When leaves fall down… look up!

Written by: Laura Graham
Photography by: Laura Graham

Ahhhh… it’s here!
Crisp morning air, boots and sweater jackets, hay, pumpkins and hot spiced cider.
Autumn. Who doesn’t love it?

The queen of rusty colors and trees bleeding all their beauty in a display worthy of a gallery exhibit. I don’t know of one photographer that doesn’t get giddy at the very thought of shooting during fall foliage season – vibrant colors can transform an otherwise mundane scene into a blanket of red, yellow, and orange hues.

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So how does a professional photographer take advantage of this breathtaking season? There are many things you can do to set your images apart from simple snapshots – some are easy, and others a bit more advanced. Below you’ll find a guide to photographing fall foliage – covering things from light to composition, as well as a few other helpful tips which will improve your fall foliage techniques.

Know Your Light
Since this is a very short-lived season, the last thing you should do is stay indoors due to less-than-ideal weather. You can find a beautiful image with any kind of lighting – you just need to adjust how you evaluate your scene and use what you have to your advantage.

Lighting plays a huge role on the vibrancy of color when photographing fall foliage. While many don’t consider an overcast day to be the best lighting foliage photography, it’s an incredible way to capture the saturated colors of leaves. Overcast lighting has the ability to eliminate harsh shadows and highlights – and in the process, bring out those powerful tones and colors that aren’t visible under the sun.


Of course, nothing can beat those warm tones of the sun combined with the incredible color of fall. The more direct lighting gives you an increase of shadows and highlights which expands the tonal range and drama of an image. In particular, the golden hours have the ability to flood your lens with visible rays of sun – combine this with the foliage color, and you’re in for an incredibly powerful photo.


When shooting under the sun, you’ll undoubtedly run into exposure problems – especially in the morning and evening when the angle of the sun gives you more highlights and shadows to work with. An overexposed sky, underexposed ground, or blown highlights from reflections are all common issues that you may encounter.

When that happens, you have two main options – exposure blending (combining two or more photos with different levels of exposure in Photoshop) or using the Variable ND filters, such as the ones in our Promaster HGX line.

Using Weather
Fall weather is unstable and unpredictable – rain, mist, sometimes frost can show up without notice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t shoot during these conditions. Actually, many landscape photographers look forward to these pleasant surprises as they add more authenticity.

Mist and Fog
Not only is this a show of color, but those cold nights allow for many misty mornings. Fog on water and thick mist in the air can provide a stunning composition – combine this with the light of the golden hours, and you can create an outstanding autumn landscape.


Once peak foliage arrives, it can last a while – anywhere from a week to a month, so you have plenty of time to try out different perspectives and compositions once peak arrives.

Also, it’s good to know that once leaves change color, they don’t become any more vibrant than what you already see. And once they fall, the color only lasts a couple days – so actually your window of opportunity to photograph colorful foliage on the ground is shorter than the peak season itself.

Foliage Shooting Techniques
Weather and light have a huge role to play in the kind of images you create, but what special techniques can you use with your camera to photograph autumn in a unique and powerful way?

Using Polarizer Filters
Many know that a polarizer filter is a wonderful tool that reduces exposure and also deepens the saturation of colors – a huge benefit for autumn. However, what works particularly well for fall foliage is that a polarizer filter’s glare-reducing ability also applies to sun and light reflecting off of leaves, meaning those colorful leaves that were originally washed out from reflections now have color that is deep and vibrant.

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Slowing Down Your Shutter
Fall provides a wonderful opportunity to get creative with your camera. By using a slow shutter speed, you can capture movement in a surreal and powerful way. Falling leaves or branches of color swaying in the wind are both excellent opportunities to use a slow shutter speed to get a bit artistic with autumn – and don’t forget about moving water.

Fountain photo Photo courtesy of loyal
Calagaz customer, Jon Jeffress

During the daylight hours, you’ll need to slow down your shutter tremendously in order to capture movement like this – and using a small aperture generally won’t cut it. Instead, you’ll need to use ND filters of varying strength depending on how slow you want your shutter to be. Don’t be afraid to stack your filters (UV+Polarizer+ND) either for those very long exposures – just watch out for any unwanted vignetting.

And of course – don’t forget to lock your mirror, mount on a sturdy tripod such as our XC line, and use your remote shutter release.


Use Bokeh
If you have a fast lens, fall is the perfect time to use wide apertures and create some outstanding bokeh images. You can photograph bokeh in practically any situation, but autumn is unique – the colorful leaves can create a mosaic of shapes and tones, and they also makes a fantastic backdrop for an outdoor portrait session.

Composing Your Photo
While photographs of a sprawling mountain side can be breathtaking, they’re not the only images you can capture. Fall color is a short-lived season where every style of photography can come into play.

Focus on Simplicity
Minimalism can be equally as powerful as an autumn vista – sun flares, isolated trees, leaves, and macro shots are often ignored in the quest to capture a more complex photograph.



Change Your Perspective
Sometimes the simplest way to improve your autumn photography is the most successful. Changing your vantage point from eye-level to up high or down low can provide a unique perspective that many do not expect.


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Hijack Some Foliage
One of the great aspects of fall foliage is that you can take it wherever you go – or at least a small part of it. By positioning a leaf or two in a unique way, you can completely transform an otherwise bland composition by offering a strong focal point – this works especially well with wide angle lenses (the Tamron 10-24mm is one of my favorites).

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Fall foliage season is too short to afford a missed photo opportunity. Clouds, sun, day, night – you can always find a stunning composition to capture, whether you’re looking at a beautiful mountain vista, the confinement of your backyard or pick up a few leaves to look at closer. Just grab your camera and have fun!

I wish you all good light!



Laura is a European redhead thrown by fate around the sparkly white Alabama beaches! She’s a techie who loves all things photography and social media. She digs Altoids and smileys, she’s a big time foodie and owns a husband, 2 shih-tzus and a Nikon.

Laura just started working at Calagaz, but she’s declared us her second family. You know, besides the folks back in Romania…

To view more of Laura’s work, visit her website at www.andreephotography.com

For more information on the products mentioned in this post, or to schedule a private lesson with one of our knowledgable instructors, visit www.calagaz.com or call the Calagaz Photo store nearest you in Mobile Alabama (251-478-0487) or our new location in Pensacola Florida (850-476-2697)

Momtography: 5 Tips for Photographing Children

By: Jessika Kirkland

As mothers we often witness the beauty in our children on a day to day basis, but when we try to photograph them it simply doesn’t translate… Here are 5 tips that I find helpful to capturing your child’s adorable face and unique personality in your photographs.

1. Try adding flash or additional light.

Children are always moving, adding flash allows you to freeze their actions and help improve the exposure especially if you are working with limited available light. Constant light is an inexpensive way to add in extra light to places that may be limited, like inside your home. Some great lighting choices that are inexpensive and easy to use are the ProMaster FL-190 or a constant light.

The ProMaster FL190 is an external flash that is powerful enough to allow you to reach further with your lighting and light up a bigger space. The built-in flash on your camera only extends about 10 feet, which is going to limit you if you’re further than 10 feet away from your subject.

What I love about using a constant light, is “what you see is what you get.” The constant light is a continuous light that you just turn on and off – there’s not a lot of “thinking” involved from a technical standpoint. Its portable, easy to pop up and take back down for easy storage. Even better, the ProMaster Constant Light Kit at Calagaz is only $150 — it doesn’t get any easier (or better) than that!


2. Use focus to tell a story.
The face doesn’t always have to be the main focal point. Ask yourself… “What do I want to remember in 10 years?” Check your camera’s instruction manual and put your camera in “single-point focus mode.” This setting will allow you to pick what YOU want to be in focus instead of the camera deciding. Watch this short video on how to manually set your focus on your camera in one simple step.

3. Practice getting your timing right.

Pressing the shutter button on your camera half way down will focus the picture and then when you press it all the way down, it will take the shot. Practice getting the camera in focus and be ready for when they make their next move. Always know what’s coming next. Be ready for their next move, they are quick, you need to be quick.

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4. Never ask a child to smile or say cheese!

Guaranteed. 100% of the time. It will NOT be natural.  This is when you have fun and put on a show… Act like a goofball, let them laugh at you. The idea here is to capture your child’s natural laughter that makes YOU smile!

Try saying random things out loud like “pineapple pizza” or something completely silly. Things like this usually surprises children and makes them laugh.

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5. Eliminate distractions!

Yep, even if that requires asking mom, dad or grandma to step away. Too many people trying to get the child’s attention is very distracting, and kids just aren’t sure who to look at. It only leads to him/her to get irritated and not cooperate… and that’s no fun!

Just remember:  It’s more important to get the shot than to get a perfect one. Don’t miss something precious of your children because you can’t figure out your camera. Practice, practice, practice! And, when you run into something you have a question on, feel free to call us at Calagaz – we are always happy to help!

 For more tips, be sure to catch our next class on “Taking Better Photos of Children” – this hour and a half class is only $30!  Or, if you need more personalized help with your camera, schedule a one-hour private lesson with one of our many knowledgable instructors for only $60!  For a schedule of photography classes & events visit www.calagaz.com.

Jessika Kirkland is a mom and a professional photographer with a passion for newborn, toddler and family photography, and experience in real estate photography since 2006. Jessika volunteers on a regular basis for the local organization, “Photography for Patients” where professional photographers volunteer their time and talent to take photos of kids with cancer… for free. For more information about Jessika or Photography for Patients, visit www.jessikakirklandphotography.com

How to Shoot Unique Halloween Photos

How to Shoot Halloween Festivities

Kristi Bonney captures the frightfully fun action using the Tamron 18-270mm VC PZD lens.

Article by Jenn Gidman
Images by Kristi Bonney

Halloween is right around the corner, so start prepping now so you don’t miss a single shot of your little munchkins decked out in their scary regalia. Kristi Bonney recently threw a mini-soiree with six children (two of them her own) and used the Tamron 18-270mm VC PZD lens to capture the festivities.  Read the entire blog post on Tamron’s website here.

Go for setup and detail shots before the party starts.
I was initially going to shoot this little celebration in my dining room, but I had a lighting issue. So we moved the Halloween party outdoors under the trees on a cool, crisp autumn day, and I basically put some treats out for the kids and set up all my props and decorations. I took a couple of shots of the setup to capture the mood of the party, then I took some individual shots of the treats on the table before I let the kids have at them.

It’s really cool to get the details in some of those decorations or treats. When I framed my shot of one of the cupcakes, that swirly chocolate looked so delicious. I really wanted to concentrate on that and kick everything else out of focus so that the viewer’s eye was drawn into the cupcake itself. I positioned the cupcake further away from the other items in the background by distancing it, I was able to get that nicely blurred background.

Let the action unfold naturally
I always try to figure out what kind of shots I want beforehand. For instance, I hadn’t choreographed the shot of the kids digging their hands into the bowl of candy corn. I just knew I wanted to get the kids eating snacks, laughing, and having fun with those silly, natural moments. I knew if I put that bowl there, they’d be digging into it, no doubt! I just stepped back and waited with my camera.

Make your images stand out with interesting compositions.
There are all different ways to show the kids dressed up and ready to party. I wanted to get a photo of my daughter looking at herself in her costume, because I knew the smiles would come naturally then. I moved a large mirror into my dining room and placed it right next to a window so I could get lots of natural light (it was the middle of the day). Once my daughter was dressed, I told her to go over to the mirror and take a look. I stepped back so I wouldn’t be in the mirror’s reflection. My main focus was on the ruffles of the dress, the details along the sleeve, and her hair (I loved her curls!), but I was also able to get her facial expression and that blurred background. It was the best of all worlds. (read more)

Mix up posing and candids for great group shots.
Most people are going to want to get some shots of their kids in full costume mode, but look, it’s Halloween. The kids just want to get their friends, go trick-or-treating, and load up on sugar. They don’t want to stand around and take photos. What I did for the images of the kids against the side of the house is something I do a lot. I said,”If you pose for me for a second, I’ll take three shots of you guys standing in your costumes, and as soon as I get my three shots, you can do whatever you want – make silly faces, jump up and down, go crazy!” And that’s what they did. It’s a terrific way to get those pretty posed shots, and then, after they have their crazy time, all of those great candid moments that you can’t stage.

Turn typical jack-o’-lantern shots on their heads.
People often take jack-o’-lantern shots, but sometimes they can be kind of boring. First of all, when you’re shooting a lit pumpkin in that blue hour after the golden light is gone, I recommend using a tripod. If you can’t do that, set your camera down on a sturdy spot or handhold if you can brace yourself really well. Get your elbows in against your body, hold your camera still, and hold your breath if you can.

For a shot I took of my daughter with one of our jack-o’-lanterns, I kicked up the ISO (don’t be afraid to do that, a little noise is fine!) and exposed for the lit area of the pumpkin. I wasn’t looking for a typical jack-o’-lantern shot… I wanted to add a bit of nostalgia by adding my daughter into the shot. I placed her next to the jack-o’-lantern, standing there in her little dress, her teeny-tiny feet in those oversized, high-heeled Disney Princess shoes. She stood still for a while, but then when she started fidgeting, she pulled her dress up a little and I got a perfect shot that showed her feet peeking out from under the dress, with the jack-o’-lantern sitting right next to her.

Tap into black and white to focus on fun Halloween expressions.
During our trick-or-treat outing, I wanted to do something different and beautiful. When you think about trick-or-treating as a kid, you remember how excited you were when you went to all the different houses and never knew what candy you’d get. I wanted to capture my daughter in that trick-or-treating moment when the candy is being handed over, with the light streaming in from the house’s doorway to light her face.

When I took the image, I already knew I wanted to convert it to black and white. Even though she had this great expression on her face, and that’s what was pulling me in, the colors of the Halloween lights along the trim of the door, the light from the pumpkin, and the purple reflecting from her costume just took away from that smile on her face. So I purposefully converted to black and white because I wanted the focus of the image to be her expression, not on the Halloween decorations or on her green trick-or-treating pumpkin.

To see more of Kristi Bonney’s work, go to http://liveandloveoutloud.com/