10 Great Problem-Solving Tips for Fall Portraits

My most favourite time of year to portraits outside is definitely the fall. The overcast days make it easy to at any time of the day, the colours are flattering to nearly every complexion, and it’s a free ready-to-go backdrop. Over the years, I have acquired some knowledge about fall portraits by learning the hard way. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes!

More often than not, the ground is going to be wet

The ground being wet is something you don’t always encounter in the Spring and Summer, but in the fall a damp ground is more likely due to storms and leaves keeping condensation on the ground. The last thing you want to do is have one of your subjects get muddy during.

So, what’s a photographer to do? There are a number of ways you can go about solving this problem…

  • Pack a couple of neutral colored blankets to lay down before you seat your subjects. If you know what color/colors they will be wearing it makes it even easier to coordinate.
  • Use a trash bag. They come in a variety of sizes and chances are – you’ve got one lying around somewhere in your house. Fold it up and have your subject tuck it all the way under their rear ends after they sit down. ALWAYS double check your composition to make sure no parts of the bag are poking out.
  • Investigate the idea of using inside furniture in the outdoors. Sometimes it can be really neat to mix antique furniture with nature – and it definitely makes for a unique portrait.

It’s really windy and it’s blowing your subject’s hair in her face

Ah, the crisp autumn breeze. It smells wonderful but it can do major damage to your composition if it’s causing unruly hair and fly-aways.

  • Position your subject so the breeze blowing makes her hair look flowing and natural. This is a time when wind can actually work in your favor. Lightly wind-blown hair often makes for gorgeous portraits.
  • Bring a can of aerosol hair spray – it’s the best I have found to tame fuzz.
  • If you are fortunate enough to have an extra set of hands, you can have them hold a reflector near the subject but out of the frame to block some of the wind.

It’s freezing outside and your subject is showing signs of it

Chilly weather can manifest it’s self in a number of pesky ways in portraits. From red noses, to goose-bumps, and signs of a woman with an insufficiently padded bra, this is a place where I feel that it’s okay to tell your clients that some things can be fixed in Photoshop. I don’t like to say that often, but it’s good to pull out when necessary in order to make your subject feel comfortable again.

  • If you know you will be outside for an extended period of time, bring a blanket and suggest they use it when you are switching equipment or setting up the next shot.
  • Try to avoid picking locations near water if you think the temperature will be low. The wind blowing over water quickly and sharply will cause your client’s eyes to water – which is significantly harder to fix in Photoshop than moving the location.

You were waiting for the leaves on the trees to change and now you’ve waited too long

If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “I want to wait to schedule my session until I see the leaves change”, I wouldn’t even need to be a photographer. Okay, maybe that is a little exaggerated, but that’s probably the most common concern for an autumn client.

If you have chosen to cater to this request, it is possible to wait too long. When you find that all the leaves have fallen and your client is upset, the situation is still recoverable.

  • Next time, start with a date during the first week of October and push it back according to the foliage. It’s easier to push the session back than to have to worry about waiting too long and disappointing your clients.
  • You may not be able to do the photographs in a place with solely trees as a background, so try to pick a location where the architecture is more of the central background focal point and use the leaves on the ground as a prop.
  • If it’s late October try to do a Halloween-themed session and if it’s early November, maybe try something with Thanksgiving as the theme.

If prepared correctly, the autumn season can be a powerful weapon in a photographer’s arsenal of tools to create amazing portraits. With the naturally gorgeous vegetation setting the scene, your camera, and a couple of trash bags stunning portraiture is likely to be the only result of your fall sessions.

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