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Photography Tips | Fall Leaves and Fun Photos with Dad

Fall is the season when the weather gets a little colder, at least in the northern states. The leaves turn into an explosion of reds and oranges, and dads and children are outside doing chores.

Now is a great time to get out that camera and take some great photos.

Fall Photography

The secret to child photography is to get low and get close. Nothing is more uncomfortable like looking up at the sky. Don’t believe me? Try it for a moment and see how happy and comfortable you look. However, that’s what we make children do every time we take their picture–crane their necks up and force a smile while standing far enough away to show all of the furniture in the room. You need to walk up to your kids, hike up those stonewashed jeans, and get one your knees. Your little girl will be more relaxed and she will be able to look into the camera and laugh.

Crop the shot so that her face fills the screen. Everyone wants to see her pretty eyes and sweet smile.

Use textures to your advantage. Fall clothes are colorful with lots of textures. Don’t be afraid to put your kids in the craziest sweaters and hats. Now that you have your own Benetton advertisement, get the kids to pull the hats over their eyes or pull the sweater up to their noses. Such a fun look!

Go late. Make sure you take the kids outside closer to the soft, warm light of dusk. Noon light is too harsh.

Get in some chores. I am sure the they are helping you rake the leaves, since they are such great kids. Give your boy a big rake and get him to use it. He will be proud while also looking awkward. Just think how funny it will be to show him the photo when he is a big strapping college student.

Change Speeds and Get messy. Once you raked all those leaves, now you can make a mess. Change your camera settings: Take your camera off of automatic and move the dial to Shutter Priority — S for Nikon or TV for Canon. Choose a slower shutter speed, 1/30 to 1/125. That will give your photos sweet motion blur.

Now dig through that pile and pick out all of the rocks, sticks and dog poop. (You don’t want to traumatize your kids.) Then get your kids to jump into the leaves. Face them so that they jump into the sunlight so you can see their face. Take some test photos, then jump!

You will get lots of colors and movement. There’s nothing as fun as jumping into a pile of leaves. Be careful, because they tire quickly. So make sure you are taking lots of shots.

Now that they are in the leaves, have them throw the leaves at the camera. Futz with the shutter speed to get the leaves in focus. Your little girl will be ecstatic to do something naughty like throwing leaves at daddy.

Capture the exhaustion. By now, your little guy will be exhausted. Have him sit in the leaves so you only see him above the waist. Put leaves on his head like an Autumnal Wavy Gravy. Also, have him lie back into the leaves while standing over him and taking his photo with the leaves framing the face. He will look like an angel. You can play around with the framing to get funny arm positions.

There are many more fun ways to play around with your kids and your fancy camera. Work together to come up with fun shots and you can learn more about how their little minds work.

And, they will get to spend quality time with dad.

Steven de Polo is 44 years old and lives in Grand Rapids, where he works in foundation relations at Grand Valley State University. Steven is divorced and has been in a long-term relationship with his girlfriend, with whom he is raising an 9-year-old girl adopted from China and a 5-year-old girl from Haiti. His Jamaican-American stepdaughter works in New York City and plans to get her CPA license. Steven enjoys being a dad, especially the trips to the comic book store and getting barbecue spare ribs. He dislikes long division and the idea that his princesses may start dating before they reach the age of 40. He supports Kids Food Basket and is on the board of the Local First Educational Foundation.


  1. Jeanne

    October 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Loved the tip to remove the dog poop- seriously- I would not have thought to look for dog poop in a pile of leaves. But I’m sure its a good place to find some- if you have a dog, that is!

  2. Prime Parents' Club

    October 5, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Loved the tips in this post! (Also, HAHAHAHAHA at “hike up those stonewashed jeans”)


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