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5 part blog series based on our oversubscribed online Autumn Photography bootcamp. Part 5 – things to do with leaves while with camera
5 part blog series based on our oversubscribed online Autumn Photography bootcamp. Part 1 – Light.
A few times a year, Mother nature creates the perfect conditions to capture stunning, truly memorable images. It just suddenly gets generous with colour and light and textures and makes it almost a sin not to try and capture all this beauty. These perfect windows of opportunity don’t last long but when they do, you should absolutely make sure to try and make it out to get shooting.
Autumn, especially at the peak of the season is one of those times. It just looks so pretty – the multitude of rich and saturated colours trying to make up for the fact the summer is gone. But blink it, and you miss it, so time is of the essence. After all, you want to capture the rich, saturated glory, not the sad, crumpled browns.. ( well, actually hold that thought, because you might find those worth of a few photos too). Wondering if you missed your window? Look outside – if you still see some trees with green or otherwise coloured leaves, you’re still on time. Just don’t delay it any longer.
So what to photograph? And how?
1. The autumnal portrait with soft, dreamy background:
The kind of photos people tend to comment about when it comes to autumn, are those with a soft, dreamy, delicate background. And for good reason – a curtain of colourful leaves turned into a soft backdrops makes people really stand out and adds instant WOW factor to your images. But there is a skill in capturing pictures like these and we’re about to break to you exactly how to get what you want.
What we want to achieve is a lovely head and shoulders portraiture with a soft, dreamy, colourful background.
How to achieve this effect:
- Find a bush or a tree with some lovely colour on it.
- If you’ve not really explored your manual camera settings, put your camera on Portrait mode. If you know what you’re doing – Aperture Priority or full Manual with as wide an aperture setting as you can get – F1.8 would be great here, but if not, just pick the lowest you have.
- Unless you have a very wide aperture setting, you will want to make sure that your child is not standing right by your colourful tree, but at least few feet away. Better still, pick a tree at a bit of a distance from your child and frame the image from such an angle that their head looks set against the backdrop of the tree. More distance between your child and the background helps create a greater degree of blur to your background.
- Now you need to stand a few feet away too and if your lens allows it, zoom in on your child (if you’re more technically advanced, you will want a Focal Length of at least 50mm or more). Please bear in mind that you don’t want to be too far from your child either – when zoomed in, you want the child’s face to fill approx no less than 1/3 – 1/2 of the entire frame, maybe even a little more. Yes, you can achieve it without zooming in, but trust us, you’ll get much better results if you do.
- Make sure the focus is definitely set on your child’s face and take the picture. If you’re not sure if your camera is getting the focus on your child, look for little light-up dots or squares on your screen or through your viewfinder as you take the photo.Voila!
2. Fun with the crunchy, fallen leaves
The key to capturing these kind of images is making sure that the leaves flying in the air are captured nice and sharp and that they are actually visible against the background. In order to achieve it, you need to ensure that you’re in the right position and that the photos can be taken quickly enough.
If you’re using your camera on auto, select a Sports mode ( or similar) – your camera on that mode is pre-set to take the photos quickly and ( at least for some cameras ) that the potential camera shake is minimised. The faster you ‘re able to take the photo, the more chance of the leaves appearing pin sharp and crisp 🙂
If you’re using your camera on semi-manual settings, such as Shutter or Aperture priority, select the Shutter priority setting and make sure that it is set to a minimum 1/250s and preferably faster. being outside, with generally a good quantity and quality of light, this should be relatively easy, but if your camera is struggling, increase your ISO to 400 or even 800 if needed.
If you want both your subject and the leaves to be sharp, they should be both within the same distance from you – so, if your child is throwing the leaves up, or to it’s side, you’ll catch them both sharp. But if your child is throwing the leaves towards or away from you and as a result one of the two will be further or closer to you than the other, chances are, they won’t both be sharp. Not always a bad thing, but worth remembering!
3. Just having a bit of a laugh!
In my experience, there is (almost) nothing that kids hate more than being asked to stand or sit still, waiting to be photographed, whilst Mum or Dad spends ages fiddling with the camera. Even if they oblige to begin with, they’re quickly bored and want to go and just have fun.
So my advice is – let them. No, scratch that – encourage them and have fun with them – you’re bound to get much better photos and kids that’ll cooperate with your photo demands more readily in the future. And if the photos aren’t perfect – oh well, I guarantee they’ll still make you smile!
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Are you getting out there with your camera today?
If you want to make the most of the bluebells while they’re still in full bloom, here are our best tips for seriously beautiful photos:
An important caveat here : bluebells are an ancient wildflower but they can be vulnerable to habitat destruction so make sure that when you go exploring your local woods, you cause as little harm to them as possible = don’t pick, don’t trample, leave them as little disturbed as possible.
1. You want LOTS of them
Pick an area where the bluebells are nice and dense – the strength of a flower carpet is in the sheer volume of the photos – give yourself the best advantage by finding somewhere that has an abundance of flowers! Here is some help finding bluebells near you from the Woodland Trust. Our student Sarah Gannon used the abundance of flowers beautifully – by focusing on the logs in the front, she made the bluebells melt into background, creating a beautiful scene, rich in colour and with subtle texture.
2. Think big picture
Before you zoom in on the photos, consider the overall magical scene with the gorgeous flower carpet that’s painted in front of you and shoot that as well – make your photos high and wide, choose a wide angle focal length and picture the whole scene.
3. aaaand the detail
Once you’ve got those wide images, don’t forget to explore the delicate nature of the flowers by going closer in and creating tighter frames. Putting the wider shot and the detail together can give you a really beautiful collage.
4. Get your angles right
Most people shoot from where they stand, without varying the height of the angle and you can make such a difference by getting a bit lower to the ground, you know, where your subject is. Try shooting low, at around the flower height, get your kids to crouch down or sit down amongst the flowers to get the most of it. By shooting low, you allow yourself to develop a good depth in the photo, almost multiplying the volume of the flowers. Shooting from above and into the ground takes away the sense of flower abundance. In the photo below, the little girl is crouching among the flowers with some at the front being out of focus and some lovely and sharp ( for those of you comfortable around a camera, that’s playing with a shallow depth of field)
5. Bluebells as foreground
Don’t just think of the bluebells as a gorgeous background. Bringing them to the front and either keeping them sharp and your subjects blurry or just using them as a bit of a blurry background can bring a real 3D dimension to your images, lifting them from ordinary, to something a bit more special. Our student Valsa Shah kept the bluebells sharp in the foreground which adds lovely texture to the image. The silhouette of father and a daughter in the background has the perfect blur which means our eyes don’t go there first, focusing on the flowers instead, but at the same time it’s delicate enough to make it clear who they are.
Choose a shallow depth of field for creating varied texture in the images – ideally you want some flower details around your subject that further melt into the background into a blur of colour and light. You can create it either by picking a wide aperture ( the smallest possible number on your camera), getting close to your subject and zooming in ( ideally all 3 ). Don’t just think background when it comes to creating a texture in the photo – shooting through the flowers brings in a great candid dimension to the photos.
And above all – have fun and mess around with your kids – let them play and capture the joy! Get them to hide behind logs and flowers and examine the flowers from up close! Play pick-a-boo behind the flowers and encourage them to explore by themselves. When they have fun, beautiful photo opportunities will always follow – you just need to capture them!
Want to learn more of what your camera can do? Check out our photography courses, designed especially for Mums and Dads with a passion for photographing their families – just like you! Pick from face-to face, London based classes and Online workshops.
There is a certain trend amongst new photographer, especially when it comes to photographing children and that’s to get very very close to them. It’s partly because we like to see these details : the chubby little toes, the gorgeous eyelashes, the gummy smiles – you name it. It is also partly because we are always so physically close to our children – when they’re babies, they’re almost never further than an arm’s reach.
But for all the details, you can lose a lot of the story of your kids childhood, a lot of the space and details. So we say, challenge yourself to taking images with a bigger picture for a few days. No close-ups, no tight head and shoulders portraits – try to see them and the space they’re in. You might just love it!
Here are some examples to get you going
We all get in a rut, however much or little we shoot. It could be that go-to head and shoulders portrait that you already have 3000 of, the same comfortable spot you shoot or just not being able to come up with fresh ideas. You look at other people photos and somehow they all look better, more polished, more inventive.
Well, there is a way out of this samey-samey rut and that’s to take on a photography challenge or exercise and commit to it consciously for at least a little while. Just enough to feel yourself being pushed out of your comfort zone.
We make it easy for our students and alumni – we have a private Facebook group with weekly themes and exercises to focus their photography practice. Our recent theme is “3 angles” which is a really useful creative exercise for anybody, regardless of your level of advancement.
All you need to do, is to photograph your chosen subject – be it your child, your pet, a location, your fancy dinner – from 3 different angles. It’s as easy as that but you will quickly find that it will make you take images you wouldn’t have otherwise shot. Some of them may be terrible – let’s face it, there are only so many good sides a person can have. But some of them will be revelations, surpassing your expectations and helping you find new ways of seeing things.
3 angles. So very simple. You don’t need instructions, you can shoot them in auto if you prefer but as long as you do it, you train your eyes and your photography instincts. Go on, give yourself a challenge this weekend!
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
Our AUTUMN photography classes – in LONDON and ONLINE start in September! Click on the images below to find out more!