Not feeling festive? This video of Santa with sick children will melt your icy heart

Santa Photoshoots with sick children in hospital
Mason from Adelaide, edited by Angelo van der Klift (Image credit: The Heart Project)

A lot of people haven't been feeling the festivities this year, and that's understandable with the hardships we've collectively faced if you include a worldwide pandemic that is still leaving its mark on many lives, as well as the War on Ukraine, the Cost of living crisis, and for the UK especially – an unstable government and constant changes in leadership. 

But shouldn't that give us all the more reason to celebrate this festive season? Knowing that despite all this, we're still here.

That's the attitude that many of these heroic children have in the below video, as they forget the hardships for a moment and embrace the festivities in a photo shoot with the Australian Santa Claus, plus his dedicated and phenomenal team of photographers and editors that make this magic possible for hundreds of children. 

This flying Santa drone is the perfect Christmas gift for kids! (opens in new tab)

The Heart Project (opens in new tab)'s Christmas Wish team visits children's hospitals around the world, flying Santa across multiple regions in Australia and the USA, to create magical composite photography images for hundreds of sick children. These incredible Photoshopped Christmas Wonderland works of art are then gifted to these children and their families to cherish forever.

A team of Photographers and photo editors, plus Aussie Santa Claus (opens in new tab), make it their mission each year to bring a little festive joy to families that have endured hardship and some pretty rough times due to children's health challenges and financial constraints. For some of these strong families, these were the first-ever professionally captured images of their child, and for others, it could well be their last image, as the team caters to some unfortunate and gravely ill young people. 

We guarantee that the video below will bring a tear to your eye, and maybe even melt your humbug heart a little. As photographers, there's no better feeling than to be able to use your skills to bring joy to a child and their families, especially at this time of year that can be so difficult for families who have lost loved ones, can't afford to put presents under the tree, or can't be together to celebrate the holidays. 

The absolutely tremendous work carried out by The Heart Project (opens in new tab) demonstrates that something as simple as a unique photo truly can change a family's lives. The Christmas Wish (opens in new tab) team is made up of a few hundred volunteers that include team members, photographers, Photoshop Artists, and Santa Claus himself, of course.

At times when Santa couldn't visit the children in person, there was a virtual Santa that appeared to greet the children using augmented reality technology. The Christmas Wish project began in 2016 as a collaboration between award-winning Australian photographer Karen Alsop (opens in new tab) (also the founder of Story Art Masterclasses), plus a small team at Monash Children's Hospital in Clayton.

Grace from Adelaide's before image (Image credit: The Heart Project)
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Grace from Adelaide, edited by Jesús Ramirez (Image credit: The Heart Project)
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Each of the final images contains hours and layers of work that has been completed by word-class editors, having donated their time generously to craft a personalized work of art for each child, that also incorporates their interests and hobbies through the information that has been gathered by the team during the photoshoot.

The experienced and renowned Photoshop Masters are said to volunteer their time for 3 weeks each year to edit these artworks that have been originally photographed by the in-person teams, with one special edit assigned to each artist, that this year included: Colin Smith (Photoshop Cafe), Jesús Ramirez (Photoshop Training Channel), Mark Heaps, Kelly Clark, Joel Robison, Ben Shirk, Bren Slade, and Angelo van der Klift.

A family member has been quoted saying, "Thank you so much for this beautiful picture! Our son had a nasogastric tube inserted just a few hours after the photo was taken, so it's wonderful to have a Christmas photo of him without it."

The Heart Project's founder, Karen Alsop, says “Our mission has always been to put a smile on the face of families who are doing it tough at Christmas by making them escape reality – even for a day – thanks to the power of photography and Photoshop”.

Santa appearing in VR  (Image credit: The Heart Project)
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A huge thank you to The Heart Project and Christmas Wish 2022 (opens in new tab) Project for sharing these images and the fantastic video with us. Be sure to visit the website to read the stories of all of these remarkable and brave children, quotes from the families, and the volunteers who made this project happen. 

• You may also be interested in the 30 of the best Christmas gifts for photographers (opens in new tab), as well as our guides to the best photo editing software (opens in new tab), and the best Photoshop alternatives (opens in new tab), and not forgetting the best monitors for photo editing (opens in new tab).

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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.