For those of us that live in areas where the fall means bright colors and snowcapped mountains, we’re fortunate to have such gorgeous backdrops for fall portraits. It’s almost as if you can’t take a bad picture given how picturesque the changing season has made the surrounding landscape.
But just because there’s an abundance of beauty this time of year doesn’t mean that you can’t still make smart decisions that enhance your images even further. Give these easy tips a try and see how they have a positive impact on your fall portraits.
Keep Tabs on Shoot Locations
The problem with outdoor portraits in the fall is that one day your favorite shoot locations might look spectacular, but a few days later they might be little more than bare branches and brown leaves scattered all over the ground. Needless to say, that doesn’t make for a pleasing portrait backdrop.
Though scouting your shoot locations in advance of the photo shoot is a basic undertaking for portrait photographers, the key in the fall is to not scout your locations too early. Going out five days before the shoot might cut it in the summertime, but during fall, you should scout locations the day before. Doing so will ensure that the locations you choose have the best chance of looking how you want when you come back for the shoot.
Use a Smaller Aperture
Typical portraits benefit from shooting wide open so you can blur the background for a nice, dreamy bokeh effect. But when creating portraits in the fall, you don’t want to blur out all the beauty of the scene in every shot. Instead, take a few frames where you shoot at f/8, f/11, or an even smaller aperture, so that you can highlight the background along with your subjects. In this regard, fall portrait shoots can be approached like a fall landscape shoot - place your subjects in the frame such that they are the focal point, but use what autumn is giving you and show off the beauty of the scene as well.
Suggest Appropriate Attire
When it comes to attire for fall photo shoots, people can get a little confused. On the one hand, the weather might be downright warm, and clients might show up wearing dresses, short-sleeved dress shirts, and other attire that’s more fitting for spring or summer. But even if it’s warm outside, summer-looking clothing just doesn’t jive with a backdrop that clearly screams that it’s fall. What’s more, that summertime outfit might be great in the afternoon, but once it gets close to golden hour, the temperature could very well drop and then you’ll have clients that are dressed inappropriately and shivering to boot.
Get ahead of this problem by making wardrobe suggestions well in advance. Suggest clothes that are conducive to the autumn, like sweaters, scarves, and long-sleeved shirts. But beyond that, suggest clothing that is neutral or earth-toned that will go well with fall colors but won’t compete with the foliage either.
Avoid Cliche Shots
Kids in a pile of leaves. Families throwing leaves in the air. Babies in pumpkins. These are just a few of the many cliche portraits associated with fall. And though some people really like them (and if your client is in that group, by all means, give them what they want) there are many other possibilities for creating a meaningful portrait.
In many cases, keeping things simple and straightforward will get you the best results. After all, just like you don’t want the wardrobe to interfere with the surroundings, you don’t want the posing to detract from the beauty of the setting either. In fact, the simplest of shots that focus on the small details might end up being the best of the bunch. Get a shot of your subject’s shoes as they stand amongst some brightly colored leaves that have fallen to the ground. Focus on a couple holding hands with a gorgeously blurred background of fall colors. Tightly framed images such as these are both unique and help you tell a more detailed story of the day’s events while avoiding overdone, cliche shots.
There are plenty more fall portrait photography tips out there, but these will get you started off on the right foot. Take advantage of the fall colors while they last, because before you know it, the moment will be gone and you’ll have to shift your focus to wintertime portraits. We’ll have tips for that once winter rolls around!