This blog post is part 5 – the last one! – of our 5 part blog mini series which was part of our oversubscribed,  free online Autumn Photography Bootcamp which just finished its run. Over 5 days we taught a group of novice and experienced photographers how to make the most of the autumn colours and sights and how to use them when photographing their families. Sorry you missed it but you can still benefit from the advice and lessons in this series. And if you don’t want to miss our next free bootcamp – the Photographing Christmas bootcamp – enter your details below.

Over the last 4 lessons we threw a lot at you. We had you thinking about light, about colours and textures, about composing and drawing the viewer’s eye to your subject, we had you shooting portraits and I was debating with myself whether to give you something tougher and more technical today or maybe give you a multi-step assignment but in the end, I thought we should finish on a fun note so I want to invite you to have a little fun with leaves. Yup, you read that right.

I would love for you to treat it as a creative assignment and think – what can you do with the humble leaf that would also be fun? A lot of the images I’ve seen you already submit into the group should give you plenty of inspiration but we thought we’d give you a few ideas with some pointers on what to consider as you go. Apply all that you’ve learnt in the last few days – about light, about composition, about how to highlight textures and colours and use it, use it all.

Here are our 7 things to do with leaves while with camera…

1.Make them into a colourful, seasonal carpet to lie your children down on.

Things to think about:
  • Where is the light? If you’re getting your kids down on the ground and you’re in plain sunshine at noon, your kids will keep their eyes firmly shut. Opt for some shade instead. If your kids are still still struggling to keep their eyes open, play a game with them where you ask them to keep their eyes shut until you tell them. You could either make it on 1,2,3 or go for some bonus giggles and insert a silly word when you’re meant to say three.
  • Be careful what else is on the ground. I once got my daughter to lie down on a carpet of leaves and only discovered later she was inches away from some dog poo that was hiding among the colourful foliage.
  • Look for trees that are dropping colourful leaves rather than just brown if you can
  • Experiment with composition – tight crop or a wider image? Subject in the centre or side of the frame? Horizontal or vertical?
  • Change the vantage point – with your kids on the ground, get down next to them and photograph from the ground level.

2. Single out a beautiful leaf and photograph it from different angles and against different backgrounds.

Things to think about:
  • Light will have a huge impact on the way the leaf will look depending on the kind of light you have ( direct and intense or soft and diffuse) but also where it’s coming from – front, side or back light?
  • You have a lot of options when it comes to backgrounds – place it against a similar colour background or go for contrast – both colour and textural, keep it ‘in nature’ or take it home with you
  • Play with camera angles – it doesn’t have to be just ‘from above’ – unless it’s been flattened like a pancake, it should have a little curl to it which could help you show off its texture.
  • Experiment with different placements within the frame, go for both vertical and horizontal, crop in to it or leave a generous amount of negative space
  • For some extra challenge, have someone drop it from a height and try to capture it mid flight

3. Build’em tall and kick’em high.

An all time fave of all the kids I know. Build a leaf pile and get your kids to annihilate it by trying to kick it as high as they can or just run through it.

Things to think about:
  • Consider your background – you need to make sure your leaves mid flight stand out against it. Look for either simply sky or a darker, uniform background with which they might contrast. Backlighting them might help to bring them out of the background too.
  • Front light, side light or backlight? Which one will work better for you?
  • Go for full length or crop to just the feet sending the leaves fly from a close up
  • Try to capture the flying leaves sharp or ( if you know how to in your camera) try for a bit of motion blur
  • Move around and capture the action from multiple sides – go for a side view or from behind or have them aim their kicks in your direction ( just keep your camera safe)
  • Experiment with angles – try different vantage points – shoot from the ground pointing your camera upwards or from standing height, OR if you find the right set up – perhaps from above?

4. Get the kids to hide behind them ( or accessorise with)

Go on a quest to find a special leaf they like and have them hide behind it or wear it. Play peekaboo or just use or a a fun prop.

Things to think about:
  • what light will work best? Direct or soft? Front, side or backlight?
  • should you have them keep the leaf close to their face or further away in front of them for a more varied depth of field effect
  • Colours? Ones that will complement or contrast with what they’re wearing?
  • A close crop or pulling back more?

5. Make the leaves fly- have a leaf fight or just throw them up

A bit like the ‘kick them high’ idea, this shot is al about action but it can work for younger babies too if you can have someone throw the leaves up in front or above them. You have to be quick and anticipate lots!

Things to think about:
  • ALWAYS start with light ( you’ve worked it out now, haven’t you?) – what light have you got to play with? Where will you position yourself and the kids to make the most of it?
  • Angles – try shooting from a lower vantage point if your kids are on the ground
  • Background – these only work if you can actually see the leaves up in the air so finding a background which will not distract from them is crucial.
  • If you can control your camera – what shutter speed will help you capture it all sharp?
  • For some variety, shoot from below with leaves falling right down on you

6. Create a flat lay

Flay lay is when you arrange a number of different elements on a surface and photograph from above. It’s great for showing different colours and textures and including other autumnal elements too.

  • Think of a theme or concept for your flat lay – perhaps the same leaf type with different colours, or same colour, different shapes?
  • Consider the colour and texture of your surface – to contrast or complement your subject
  • Your light is crucial here – you want soft, diffused light which will not distract from your subjects
  • Think about how you will use the space – will you fill the frame with leaves or leave a good amount of negative space?
  • Will you keep the leaves as they are or turn them into art or have a little fun drawing faces onto them with your kids?

7. Blow the leaves up

Get your kids to blow the leaves out towards you.

  • light – yes, I’m repeating myself but – light – where do you want it?
  • where to focus? will you focus on the leaves or your child’s face? keep in mind they then to lean forward as they blow
  • If you can control your shutter speed – how fast do you need to go to to get them sharp?
  • Do you want the kids to be blow out towards you or to capture your child from the side with the leaves flying away from you?
  • go for small or they won’t fly but simply sag towards the earth.


Think of at least 3 things to do with leaves while with camera – ideally ones you haven’t done yet in this bootcamp. Use our list or think of your own.

This marks the end of our 5 part bootcamp. Hopefully it gave you a little education, a little inspiration and  a few things to try with your camera. And if you liked it, trust me, you would have liked it even more, with full participation in our awesome support group, following the lessons with your peers and learning together. The next bootcamp we’re doing will be our Christmas Bootcamp and if you don’t want to miss that one – enter your details below.

more from this mini series: