child holding autumn leaf

Harnessing autumn light

The shift towards the colours of autumn means that now is a great time to take a walk with your camera. The lower elevation of the sun in the time means light is often warm and soft - great for shooting photos throughout the day. The coming of colder nights also mean there's a greater chance of fog forming in the morning - so get out and capture photos and movies of misty city or countryside before any sun burns it off.

Zoom in

When you want to take portrait photos in early autumn light, the key is to capture your subject in the best possible way. If you zoom in to your subject, even walking away from them a little if necessary, the results are more flattering. The longer zoom setting flattens facial features for a more pleasing result.

Lenses for portraits

Portrait images look best when you use a longer lens. Even if you have a standard kit lens, try zooming to the longest setting then walk back from your subject. This will give the most flattering results.

If you have a longer telephoto zoom lens, try turning the zoom to cut the distance between the subject and the background. You may have to walk back some distance from your subject to gain the most of the compression effect.

With a strong backlight or sidelight it’s important that the front of your lens is really clean. Finger marks and dirt will increase the chance of flare which softens images and may create odd patches of light. It’s a good idea to use a lens hood to reduce this flare as much as possible.

Portrait mode

Turn the camera Mode Dial to the Scene modes and select Portrait mode. This simple action will ensure your camera settings are better optimised to give shallow depth of field and smooth skin tones. Be ready to shoot several pictures in a sequence as you try to capture a fleeting expression.

Select a single face

The camera’s Face Detection system identifies multiple faces in your pictures. If your chosen portrait subject is amongst a crowd of other people, make sure you select their face as the primary one to watch. Once selected the camera will track them as you recompose your frame and ensure that they are in focus and correctly exposed.

Focus on your subject’s eyes

When you set the camera to a creative zone mode, e.g. Tv, Av, P, M, you gain access to all the settings that your camera offers. Select a single AF point, and either move it to the optimum place, or focus on your subject’s eye and then recompose the scene. Being super selective with your focus points will make sure you get the eyes of your subject sharp, and that’s the critical part of any portrait.

When you are using a Canon lens with a USM focus motor, you can manually adjust the focus after the autofocus has finished. Simply turn the focus ring on your lens to refine the focus on your subject. If you own an EOS M series camera and are using EF-M lenses, you can achieve a similar result with the AF+MF function on the camera.

Shoot in the shade

Late in the evening on autumn days, sunshine can be very strong making it uncomfortable for your portrait subject. It can also give your photos harsher contrast and deep shadows. Choosing an area in the shade, under a tree, or in the shade of a building will yield much better results as you subject will not be squinting. In addition, the bright background behind them will add to the drama of your photo.

Harnessing autumn light

The change of seasons brings a special quality of light to the end of early autumn days. Due to the sun’s lower position in the sky, autumn evening sunlight is soft and warm toned, making it great for portrait photos. When shooting people or portraits, make the best of the light by positioning your subject so the sun is behind them, and then turn on the built-in flash to add a little light on their face. The camera does the work, you simply need to ensure the subject is relatively close to the camera, usually less than four metres away.

Bounce back warm light

As an alternative, position the subject so that the warm light illuminates them from one side. Try holding a standard piece of paper on the opposite side of the light source to bounce some light back onto the shadow side of the face. The paper can be anything from a sheet of A3 photo paper to a restaurant menu – just ensure it’s either white or neutral coloured.

Partial metering for backlit pictures

If you plan to take a photograph with the sun behind your subject, you might find that your subject’s face looks darker than expected. Change the Metering mode to Partial metering and place the centre of the frame over the subject’s face. Partial metering measures from a small circle around the centre of the frame. Once you have measured the brightness press the * button to lock the exposure before you recompose the picture.

Shooting on cloudy flat light days

Sometimes the early autumn days are cloudy, and this means flat shadows and less lighting. Sometimes this light is ideal for shooting portraits, but often it needs a little help. Use a Speedlite flash and set the zoom of the flash so that the light is a narrow beam. Then aim the beam of light at your subject to add extra depth and shape to their face. Often this works even better if you can use the flash off the camera. Using automatic E-TTL flash will keep the exposures looking as good as they can be.

Indoor portrait tips

Sometimes early autumn weather is unpredictable, and you’ll need to shoot inside. Try to find a window and try a bit of white net or tulle material as a diffuser. Place the portrait subject so that the window light falls on one side of their face then ask them to turn their head slightly to look outside the window. Now the soft light will evenly light their face. Make sure you turn off your camera’s flash and hold the camera still to get the best results.

Choose your AF point

Whether shooting portraits, landscapes or city scenes, you need to be in control of where your camera will focus. Using multi-point AF works for many subjects, but when you want to be very specific and focus sharply on your subject’s eye, a single point is much more reliable. Go to your Settings mode on your camera and try experimenting with the different focal points available to you.

Saturate colours

Set your camera to deliver strong saturated colours to create bold, eye-catching images of early autumn. The yellow, red and gold hues of autumn-coloured landscapes are often more reflective than green ones, so setting the camera exposure compensation to underexpose by -1/3 or -2/3-stop will help to capture stronger, saturated colours. You might also try your camera’s “My Colors” feature if it has it. Choose Vivid for strong saturated colours.

Capture photos in RAW format

RAW format images (as opposed to JPEG) offer the most flexibility when it comes to post-processing your images on a computer. If you chose to shoot RAW make sure you have plenty of space on your memory cards. RAW images can be processed in some cameras or, more commonly, on a computer. Canon includes Digital Photo Professional software with EOS cameras for processing RAW images. With RAW you can change the white balance for a warmer feel to your pictures. You can also experiment with different Picture Styles such as the Autumn Hues style that can be downloaded from the Canon website.

Shooting a video

Shooting a movie in the early autumn is an opportunity to show the contrast between vibrant colourful scenes and more muted low contrast ones. Local parks and the countryside are the best places for vibrant colours. If you’re featuring friends, family or other people, make sure that the stars of your film are clothed in suitable vibrant colours too.

The colours of the landscape with leaves aglow in autumnal shades are a great way to set the scene for your video. Make sure that you shoot some clips where the leaves are falling from the trees, or why not scoop up a handful of leaves and throw them in the air? Just a few leaves dropping in front of your subject make an attractive shot. Many LEGRIA models feature a Slow-Motion mode which can capture great shots like this. Also – try to capture the sound of footsteps scrunching on the dried leaves. It really is the sound of autumn time.

Finally, the most important step is to edit the movie and share it - before the autumn turns to winter.

Present your shots at their best

It is worth selecting an optimum paper when printing warm-toned photos. Whilst the popular high gloss Canon Photo Paper Pro Platinum gives superbly detailed and vibrant results, you could also try a softer paper. A great example is Canon’s Photo Paper Plus Semi-gloss, which has a satin finish and reduced glossiness for a softer finish.

My Image Garden software by Canon brings all print settings like paper type, size and borders into one easy to navigate screen. What’s more, you can add images to a calendar, organise them by event, or combine them into collages or other creative ways to print.

Canon provides a varied range of media for your PIXMA printer - from matte, semi-gloss and high gloss - all of which have their own characteristics to suit your individual photography style.