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How to take a great autumnal portrait

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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:

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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:

  1. Find a bush or a tree with some lovely colour on it.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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

 

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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!

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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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Holidays by the pool? Learn how to take great underwater photos and capture the fun!

Want to capture your kids under water? Not as hard as it looks! We explore equipment options, technique and composition – ready? Splash!

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Simple and modern baby photos – getting started

 

 

 

Welcoming a new baby into your life and your heart often means a beginning of a little bit of baby photo obsession. Trust me. I’ve been there, done that, got myself into photography business 🙂

But all too often, the great kind of baby photos seem elusive. We end up with hundreds of phone camera snaps but not so many of the better quality ones, suitable for printing. And I know that often parents start with their ‘proper’ cameras, only to become disappointed with what they get out of it, where in reality, sometimes a few very simple tweaks is all it takes to make the photos look great.

With that in mind, we created a guide in which we explain 10 beautiful, modern and simple baby photos which you can achieve with almost any camera and no fancy props beyond a simple blanket laid out on your bed. The guide is free for you to download and put into practice  🙂  It’s a non-technical guide, meaning we don’t go on about specific camera settings, instead focusing on how to capture the images, using almost any camera, where and how to position your baby, what shooting angle to choose and what common pitfalls to look out for.

Below are a couple of pages from the guide to give you an idea what you’ll be getting:

 

 

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5 tips for taking great photos of your children in the bluebells

 

 

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.

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Photo by student Sarah Gannon

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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

photo by student Valsa Shah

photo by student Valsa Shah

 

 

 

Camera settings:

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!

Happy snapping!

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.

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How to take blurry background photos?

Love the look of that soft, glowy, blurry background in portrait photos? You can achieve it too! Follow our 4 foolproof steps!

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What to photograph when you photograph babies?

What to photograph when photographing babies? Because, well, they don’t do a lot, do they? How to capture something interesting when all they do is lie there / sleep and feed? HOLD THAT THOUGHT.

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The most common mistake in portrait photography

The most common – and easily fixable mistake all new photographers make when taking portraits.

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5 things to do to make your snow photos look great!

“Did you SEE that Mummy! We can go an build a snowman! And play snowballs and …”

Here are out 5 top things to do if you want your snow photos to look beautiful.

1. Change your White Balance to ‘cloudy’ 

Your camera doesn’t really understand pure white ( and pure black for that effect ). Because of that, it tries to bring it down to a pale shade of grey and we all know how attractive grey snow looks. If you leave it to its own devices, the effect will be greyish, blueish photos. Changing your White Balance ( WB) to cloudy – warmifies the image, making it closer to how we perceive it.

2. Overexpose.

I know, counter-intuitive, but hear me out. This is again down to the whole not understanding white thing and trying to bring it back to grey which essentially ‘dims’ the picture. Find a button on your camera with a +/- on it ( that’s your exposure compensation button) and use the scroll wheel ( if you’re on DSLR – this might differ for bridge cameras) to push the meter towards +1. Take a few test pictures to double check and adjust as necessary but you should find them looking better than on ‘correct’ setting. Just don’t forget to bring it back to zero later!

3. Keep your shutter speed fast for pictures of falling snow unless you want them to look like lines.

Start from 1/250s and adjust upwards if necessary to preserve the roundness of the falling snow flakes. Go even faster for the obligatory snowball fight  of course! Just make sure your camera is nice and safe (snow = water = trouble)

4.  Think of your background and foreground.

Want to make it clear in the picture the snow is falling around your subject? Make sure your background has something dark in it ( trees are good) so that the bright snow flakes have something to stand out against. Using a shallow depth of field will help to blur some of the snowflakes in the front creating a layer of depth.

5. Think of the larger picture as well

It’s easy enough to zoom in on the red cheeks, excited smiles and snowflakes settling on the eyelashes but get the larger scene as well! Head out to the park or a wide open space and show the beauty and calm of the snowscape. If your child is wearing contrasting colour – even better – it will make them stand out against the background and draw the eye.

And above all – have fun!

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Love the look of those festive lights in the background? Here is how you get them:

I really really really love Christmas. I cheer up instantly pretty much from the 1st December or as soon as the fairy lights start going up all over the place. They’re such a lovely accent among the doom and gloom of the winter, I really couldn’t be without them.

But photographically speaking – if there is such a thing – they are great because they give you fabulous opportunities to get some beautiful BOKEH.

Bokeh is a real word ( I promise), it comes from Japanese and describes the light circles we can get on our photographs, usually in the background. Like the ones below ( all our students photos).

The great news is that they are actually not difficult to capture and they bring such a lovely festive feel to your photos. Follow our 3 steps and you’ll be bokeh-in all over your photos.

The process:

Before go go any further, make sure your camera is set right:

If you’re shooting on auto: set your camera to Portrait or High Sensitivity.

If you’re shooting in semi-auto or manual mode : set your aperture to the widest available setting ( smallest number you have) and ( unless you;re using tripod or something else where you can just set your camera steady by itself) up your ISO to 800 – 1600 ( or until you’re able to get a shutter speed above 1/60s).

If possible, try to make sure that the subject you’re photographing is facing a window or another source of light.

To make bokeh as attractive and as effective as possible, we are essentially trying to throw them out of focus as much as possible. And here is your 3 step plan to achieve it.

Step 1. Distance to the lights

The closer your lights are to your subject, the more in focus they will be. So to give yourself a chance of getting it right, move your subject a little distance from the lights.

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Step 2. Distance to your subject.

The further you are from the point you are focusing on, the more everything in the frame will be in focus. Easy way to test it – grab your camera and hold one arm in front of your lens. Take a picture focusing on your hand. Now without moving an inch from where you are or changing anything on your camera, focus on something a bit further away. If you compare the two pictures, you’ll see that one has comparatively much more blur in the background than the other.

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Step 3. Zoom in

The more you zoom in on your subject, the more you compress the entire space in your frame ( trust us on it) and the more your lights will be thrown out of focus. So use as much zoom as you can in the space you’re in – longer zoom will require you to be physically further away from your subject or it won’t let you focus. Yes, I know in the step above we made a point of saying – get close to your subject – this means, get as close as you can with your zoom stretched out. Try to zoom in so much that your subject occupies at least half the space in the frame.

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IN SUMMARY

1. Get your subject away from the lights

2. Get close to your subject

3. Zoom in on your subject

Good luck and a very happy Christmas from The Photography for Parents team!

Feast your eyes on more wonderful examples of bokeh from our students!