Even though it’s hot out now Fall is already creeping up. I know this because Target has their back to school section ramped up and Michaels has pulled out their orange and yellow artificial flower arrangements.
Fall is a wonderful time of year for me because it contains the birthdays of my boys. One November baby and one October baby. I have to plan ahead because two birthdays plus Halloween and Thanksgiving are a LOT for a family to handle. As you might also have an upcoming birth or a first birthday I wanted to share a special tradition our family has as inspiration for a photo keepsake tradition your family can treasure as much as I treasure ours. Look for photography tips farther down in the post too!
Starting at my oldest son’s first birthday I had the idea to take his photo next to a pile of leaves shaped like a “1.” It was a simple thing to do- I used a rake to pull a large pile in and shaped them into the number. The next part, actually getting my crawling boy to sit still, was a lot harder!
When my next son was born we wanted a similar, but unique way to carry on our tradition. As an October baby, pumpkins were a natural fit. Mini pumpkins are purchased each year (I pre-arrange at the patch into the number or buy the right amount) and after our photo I use them as decorations in our house for the season. It can cost about $20 for the pumpkins each year. If you have to choose one maybe choose leaves… they’re free! You could also consider grabbing some faux mini-pumpkins and using them every year.
I will be taking my son’s 7th Leaf photo this Fall and my other son’s 5th Pumpkin photo. It’s a sacred tradition I look forward to each year. I’ve also upped my photog game since this began so I’d love to share a few tips for those who will be embarking on this adventure!
1. Take your photo from a step stool or higher vantage point. In our earliest photos we were standing on porch overlooking a sloped hill facing us or took them from the upstairs bathroom window of our apartment on the 2nd floor. To replicate that we used step stools after we moved. This allows you to get the entire number and baby in frame, a helpful thing depending on the camera’s lens. If you have a DSLR use a wide angle lens.
2. Shoot on an overcast day. We made the mistake of taking our very first leaf photo on a sunny day. I didn’t know sunny days are the worst for photography back them! Taking photos on a day when it’s overcast means the shadows won’t be as harsh and the lighting will be more even. It makes for a much better photo.
3. Take the photos when you baby is freshly fed and napped. They’re more likely to be happy about the situation. Have a partner with you that can reposition them (especially the first and second year) and between shots have them stand behind you and make ridiculous amounts of noise and gestures that will make them smile or at the very least, look at your camera.
4. Position your number so that it faces the sun. This tip is more about the quality of light than anything but if you really want your photo to pop have them face the sun. The baby’s eyes will have light (and a reflection) in them. Always avoid them being backlight (sun behind the baby and number) if possible.
5. Or ignore everything and just have fun with it because chasing perfection as a one or two man team on these photos WILL drive you crazy. I have been in near tears on these photoshoots, especially the time we couldn’t find enough leaves in Florida, and as soon as we scraped together enough at a park, the sun was so far down that my light was gone. The image is not amazing but I still love that I’ve made this work every year.
Taking better photos of my children was the number 1 reason that I started to learn how to use my DSLR. All of the above photos were taken with either a Nikon D80 or Nikon D90. This year I’ve upgraded to a full frame Canon so I’m excited to see the 7 and 5 photos! I spent about a year studying on Clickin’ Moms and using their awesome forums to learn how to take better photos. It’s a great resource so if you want to up your game I have a link to sign up- Clickin’ Moms.