Fall Portraits

 Family Portrait

It’s that time of year again, when everyone starts thinking about getting their family photo taken.  Whether they are doing this in anticipation of including a photo with Christmas cards, for a new framed photo on the wall, or simply to have a new photo to add to the scrapbook, this gets to be a busy time of year.

Fall colors are beautiful, but it depends greatly on the available lighting, a great location and a quickly passing time of year as the colors change.  If you wait too long, bright orange turns to rusty brown and you have missed your chance.  If you are too early you get too much green with only a smattering of color.

This year I tried a new location and was generally happy with the results.  Lighting was very difficult as our family was in a shadow in the foreground with a bright background.  To accomplish a more even shot I combined two exposures, one with the background exposed properly and one with my family exposed evenly in front.  I combined the two in Photoshop for a well balanced photo.

With family photos, rarely does everything go perfectly.  As with this photo, not every smile is perfect.  I may end up transferring some expressions from another exposure onto this one to try and improve upon it, but perhaps not.  Sometimes leaving things closer to reality feels better and gives us something to laugh about years later.

When picking a location, keep in mind a few things:

  • What is in the foreground that may add or distract on your photo
  • Same for the background – do you have a clear shot or is their a road or building that may ruin an otherwise pleasant shot
  • Can you choose a different angle to solve any distractions
  • What time of day will provide the best lighting for the location; keep in mind the time of year for how early it gets dark if going for an evening shoot
  • Is the ground going to be wet or dirty; if so, bring something to sit on such as a blanket that can be tucked out of view of the camera (note that in this shot there was duck poop everywhere!)
  •  Does the location require permission for photography use
  • Suggest color ideas to your subject for clothes that will compliment the location

When actually taking the photo, here are a few things to think about:

  • Look for balance in your arrangement.  This is one of my weakest points I continue to try and improve on.
  •  Be quick about it, especially if kids are involved.  You may only have a matter of minutes before the youngest ones lose interest and start getting fussy
  • When working with kids, you can’t be bashful.  If you need to make crazy sounds or goofy faces to get the shot, it is a small price to pay!  Consider bringing noisy squeeze toys or similar if you will have very young children in the photo.
  • Shoot the same shot from different angles.  You may not realize one angle was better than the other until you look at them later.
  • Look for bright spots on faces that can foul up an otherwise good shot.
  • Use a tripod – you may be the master at holding the camera still, but you will never be more steady than a camera mounted on a tripod.
  • Consider using a trigger release.  Once you have framed the photo you can stand to the side of the camera and be as goofy as you need to capture kids attention.  When everything is just right you can hit the trigger without going back behind the camera.
  • If you are taking your own photo, with a tripod you can use the timer function. That is how this particular photo was taken.

There are plenty more ideas that can apply to the family portrait, but hopefully this will get you started.  Most of all, just get out and take some photos.  I typically will get out with the family several times over a few weeks to be sure we get the best shot we all love.  Kids have bad days, weather and lighting may not cooperate, etc.  When you get that perfect shot in the end, it is all worth it.

Canon 40D, 17-55, 1/125 at f/8.0 and 400 ISO