Friday, December 4, 2015

Sunset Photography Tips (Fall Leaves Photo-Shoot)

**The first few paragraphs are uninteresting tidbits of my life.  If you'd like to see photography tips, scroll down to the pictures.

I always expect to be in this enlightened state of joy whenever I finish my finals at school.  But, in reality, every single time I've reached that milestone, I am overcome with a feeling of anticlimactic letdown.  I ingest so much information every quarter that I am entirely lost once I spew it back up onto those last few tests.  My life foresees no purpose now.  It is a free moving entity, entirely lost and without direction.

I was never good at being melodramatic.  IT'S CHRISTMASTIME!  That's what I'm good at.  And while there's a hint of truth in the dismally disheartening paragraph above, I'm so thrilled right now to be done and out.  My fabulous brother and I are going to a small town theater today to see two movies we've been dying to watch since we saw their trailers in October.

I cannot believe I'm going to watch two movies in a day.  I am so excited.

In other news, I took these pictures before Thanksgiving and am now posting them for all of you on the 4th of December.

The sunset was already in full swing when I started this photo shoot.  Notice how I placed the doll to the left of the sun.  Bright light is coming behind her from the right corner.  If I had placed the doll directly in front of the sun while it was still this high, the whole photo would have been washed out. 

Here I had to reposition the dolls to the left of the sun so that I could get the best lighting (the light moves so quickly at sunset!)

This is one of my favorite photos.  The colors were so warm, and the leaves created the perfect floor.  I love working with rim lighting.  Notice how Maryellen has that glow around the left side of the back of her head?  She's facing away from the sun, with it being to the left of her.  Once I had her set up,  I used a reflector to bounce the light of the sun back into her face.  If I hadn't done this, you would only see her rim-lit hair and a dark grey Maryellen.  

By the way.  My mom made the rakes.  I have always wanted doll rakes so that I could do this very photo shoot, and one day I came home from school to these adorable things!  They're perfect. 

I love this picture so much, but if you look closely, you can see that it's out of focus.  I always use manual vs. autofocus when I'm taking pictures, and while I love how much control that option gives me over my pictures, sometimes it results in a dud.  There are three things I always look for in a good photo:  lighting, focus, and framing

If you can hit all three of these marks, you're an ace.  Unfortunately my Grace turned out a bit fuzzy.  Tip for focusing manually:  I always zoom in and make sure her eyebrows are crisp and in focus before I take the photo.  If they look good, your picture will usually turn out great. 

I love this picture, but I'm put off by the framing.  The doll foot in the left corner looks a little odd to me, and since I was trying to make the doll centered, I should have placed her a smidge more to the left.  As of right now, the framing doesn't really look like it had a solid direction.  

I'm ending with one of my favorites.  I took this at the end of the photo shoot, and the sun was low enough so that you could really see it, not just a shaft of light, in the picture.  It's subdued, but gives the picture a warm, glowey element.

This is also a good example of doll placement.  Willa, in the left corner, is quite washed out because of her being placed so close to the sun.  Grace, on the far right, is a little too far away, and has some harsh shadows/bright spots.  Maryellen is in the middle and is covered fairly evenly with the light from my reflector.  She's the main point of attention in the picture, and she looks the best of the three.

I so hope you enjoyed this "how-to" on dealing with sunset lighting!  It took me awhile to get the hang of it, and I'm definitely still learning.  But once you've figured out how to take photos at sunrise/sunset, or "magic hour" as they're known, you'll be blown away by how much more depth and texture your pictures have!

Enjoy your December,


  1. Thank you for the tips Sydney! They were very helpful, and your photos are amazing!

  2. These tips were very helpful! I love the last picture. <3

  3. Thank you for such a great post! I love the doll rakes. They add a lot of cuteness.
    P.S. I LOVE your picture on Instagram of Maryellen ice skating! It's fantastic! How did you get her leg up? A stick, and then photoshop?
    - American Girl Doll Artist

    1. Thank you! My mom actually balanced Maryellen for me. I couldn't do it on my own :)

  4. Your photos are so beautiful! I love the rakes your mom made. They are too cute! :-)

  5. What I am hearing is I need a reflector! LOL!;) I really want one. BADLY.XD I should have put it on my Christmas list!;) I love your photos. They're just gorgeous and your tips are awesome!:D

  6. Hi, Sydney! I wanted you let you know that you won an award in Best Of 2015! You can see it here: https://clarascraftcorner.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/best-of-2015-day-1/

  7. Those are the nicest photos of Maryellen I've ever seen. Beautiful!

  8. Sydney, I started taking photography lessons last year, and I hope that I can someday eb as good as you!

  9. Stunning photos! I'm inspired!
    ~Gracie ;-)

  10. Thanks for this great post, i find it very interesting and very well thought out and put together. I look forward to reading your work in the future. Photojournalism Tips