Hanukkah is a fun and special time for our family. It’s not the most important or religious of all the Jewish Holidays but we still like to celebrate each of the eight days in a unique way.

Some of our family traditions include:

  1. Let the kids pick out their own Menorah to light each night now that they are all old enough.
  2. Open one gift after we say the blessings and we eat special foods cooked in oil, such as potato pancakes and donuts.
  3. We often have a Hanukkah party and invite our family over for games of dreidel and eating of chocolate gelt or coins.

But something else I like to do during our week is take this opportunity to use each day to get more creative with my photography. Since this holiday lasts eight nights, I thought I would share eight unique things I do to make our holiday even more special.

1. Capture the lighting

Lighting the Menorah is one of the highlights of Hanukkah. When the kids were small we would light one Menorah as a family. Then, as they got older and more responsible, we started letting the kids light the candles and they would alternate each night. Now I let each of them pick one Menorah from our collection and they light that one for all eight nights. I love taking the opportunity to capture them as they light each candle and watch their faces brighten.

8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

2. Focus on the Light

I like to focus on the light from the candles as the main point of interest. Since the holiday is called the festival of lights, I incorporate the beautiful candle light into many of my photos.

8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

3. Use a different lens each night

I have been doing this for a few years now. To try to keep myself motivated and creative I use a different lens each of the eight nights. Between my wide angle, my macro, my creative lenses (lensbaby) and my Fuji mirrorless, I attempt to try something new each night so that I can keep all of my photos looking somewhat different.

8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

macro lens


8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

Lensbaby Edge 80


8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

Fujifilm – 18-55 lens

4. Shoot in the dark

It’s very hard to shoot in the total dark with only candle light as your source but it is fun to practice and the results are quite dramatic. Embrace a high ISO, meter on the mid-tones and enjoy the grain.

8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

5. Play with macro detail shots

I love macro and it is natural that I would want to bring out my macro lens for at least one of the nights. I love capturing the small details like a dreidel up close and the last of the flames going out at the end of the week.

8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

6. Bokeh Bokeh Bokeh

Getting some amazing bokeh is always something I strive for in my photographs and shooting during Hanukkah is no exception. Placing lit elements, such as my Star of David, in the background allows me to position myself to get some pretty background bokeh. I also use the candles for bokeh as well when I shoot with a shallow DOF.

8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

7. Embrace the clutter

Let’s face it, holidays are messy. We decorate and cook and open presents and often each night is chaos. I like to capture shots of the whole process including the messy dining room (aka present room) and the cluttered table.

8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

8. Have fun

My kids, like all photographer’s kids, get camera weary from time to time. I try to make it fun each night by asking them to be silly, taking some time to play games or enlisting their help in getting fun shots. When the kids feel included and a part of the process I am more likely to get the shots I want.

8 ways to photograph your hanukkah celebration by Jessica Nelson

Thank you for following along with me on my Hanukkah journey. I hope my tips encourage you to document all of your holidays, whether big or small, in fun and creative ways!

Hanukkah is a fun and special time for our family. I like to take this opportunity to use each day to get more creative with my photography.