Posts Tagged ‘bokey’

Capturing Autumn in Portrait Photography

We’re back from the summer hiatus, so let’s dig in this fall with an autumn topic: making the ‘autumn look’ look good in photography.

The principles are very basic, but easy to forget, and since they look so much better in the autumn, let’s quickly explore why. The principles we’ll talk about here are depth of field (DOF) and bokeh.

Unfamiliar with any terms we use in this article? Take the “Using Your DSLR or Mirrorless Camera” and “Getting Proper Exposures” classes to get a practical education with your own camera in-class, including in-class exercises and homework, to familiarize yourself with these terms.

DOF and Autumn

To read more about DOF, check out this post here. In terms of autumn, we are already looking at a beautiful landscape when we hit the right place at the right time, meaning enough leaves falling on the ground but there are still enough in the trees too before they become ‘too twiggy’. Once we’re in this setting, we’re surrounded by a beautiful landscape. Unknown to most of us, the DOF our eyes naturally see in (comparable to f/3.2-f/8.3) will naturally blur much of this scenery, giving it the dreamy look we associate with ideal autumn pictures. This is because we’ll always be focussing on something in the distance, and when we do, everything far enough in front of, and far enough behind that focus point, blurs outside our DOF.

edmonton photography school
ISO 320, f/4.5, 1/200 sec

The mistake that’s easy to make in autumn photography is to confuse specific backgrounds (trees) with this ‘autumn feel’, and set our subject in front of–and too close–to one of these pretty trees with its fall colours. When we do this, and when we don’t have enough space between our subject and the autumn background, we’ll end up capturing not only our subject but also the autumn trees inside our DOF, so that we won’t blur the background.

The solution is simply to stage the frame with the proper distances from lens to subject and lens to background. Ensure these steps are taken, and you’ll get a beautiful hazy autumn background:

1) Don’t get too close to the background, but instead get quite far from it–many dozens of feet depending on your lens.
2) Don’t place your subject near the tree, but instead bring them many dozens of feet in front of the tree.
3) Zoom in considerably (preferably 100 mm or more on your lens) on your portrait subject. This will likely mean you must be some distance away from them.
4) Shoot at a reasonably shallow DOF, for example f/4 or lower if possible.

edmonton photography school - autumn portraiture
ISO 160, f/4.5, 1/200 sec

Ensuring you are far from your subject, who in turn is far from the tree, helps to ensure a beautifully shallow DOF that will keep your portrait subject sharp, but blur your background into a haze of colour without the ‘twig and branches’ details that take away from the colour haze look we associate with autumn.

To learn how to manipulate your depth of field, take the “Using Your DSLR or Mirrorless Camera” to learn the theory and gain practical experience, and for opportunities to practice in directed homework exercises and have your shots reviewed in class, take the “Getting Proper Exposures” class.