Harnessing autumn light

EOS tutorial

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 of misty city or countryside before any sun burns it off.

• Bounce back warm light
• Lenses for portraits
• Portrait mode
• Focus on your subject's eyes
• Partial metering for backlit pictures
• Shooting on cloudy flat light days
• Capture photos in RAW format

Autumn-Woman-Portrait Yellow - Thawt Hawthje
Rights: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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.

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.

Autumn-Dog-Chain Good friends are hard to find - Johnny Silvercloud
Rights: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Portrait mod

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.

Autumn-Portrait-Woman-EyesAutumn’s arrival (+4) - Martinak15
Rights: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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.

Autumn-Portrait-Woman-LightPortrait in Botanic Garden - Christian Bortes
Rights: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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.

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.

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