Pumpkin Patch Family Photos
It's the fall season here in the Northern Hemisphere and that means Halloween, Jack O Lanterns, and the pumpkin patch. Out here in Southern California there's a local farm (Bates Nut Farm) that hosts a fall event each year. It's our yearly tradition to go out there, fight the crowds, go for a tractor ride, find your way through a hay bale maze and pick your pumpkin to take home and carve for your jack o lantern. Each year my family heads out to this madness, 'cause ... it just seems like the right thing to do. Each year we take a family photo amongst the iconic fall backgrounds: pumpkins, stalks of corn, farm houses, etc. This year I was pretty happy with how our family photo turned out and I thought I share some of the tricks that I used to get the shot. (see the final photo below).
So let me set the scene for you: The pumpkins are all in a designated area in piles. There are hundreds and hundreds of people milling about picking their pumpkins or talking family photos. On one side of the field is a chain link fenced with cars parked right behind it, not picturesque. My very first thought while walking into this madness is "Where is the shot? Where is the shot? Where do I place my subjects (my family) and from which direction do I shoot?" I see hundreds of people taking the typical snapshot. (Pose the kid, beg 'em to smile and SNAP! OK, let's move on. To another pile, SMILE! SNAP! And so on.) I was on the hunt looking for something a bit more special than that ... so where's the shot? The sun is harsh and direct and could spoil the lighting. I start prepping my gear and here's what I brought: a DSLR with a hot shoe and an external flash, a tripod and an RF wireless shutter release.
I took a few shots at several spots in the area, but just wasn't happy with the composition nor the background. My wife Sandy spots a great spot with a nice background. It's facing the sun so we find a patch of shade and roll three HUGE sitting pumpkins into it to avoid squinties.
Big tip: bring a LOAD of patience. I've often shot in situations where there are numerous, understandably oblivious people in your otherwise nicely composed shot. Heck I've probably been the oblivious person in someone else's shot at one time or another. So wait, wait, wait for it and hope that when the coast is clear, your family (i.e. the little ones) is ready for the shootin' to begin.
While I wait for the background people to clear out I'm dialing in my settings: Expose for the background and adjust the flash power so that it fills some of the face shadows but doesn't unnaturally blow it out. Finally the background is clear (or if it's only a couple people, I'll photoshop 'em out later) and it's time to shoot. I join my family on the sitting pumpkins adjust my pose, put the remote behind my son's back and fire away. I take several shots and adjust my pose ever so slightly: sometimes what feels OK in the shot ends up looking awkward in the photo for some reason. Before they stand up, I check the LCD to see if we've got some potential shots and this time we did. We're good to go!
With a little luck, patience and practice, you too can get an nice family shot at a memorable event.
Bring: Camera, Tripod, External Flash, Wireless Trigger, Patience!
... The photo's done, now off to ride that tractor and go through the hay bale maze!
Click on the photo below for a larger view.