I love traditions, especially holiday traditions! But I remember when Brian and I first got married, and I told him how excited I was to start making our very own family traditions. He was not quick to get on board — the whole idea of being expected to do the same thing every year felt a little bit suffocating to him. Well, after years of marriage counseling, he has seen the light! He has even contributed a number of his own ideas that have become … yes … family traditions. Since we are both visual storytellers, we are capturing as much of these traditions as possible! But I also invited my team of CONFIDENCE Photography Workshop teachers to share their holiday traditions and photos too. We’ve got 14 holiday traditions with photo tips to capture yours! May you be visually inspired to capture your holidays this year!
Here are 14 holiday traditions to start with your family (plus photo tips to capture them all):
Teaching the Kids to Ski 1 of 14
Brian grew up on the ski team and still loves to downhill ski. When the kids were barely three years old, he put them on skis and had them ski in between his legs. I love to watch them progress in gaining confidence each year as dad continues to teach.
Photo Tip: To capture the scale of how big the snowy trees are in comparison to your little ones, get down low and shoot straight on.
The Biggest Disney Fan EVER! 2 of 14
My family L-O-V-E-S Disney and loves spending the holidays at Disneyland! It is so much fun for the kids to meet their favorite characters. My favorite moment to capture is the one before everyone is posed.
Photo Tip: To capture a photo with the characters that is full of emotion, set your camera to Continuous Shooting mode. This allows you to capture that quick, initial reaction to meeting the characters!
Playing in the Snow! 3 of 14
One of our favorite traditions is to go play in the first snowfall of the year!
Photo Tip: Having a quick shutter speed allows you to capture the motion of the flakes flying through the air. Combined with a low aperture for a buttery background, focus on the flakes or the eyes of your subject to show the playfulness and spirit of the season.
Elf on a Shelf Photos 4 of 14
A couple days ago my son said, "I can't wait until December 1st!" I asked him why and he said it was the day Tippy The Elf returns to our home. If you also have an elf who makes his yearly visit every December, photograph him and his shenanigans each morning. Get your kids involved in taking the pictures, too!
Spirit of Christmas 5 of 14
During toddlerhood, my children were fascinated with our Christmas Nativity. So, even though it was very delicate, each year, they helped me set ours up using "very careful and gentle hands." Even now, as big kids, they still love setting up the scene just right and telling the beautiful story.
Photo Tip: Zooming in close is a great way to emphasize what is important in a photo. It eliminates background distractions and makes the photo much more interesting than just standing back and taking a wide snapshot.
Stacking Wood 6 of 14
Ever since Laura Swift's daughter-in-law can remember, she and her sisters stacked wood on Thanksgiving morning. Now her own kids take part in the tradition!
Photo Tip: Instead of standing face on with the kids stacking wood, stand closest to the first child to accentuate the line of kids that much more.
Decorating the Tree 7 of 14
December is right around the corner and that means one thing in my family ... Decorating the Christmas tree! Every year we put the job of getting the tree ready in the kids' hands and let them go to town! I have to say, it is one of my favorite traditions to witness. It's pretty amazing as to how much care and attention goes into hanging every ornament when you know Santa is on his way!
Photo Tip: Because the days are so short in winter, we are often decorating the tree once it's gone dark. Not to worry! In order to really feel the beautiful effect of the Christmas lights on the tree I turn the lights way down in the room. This way I allow the lighting from the tree to do most of the work. And nothing says beautiful like the glow of Christmas tree lights.
ISO 1600 (because there is so little light in the room)
shutter speed 1/50 second
Sledding! 8 of 14
If the weather is cooperating, we LOVE to head up to the mountains for the day and go sledding!
Photo Tip: The black frozen lake added much more contrast to the sledding photo than white snow. (But of course, we made sure the lake was completely frozen — we aren't that die hard with photos — at least not really!) When taking photos of action, always leave empty space in the photo to accentuate the direction of the action. I left more empty space behind Pascaline to give a sense of how she was coming towards me.
For more sport photo tips, check out our Friday blog series with kids sport photo expert, Beth Wendland! She's been posting all her best photo tips to capturing action shots, especially kid sports. She also empowers Portland, OR moms to capture their families!
Holiday Mission 9 of 14
My daughter and I started a new tradition last year by traveling to Mexico to help build housing for the poorest of the poor. While taking a walk in the village where we were working I was so surprised to come across this beautiful old chapel. I finessed the light because I really wanted to show how the light was breaking through the door.
Photo Tip: I started at ISO 160 and f4 and adjusted my shutter speed up and down and took several pictures until I got just the right lighting. The final shutter speed was 160th and I really like the result!
Baking Tradition 10 of 14
The whole house wraps up with love when we bake cookies to share with friends and family during the holidays. Soon there are stacks of cookies around the kitchen, waiting to be frosted and decorated.
Photo Tip: Photographing with a wide aperture to show all the detail in the process, and position yourself to create an interesting composition that leads the viewer's eye from one side of the image to the other.
New Traditions 11 of 14
In the 8 years that my husband and I have been together, we have started a whole list of Christmas traditions. We kick off our festive season the day after Thanksgiving with putting up our tree while we watch all the animated Christmas classics. We always begin with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer because it's my favorite. It's more like a sing-a-long experience because we have all the songs memorized and croon along with the characters. This year, I cannot wait to introduce our 10-month-old baby girl, Logan, to Rudolph and friends as my husband and I decorate the tree. I look forward to sharing all our Christmas traditions with her. We are certainly blessed this holiday season!
Photo Tip: To get this same result of your little ones with Rudolph, turn her body so she is facing the window light.
Annual Ornament 12 of 14
Every year Santa brings my kids a special ornament that reflects the stage they are in that year. My son loves Eeyore, so last year Santa brought him an Eeyore and Tigger ornament.
Photo Tip: I wanted to let the ornaments stand out. By getting in close and shooting through the branches, I allowed the background to blur out, having the characters shine with the Christmas lights adding extra sparkle!
Light of the Season 13 of 14
Once the Holidays roll around the first thing I want to do is buy a scented candle to burn throughout the season. There is something about the smell of cinnamon and cloves that brings back happy Christmas memories from childhood! Do you do the same thing?
Photo Tip: If you want to capture the beautiful bokeh or blur of holiday lights or candles, set your aperture low and your ISO high. To take this picture of my favorite holiday candle and the twinkle lights behind I set my ISO to 1600 because the room was so dark and my aperture to 1.4 to blur all the lights in the background.
Taking the Family Holiday Photo! 14 of 14
You didn't think I was going to leave this holiday tradition out, did you? November is the best month to get your family holiday photo!
Photo Tip: For a gazillion photo tips on how to capture the perfect holiday photo, check out my Pinterest board! Enjoy!
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13 Ways to Engage the Photographer in Your Kids (from Me Ra and her two kids!)
*To see more videos with fun photo tips, see my Disney Junior show Capture Your Story with Me Ra Koh