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Published the 2nd of December 2020



Do you have the perfect little model to photograph but are struggling to come up with a creative concept for the image? How about simply using the time of year to set the stage, along with some seasonal props easily found in your own backyard to pull it all together? Oh, and don't forget the fishing line!

It was March, the first month in autumn here in the Southern Hemisphere, and I wanted to make a creative portrait of my daughter that portrayed the season as much as her happy character. I had envisioned the colors I wanted in the image and the creative effect I wanted to use a week before the shoot. Having seen similar photographs like this before, I wanted to give it something extra: that invisible element we sometimes feel, especially at that time of year — the wind.

This was a set-up shot, as is the majority of my work. It was also an opportunity to try out a small softbox that I bought a few weeks earlier. I knew it was going to be a color photograph from the beginning, so choosing the clothing was easy and we used what we had at our disposal. My wife had the burgundy scarf; my daughter had the red beanie and the grey top. The dry autumn leaves were raked and collected from our lawn minutes before we started shooting. I wanted this to be an outdoor shot, and it was taken in our backyard using the grey weathered fence as a background. I decided to underexpose the fence, and by doing so it worked well with the rest of the fall colors. Since I was using a small off-camera flash, I had to wait till early evening for the ambient light to drop so that the small battery-powered flash could do its job.

"The line is then pulled and waved around by an assistant (my wife) outside the frame to make the scarf dance horizontally, as if it's blowing in the wind."

The illusion of wind was created using the fishing line technique. This involved attaching a couple safety pins to the end of the scarf and then tying a length of clear fishing line to them. The line is then pulled and waved around by an assistant (my wife) outside the frame to make the scarf dance horizontally, as if it's blowing in the wind. Just as a handful of leaves was thrown in the air, I pressed the shutter button. I probably took about 20 or so frames in total, repeating the leaf throwing each time I shot a frame.

The purpose was to create a portrait. Upon reflection it's perhaps a portrait within a portrait. An autumn portrait of my daughter in addition to a portrait of a season. The finished photo turned out successfully with the leaves flying through the air, giving the final image an almost three-dimensional aesthetic.

I always shoot in RAW format. The selected frame was processed using Adobe Photoshop.

1) Once I opened the file, I applied some sharpening and the photo was slightly cropped and straightened.

2) At this point I had to remove the safety pins from the end of the scarf and any evidence of the fishing line using the Healing Brush tool. This was an easy fix.

3) Looking at the photo, I noticed that some of the leaves closest to the light had some highlights that were eye-catchers and needed to be brought down a bit. I worked on them using the Patch tool.

4) The photo was almost ready and just needed some pop to it. I applied a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and then added some Saturation to the whole photo. I also used the Dodge and Burn tools to reduce the brightness of the leaves a bit more.

5) A minor Curves adjustment layer improved the contrast. A slight vignette and a final sharpening using the High Pass filter polished it off.

1) Preplanning. If you think about it first, visualize it and then plan it out, the actual shoot is over in no time.

2) When photographing children in a staged environment, try to get the shot within the first 15 minutes. Young children usually lose interest after that.

3) An assistant makes the process a whole lot easier.

I was born and live in Melbourne, Australia. I am a self-taught photographer who learned the technicalities of photography using a 35mm film SLR camera from the mid-'90s, and then I switched to digital in 2005. I constantly practice the art of photography and try to refine my style. Digital technique is one of the best advances in photography. It allows editing photos in ways that the greatest photographers could have only dreamed about in their day.
I would never have your patience for set ups and admire you greatly. So much so for your adorable daughter!
Oh, the most beloved author of children's portraits! Thank you for publishing!
The trick with the fishline is amazing simple and so clever Bill ... A lovely shot and fine tutorial.