How to take amazing fall photos of your family in the leaves
Fall is one of my favorite seasons! Otherwise lackluster lawns and trees are suddenly transformed to beautiful, dreamy, colorful scenery that makes a perfect backdrop for photos. Not only is it a perfect place for photos – my kids LOVE to play in the leaves! (Hey, FINALLY something they can throw everywhere that I don’t have to clean up! Momma’s dream come true…)
I scroll through social media this time of year and see everyone posting fall photos. But so many times I’m thinking to myself, “Gosh if they had just turned away from the sun, changed the angle, or gotten that random car out of the background … This photo would be AMAZING!” Many times the photos people are posting have such potential to be holiday card/hang on the wall material but they’re just lacking a few things. So I decided to put together a quick tutorial on how to get some AMAZING fall photos of your kiddos! Because let’s face it, I know not everyone can afford to hire a pro photographer for every photo op. 😉
That being said, let’s dive into specifics! Grab your DSLR camera out of your bag and let’s get shooting!
Ingredients for photo success:
• Pleasant day outside. Sunny, partly sunny, or light clouds. I would not suggest doing this when it’s miserably cold or wet out because nobody looks good when they’re freezing or miserable. Not to mention leaves don’t float through the air well when they’re soggy and wet 😉
• Subject. Kiddos, pets, or… whole family (Feeling adventurous? Invite a fellow photographer friend over and take turns doing photos of each other’s families!)
• Something to bribe your kiddos with. Sugar + candy, I’m talking to you. Or whatever your kid/furry friend loves. Do NOT bust these yummy treats out before doing photos or at the beginning of the shoot. Save this for when they’re 1000% done to get a few more photos, just when you think they’re totally over it. Try to let them play and be silly for a while before the candy or prize is even a conversation.
• An area that will photograph well. I look for a somewhat open space with pretty leaves. If you don’t have a space that works at your home, find a local park/school with some pretty trees and take a quick field trip there.
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• DSLR camera. I would use one of my favorite lenses, either a Tamron 28-70 2.8 lens or a Canon 85mm 1.8. But if you’d don’t have those lenses just use what you own. 50-100 mm focal length is ideal for this project. Go any longer (like 300mm) and you’ll be pretty far away from your subject… which CAN photograph well but makes it harder to interact with your kids or subject – because you’re standing a mile away yelling at the top of your lungs. Have a shorter lens? That’s fine too but just know that you may get some distortion, your subject’s body and proportions may seem a little “off” with that type of lens.
Don’t have a camera or lens? Check out Krista’s post on recommended cameras + lenses here.
Setting up the photo:
- I always like to pick an area that will photograph well, then let my kids be crazy and have fun (but try to keep them in that general area). So what do I look for? If it’s sunny out, I want the sun to be behind them or behind them and to the side a bit. The best times are 1-2 hours before sunset or after sunrise. Otherwise, the sunlight can be incredibly harsh and unflattering. If you must shoot in the middle of the day, no biggie, just position your subjects underneath a tree in the shade.
- Make sure there are no distracting elements in the background. No cars, no random things. Remember the background will go slightly blurry but distracting items will still be noticeable. I’m talking to you, telephone pole. If all else fails and you can’t find a perfect spot, remember you can always have your subject sit on the ground and shoot down toward them. This will let only the lawn and ground show and make any distracting elements disappear.
Camera and Lens Technical Specifications:
SCENARIO ONE: Sunny weather, an hour or two before sunset:
- Manual Mode (top wheel, “M”)
- ISO: 400. Consult your camera manual if you are not sure how to set these settings.
- White balance- shade or cloudy. Technically, it may be sunny out but your subject’s face will be facing away from the sun in the shade, so I prefer shade or cloudy for my white balance setting (look for icons of a little house with shade next to it, or a little cloud). Refer to your specific camera manual if you can’t find the white balance.
- Focus- Auto focus
- Shutter speed 1/1000th. Remember usually on your display it will just show “1000”, not 1/1000th (there’s not enough room on the display for the extra characters).
- Aperture of 2.8 (I prefer blurry backgrounds, so the lower you can get your aperture the better. My favorite versatile lens is a Tamron 2.8). Take a photo with these settings. Then hit playback and look at it. Too dark? Change your shutter speed to 1/800th or 1/640th or lower. Just don’t go below 1/125th as you may start to get blurred images. Or was the original shot too bright? Change shutter speed to a higher number, like 1/1250th or 1/1600th to darken your image.
- Have a lens that won’t go down to 2.8 aperture? Try aperture 4.5, shutter speed 1/250th. Too bright? Change to shutter speed 1/500th. Or if the original was too dark? Try aperture 1/125th. Again, try not to ever go below shutter speed 1/125th though, if you do your photos may start to be blurry.
SCENARIO TWO: Cloudy weather, any time of the day:
• Try the above settings, only change your ISO to 800. Still too dark? Try ISO 1600. Remember that every day outside can be a little different. So there is no standard setting as lighting changes depending on the day, cloud cover, time of day, etc. Everyone (including myself) takes a minute to do some “test” shots to check how bright or dark the image is and then I adjust my camera accordingly.
• Just can’t get the settings to work or too confusing? Pop your top dial to “P” for program mode. The camera will decide settings for you. I strongly prefer to shoot on Manual with the above settings. In “P” mode you cannot control how light or dark your image is, and it typically won’t turn out as well.
Fall Photo Poses and Ideas
A few of my favorite poses for fall leaves:
• Subject sits on the ground and looks up (sitting on pretty fall leaves). Use a blanket and partially cover the blanket with leaves if the ground is slightly wet.
• Laying on the ground on leaves or blanket, LOW camera angle (meaning you are sitting or laying on the ground as well to be even with them 🙂 )
• Subject standing, hands or thumbs in their pockets, holding a leaf, or leaning against a fence.
• If you have more than one subject, i.e. 2 kiddos, have them interact with each other! Hug, snuggle, have a staring contest, hold hands. Having trouble getting kiddos to smile? See my post here on tricks and tips to get natural smiles.
• Sit or lay on the ground and toss leaves
• NOW— It’s the fun part!!! I save this for last, as once they’ve get amped up there’s no going back bwhahaha! THROW leaves in the air!!! Throw them at each other!!! Chase one another and have fun!!!
I hope this helps you capture amazing photos of your kiddos or family! Leave a comment below with any questions and I’ll do my best to answer. Also, I’d love to see what photos you take! Tag us on Facebook/Instagram or hashtag #RealLifeCaptured . Lastly, don’t forget to like us on Facebook, Instagram, or see Krista’s professional photography site HERE.
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