While many of us are tempted to stay indoors and mourn the loss of summer, Autumn really does provide amazing opportunities for beautiful kid’s portraits – if you undertake a few suggestions to ensure that your photos turn out perfectly.
One major roadblock in ensuring you have lovely fall colors to work with is scheduling your photo shoot too early, or too late. Once you notice the leaves changing colors you should start planning. Keep an eye on the weather, a cold snap or windstorm could drastically change the foliage (or leave you with bare branches).
If you find a location with good coloring, make note and come back within a few days – otherwise you might find you’ve missed out (but now you know for next year). Also make a note of when the sun is setting – aiming for a photo shoot right before sunset (and right after) will give you lovely golden light for warm kid’s portraits.
It can cool off quite quickly during autumn afternoons so you’ll want to bring along sweaters and coats to ensure your kids stay warm. Since more autumn backgrounds are full of warm reds, oranges, and yellows, you’ll want colors that don’t blend in too much with the background, but don’t compete either.
Reds, browns, purples, and beiges are a good bet, but you can experiment by throwing in a dash of color with a brightly-colored scarf or hat. If you’re aiming for lifestyle photography where your child is part of a larger photo you can’t get more bold by adding a bright coat to draw the eye to your subject.
As in, keep your light warm. If you’re not used to using white balance this might present a challenge. Basically, you don’t want your camera to over correct and make the orange-y sunlight white, rather you want it to maintain some warm tones. On the flip side, you don’t want everyone in the photo looking like they’ve had a bad spray tan, either. Try the white balance settings on your camera, or try setting a custom white balance.
When you get to your location, don’t overthink your first few photos of your kids. Find a nice background, choose a larger aperture (f/4, for example), get close and focus on the eyes. You can play with the aperture and decrease it (f/5.6 or f/8) to see how much detail you can get out of the background before it starts to compete with your subject. While we do get used to shooting with a large aperture to completely blur the background, fall offers such lovely colors that you will want to include some detail.
From there you can pull back and do a few environmental portraits – kids playing in leaves, walking down a path, or posing in front of a lovely autumnal scene. Keep your shutter button pressed rather than taking single shots (so you don’t curse blinking eyes or blurry arms when you get home and have a chance to review).
If you’ve managed to take some great kid’s portraits and your children are cooperating, try switching to black and white. While the success of this experiment will depend on the tonal contrast of what they are wearing against the background, fallen leaves and foliage in the background provide nice texture to create an interesting black and white portrait.
The thing about photographing late in the day is that although you’ll get lovely golden light it will either be in your child’s face or coming from behind. Try to shoot with the sun coming over your shoulder first, but if it’s making for squinty faces then switch places. You’ll need to adjust your exposure to ensure that you child’s features are visible (unless you want to have fun with silhouettes) and you can have fun making creative lens flare photos.
If the sun’s just not working for you, try to find an area where it’s not an issue, such as among the trees or around the side of a building.
You’re already outdoors with all your equipment and your kids are dressed up, so why not attempt a photo for your next holiday card? Bring a Santa hat, if you like, or simply aim for a nice kid’s portrait that you can send to friends and family. If you want to include the entire family pack along your tripod or recruit a friend to take one for you.
When all is said and done you should have some lovely kid’s portraits. Next step? Print them out, hang them on a wall, or start a Christmas craft so you can share your amazing autumn photos with everyone!