Our Fall Tradition–Easy Photo Expedition

Even though I’m an extremely sentimental mom, I don’t have a lot of set-in-stone family traditions besides the typical holiday traditions. I hope to establish more as my kids gets older, but so far I’ve managed to nail down one, and it’s been at the top of my fall to-do list for the last three years. It’s the super-quick-laid-back photo shoot in the wooded area behind our house.

I’m not a professional photographer, and I don’t have a big fancy pants DSLR camera that has all the widgets and whatsits, but I did get a neat little Nikon camera for Christmas and I use the heck out of it. (Maybe one day I’ll get Instagram, but I need to figure out Twitter first.)

This is what you need:

  • A camera (mine is a Nikon Coolpix s6100)
  • An overcast day, not too windy
  • Fall leaves, changing colors
  • Solid-ish colored clothing (no words or logos)
  • Jeans (for stickers, bugs, dirt, etc)
  • Boots (for stickers, bugs, dirt, etc)
  • Washed face
  • Brushed hair
  • A blanket that can get dirty and still look good in the photo

That’s all we do. And the best part: I keep it under 20 minutes, including walking time. That really came in handy this year with the baby boy.

For the best shots, I stick to a few basic angles. Nothing too fancy. I get on the same level as the kids, (sometimes this involves laying in semi-dried deer poop, oh well.) Check out the background in your viewfinder/screen and make sure there’s nothing awful, like a trash can or pile of scrap metal or random, pain-in-the-butt neighbor kids.

I often use the setting for “pets” on my camera because it takes three quick pictures in a row. For the baby, I hide the camera until ready to shoot or else he gets crazed for the buttons. From there, all I say is “look at the camera and smile” about a hundred times. I start bribing about 5 minutes in to keep the smiles coming.  All in all, I usually take 25-35 pictures and 5-10 are useable for editing and framing.

For editing, I use Google’s free Picasa. The steps I usually take, after uploading all my pics are:

  • Adjust “fill light” to brighten their faces.
  • “Crop” using a 4×6 photo size so I know the print will be the right size for giving away.
  • Adjust “color temperature” to warm up skin tones.
  • Add a little bit of “highlights”
  • Deepen the “shadows”

That’s as close to professional as I can get. Then you can:

  • Add soft focus
  • Change to black and white, sepia or
  • Add a ton of other options to make the pics look awesome

Here are some examples of before and after:








And here is a quick montage of the better photos since 2011. I have a project in mind that will take several years to develop, but you’ll see a few pics at the end of the slideshow that I’ll be using for that.
Jammie Kern
I plan on taking the same “running” picture on that little lane that runs alongside our property all the way up until they graduate high school. Maybe beyond, if my kids want to come back and take their family photos there, in the fall of course.

Do you have a photo tradition? Maybe something involving Christmas sweaters or snow angels? What other super easy tips do you have for taking pictures and editing? I’d like to try making a funny movie every year with my kids, but that will have to wait until my baby boy lets me have more than a couple hours of sleep at a time. Fingers crossed for 2013!


headshot 2Jammie Kern is our blogger of the month. She blogs at Jammie Kern.com.

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