Capturing Christmas

Sarah of Hannibal White Photography shares her passion for Christmas as well as giving us some wonderful tips on how to capture the perfect moments with our families.

Christmas is most definitely my favourite time of year. There is something truly special about Christmas, something warming and heartfelt. Whether it really is because of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, or because Jack Frost repeatedly nips at your nose, there is something for everyone to enjoy if they are willing to embrace it. 

I have always been known by my family and friends to take on the role of Christmas Elf. I put a lot of time into making Christmas special for the people I care about, whether making gifts for my students in the classroom when I was teaching, or making the family Christmas cake, I fully immerse myself in all it has to offer.

Baby looking at Christmas tree

December is a magical month and I have always felt that each day needs a special celebration, an activity which gives a definite nudge towards the festive season as we count down to the big day. In this way I know I often put a huge pressure on myself to make sure there is something planned, that we have covered all the possible creative Christmas ideas going, that we have upheld all of the family traditions, and maybe introduced new ones, and that we have fully embraced Christmas in this wonderful city. 

Many times I have googled ‘What’s on in Winchester this Christmas’ and I am always amazed by the events and activities the community provide for everyone to enjoy. I usually love filling up the calendar to the point of bursting and planning every December weekend so that we are in non-stop Christmas mode for the month – it can be quite exhausting!

Black and white Father Christmas with child

This year I have decided to step back a bit, cut down on the activities and perhaps enjoy the ‘less is more’ approach. As a photographer with young children, this is a time of year when my camera is always with me, always ready to capture the moment because there are just so many of them!

We have some family traditions and I love taking photographs of the children joining in each year, we are already able to look back over the last few years and see how they have grown and embraced the traditions in the hope that they will continue them with their families. Stirring the Christmas cake, writing their letters to Father Christmas, putting the star on top of the tree, it is relentless! There are so many special moments; the camera battery is always fully charged and ready to go.

Mince pies being made

This year I have combined my love of Christmas with my love of action and event photography of families and children in Winchester and I am so proud to be a part of capturing Christmas in a variety of ways. 

My mini sessions at Lantern’s Nursery School provided a fabulous opportunity for families to dress up warm and explore the new pond area, resulting in some wonderful candid shots which will make perfect Christmas presents! The Christmas nativity scene is also one I have been privileged enough to capture. 

Child dressed as a shepherd

Having worked as secondary school Drama teacher for 11 years, it gives me so much joy to combine my love and appreciation of performing with photography. Whether it be a sea of tea towel headdresses, or close ups of solos, as my own children grow I only begin to appreciate these moments even more. Don’t hide behind your phone trying to video or snap away, you’ll miss the magical moment! Perhaps next year you could recommend the school book a photographer to capture it for you… 

Putting up the Christmas tree is always a big moment in our house, it’s definitely an occasion. This year, I was invited into join other families putting up their trees. The fascination with the lights, the intrigue of the tinsel, the fun and games trying to reach the top of the tree, if it is a moment you want to make something of, it is a moment worthy of capturing. 

Sisters looking at Christmas tree lights

Everyone feels differently about Christmas. For some they may feel lonely, or be missing special people in their lives, or just find it a difficult time to celebrate. Others worry about needing a ‘picture perfect’ Christmas or having to make sure they have the perfect gift, or having to please everyone and see an entire extended family in the space of a few days – which, let’s face it, can be exhausting! 

Social media has provided us with more pressures to do it ‘right’ and to capture the moments we are creating. Have you made mince pies? Decorated the Christmas cake together? Made personalised Christmas cards? Ordered your personalised decorations for the tree? If you have, have you photographed it a million times, Instagrammed it and shared it for everyone to see? Or are you scrolling through Facebook looking at everyone else’s images thinking ‘they do it so much better than me!’? If this sounds familiar, you may need a bit of a Christmas rethink…

Baby smiling

Why are you behind the camera, rather than fully enjoying the moment? It’s a symptom of the world we live in, of course, but however you are ‘doing’ Christmas, give yourself the opportunity to enjoy it, embrace it, and remember the reasons you are doing what you are doing with your family and friends. 

Top Ten Christmas Moments

1. Putting the star on tree
Whether standing on tiptoes, perching on the nearest available object (Where is the Yellow Pages when you need it!) being lifted up high or sitting on shoulders, reaching the top of the tree can be a lot of fun. Being the person who puts the star on the tree brings with it much prestige in our house, the girls will have to start taking turns from now on I think…

2. Opening present from Father Christmas
Not all the presents, you can’t possibly photograph them opening ALL the presents. You may want relatives to see their faces if they can’t be there with you, you may want to show them that wonderful moment, but you seriously cannot photograph your little ones unwrapping everything. Pick one or two, maybe the present from Father Christmas, and then enjoy the rest of the unwrapping!

3. Watching Christmas films
Question: What is your favourite Christmas film
Answer: I couldn’t possibly pick!
There are just so many to choose from. Make an event out of watching one, perhaps gather together with friends and have a movie afternoon with hot chocolate, or introduce a new one to your families repertoire each year! Capture the moment they see The Snowman fly for the first time and watch Dad try to act it out with the youngest…. I promise you wont regret it when they are still asking to ‘fly’ when they reach the grand old age of seven

4. The nativity
Whether smiles, tears, waving or nose picking, there is something magical about the Nativity. Your child may be the sheep, the innkeeper, Mary or Joseph, but there are definitely no small parts in the Nativity! Try and make sure you capture them in their costume, or on the stage if you can! Just make sure you don’t share pictures of other people’s children on social media without their permission…

5. Making the cake or baking
Everyone in our family has a stir and makes a wish. Then my husband and I spend weeks reminding each other to feed the cake and invariably… we still forget! Mince pies, cookies, cheese twists, or a special family favourite (ours is Bailey’s Banana Trifle!) it is a great time to get everyone involved in the kitchen. Put the Christmas music on and have some fun!

6. Family photo
Step 1: Learn how to put your camera onto timer
Step 2: Find an item at a suitable height you can balance the camera on
Step 3: Practise pressing the button, running to your place and then check everyone is in shot
Step 4: Try it for the ‘real one’ and check back to see how many people weren’t looking or had their eyes closed
Step 5: Repeat
Step 6: Repeat
Step 7: Repeat
Step 8: Give up and accept that this will be truly representative of your Christmas together!
Step 9: Hunt down the selfie stick….

7. Christmas walk
Running, jumping, splashing in puddle, 1, 2, 3 weeeeeeee, walk off all that fabulous food by enjoying the outdoors. Our favourite Christmas walk is the one that takes place on Christmas Morning… in our pjs! Hats, gloves, scarves, coats, wellies and pjs… who cares what the neighbours think? It’s the one day of the year you can most definitely get away with it ☺ 

8. The Christmas dinner
It takes longer to cook than the average dinner, so it definitely deserves to be captured! But don’t take too many snaps… no one likes cold roasties!

9. Visiting Father Christmas
The big man. I know what you’re after, the perfect pose, whispering in his ear, giving him a heart felt hug, but be prepared for the tears from little ones and the uncertainty of the big ones! Capture it however you can but be sure to watch the moment they meet Father Christmas and try to listen out for what they are asking him for!

10. Putting out the treats on Christmas Eve
Have you got your ‘Christmas Eve Box’ to accompany your ‘Christmas Eve Plate’… no? Nevermind! You can still have plenty of fun choosing what to put out for Father Christmas… carrots for the reindeer, mince pie, sherry… whatever your family tradition might be embrace the moment, and maybe get them to come up with some suggestions!

If you would like to find out more about Sarah and Hannibal-White photography, head over to her website or follow her on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Sarah Hannibal-White
T: 07717 021508

Baby in pyjamas