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10 tips to shoot great family photos using autumn's backdrop

The arrival of fall brings opportunities for photos that are way more exciting than that pumpkin spice latte on Instagram. Jumping in leaf piles, the return of sports, and trips to the pumpkin patch can make parents shutter-happy and anxious to take some adorable fall photos of their little ones.

So, what are the best ways to take advantage of those colorful leaves and the changing sunlight? Here, the pros tell TODAY Parents ten ways to snap beautiful autumn photos that both capture the magic of the season and reflect your child’s personality.

1. Focus on the light.

Rebecca Wyatt Photography
Wyatt says a prime time for fall photos is the hour before the sun sets — a time when the dramatic light helps to capture the cozy feeling of autumn.

“As the seasons change, so does the light,” says Rebecca Wyatt, a photographer from Baltimore, Maryland. “The sun sets earlier, its angles change, and its light illuminates the earth differently. It’s a great time to take advantage of the earlier golden hour and the warm glow.”

Rebecca Wyatt Photography
"Go exploring with your family and capture some amazing storytelling images of your adventure," suggests Wyatt.

To make the most of the changing light, Wyatt suggests heading outside with your kids — and a cozy jacket or blanket — an hour or so before the sun sets.

“Explore, search for acorns, or just chat. Capture the light and feeling, and enjoy being together. There’s no better recipe for meaningful family photos,” says Wyatt.

2. Maximize fall’s colors.

Clickin Moms / Vironica Golden
Increasing your camera's saturation setting or adding additional saturation when editing images can bring out the vibrancy of fall colors.

Sarah Wilkerson is CEO of Clickin Moms, an online photography community based in Geneva, Illinois. Wilkerson says more than any other season, fall is about color. From changing leaves to orange pumpkins, the photographer says a bit of planning and some minor photo edits can really make autumn colors pop.

“Dress your subject in blue for powerful contrast against the backdrop of fiery fall foliage,” says Wilkerson. “You can also bring out the season’s vibrance by giving your images a boost. You can do this with almost any camera by increasing its saturation or vibrancy picture settings. Or, if you choose to edit your images, you can add some saturation after the fact.”

3. Reinvent the leaf pile.

Clickin Moms / Beth Mancuso
Wilkerson recommends creating a leaf storm by throwing leaves over an umbrella.

“If there’s one thing we associate with autumn, it’s leaves,” says Wilkerson. “Get creative with the way you incorporate this quintessential sign of fall in your photos — crumbing them to blow towards the camera like glitter, tossing them up over an umbrella or letting a child playfully hide her face behind the biggest one she can find.”

Clickin Moms / Amy Lockheart
Allowing your child to find the biggest leaf she can, then hide her face behind it is one of Wilkerson's suggestions for interesting leaf pile photos.

4. Perfect the ‘autumn overhead.’

Photographer: Jessica Nelson / Clickin Moms / Jessica Nelson
Wilkerson calls shooting from overhead "a great way to bring autumn into your photos."

Wilkerson says a quintessential photo technique in fall is the ‘autumn overhead,’ a shot where you stand above your child and photograph them lying on the ground below.

“When the trees are brown or bare, having a child lay on the ground while you shoot from overhead is a great way to bring fall into your photos,” says Wilkerson. “The leaves on the grass add great texture, and when your child’s eyes are tilted up towards the sky, you’ll get pretty catchlights — even on an overcast day.”

5. Think beyond the pumpkin patch.

Rebecca Wyatt / Rebecca Wyatt Photography
Wyatt recommends finding areas other than the pumpkin patch to use as a backdrop for your fall photos. Think orchards, fields and forests.

To find the perfect fall backdrop, Wyatt suggests searching for locations other than the pumpkin patch.

“Pumpkins are great, but so are apple orchards or sunflower fields,” says Wyatt. “Go exploring with your family and capture some amazing storytelling images of your adventure.”

6. Embrace nature’s frames.

Clickin Moms / Mickie Devries
Wilkerson suggests looking for natural "frames" created by branches or foliage.

“As fall foliage becomes less dense, take the opportunity to find little ‘windows’ between the branches and remaining leaves, through which you want to photograph your subject,” says Wilkerson. “This perspective adds wonderful depth and allows nature to provide you with a naturally creative frame for the season.”

7. Capture fall’s landscape.

Clickin Moms / Beth Mancuso
"Frame your portrait," Wilkerson suggests, "then take about 50 steps back and shoot wide, incorporating the rich environment of the season into your photograph and letting the child be very small in the frame."

Wilkerson says a great way to highlight the locations you frequent during this time of year — the apple orchard, pumpkin patch, football field or autumn hike — is to take a few steps back and capture the bigger picture.

Clickin Moms / Jennifer Nobriga
Wilkerson suggests capturing places you frequent during fall by taking a wider shot that focuses on the landscape.

“Frame your portrait, then take about fifty steps back and shoot wide, incorporating the rich environment of the season into your photograph and letting the child be very small in the frame,” she says.

8. Consider every fall activity.

Rebecca Wyatt Photography
Wyatt suggests photographing your child's fall sports routine, remembering to include shots of the sidelines, where a great deal of emotion is often shown.

Wyatt says that, while she’s a lover of pumpkins and leaves, it’s important to remember the moments in fall that make up everyday life.

“Aside from the weather, the most dramatic change fall brings to our family is returning to school. Capturing morning bus stop antics, after school snacks, and the dreaded homework are all a part of documenting fall,” says Wyatt.

RebeccaWyatt / Rebecca Wyatt Photography
"Capturing morning bus stop antics, after school snacks, and the dreaded homework are all a part of documenting fall," says Wyatt.

“For our family, fall also means soccer season,” adds Wyatt. “Along with the obvious action shots, I try to remember to capture the sidelines, where so many emotions take place. High fives, hugs, and lots of smiles all make for wonderful images, as does that exhausted, after-practice face for which all parents are grateful.”

9. Brighten the shot with a pop of color.

Clickin Moms / Kellie Bieser
Wilkerson suggests adding brightness to the grayer days of fall through a pop of color. Yellow pants, anyone?

“While bright days in early fall afford a vibrant backdrop, the setting gives way to grays and browns as winter and its blustery weather approach,” says Wilkerson. “All you need is one great color pop — a red scarf, pink umbrella, yellow balloon — to bring excitement and life back into the scene.”

Clickin Moms / Veronica Golden
"All you need is one great color pop — a red scarf, pink umbrella, yellow balloon — to bring excitement and life back into the scene," says Wilkerson.

10. Have fun with your kid!

Jessica Drossin
Drossin suggests putting kids in situations where they will forget the camera and have fun.

Jessica Drossin, a photographer from Burbank, California, says the most important way to capture beautiful images in any season is to make it fun and to listen to your child.

“Instead of stiff grouping and awkward smiles, put your kids in situations where they will forget the camera and show off their true spirit as they discover nature, play with a sibling or cuddle a pet,” says Drossin.

“Set up a time to play and let them discover falling leaves, jumping in leaf piles and the world around them changing colors. If you’re photographing a teen or tween, allow them to be a little more serious if they feel awkward. Teens and tweens are changing, just like the season, and it’s ok to show their evolving nature,” she added.

“You don’t need to force smiles if you remember what is magical for kids about the season.”

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