between clients to create some of my own magic with Santa with some of my new Sigma lenses. With the sculpted studio lighting and my go to Sigma 24-105mm f4 Art lens, I was able to capture some amazing character portraits of Santa, then enhanced them in Photoshop for the final look. This year, I used the 24-105mm with studio strobes in the barn, but took the opportunity to play with my newly acquired Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art lens with some window light filtering in to a small corner of the barn. The shallow depth of field softened the Christmas lights hanging in the background, while the incredible sharpness of the 135mm picked up each strand of Santa’s magnificent beard. I then brought Santa out to a stand of pine trees near the barn to capture him with his Victorian Santa suit, also taken with the 135mm for it’s compression and beautiful Bokeh. If only we had a fresh layer of snow.

Creating magical Santa photos in the studio between clients is the highlight of my Sessions with Santa. This image was created with the Sigma 24-105mm f4 Art lens at 1/60 sec, f9 at ISO 250 and then finished in Photoshop. © Steve Chelser | 2017

Using the available light in the barn setting I was able to capture this portrait of Santa with the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art lens at 1/60 sec, f1.8 at ISO 200.
© Steve Chelser | 2017

The Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art lens was the perfect choice for this shallow depth of field photo of Santa in a stand of pine trees. Shot at 1/80 sec, f2 at ISO 200. © Steve Chelser | 2017

I love keeping the magic of Santa alive for a child. It makes my job extremely satisfying, even if it’s for just one more year for a child on the cusp of doubt. Between you and I, I think Skip really is Santa. Hopefully he’ll leave a Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art lens under my tree.

“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the land photographers had dreams of Sigma lenses in hand.”

 

2 comments so far

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  1. I’ve heard so many good things about the Sigma 24-105 f/4. And I would really love to own the Sigma 135mm Art.
    I now own the 50mm art and shoot it on the Nikon d810 with phenomenal results.
    Also shoot the 18-35 art on my d500 . For apsc this is absolutely a must own lens.

  2. I would love to see more about how your strobes are set up for this.