Taking portraits during the fall feels like cheating. If you live in an area where the leaves provide amazing colors, it seems like it’s tough to take a bad picture. But that doesn’t mean it’s OK to get lazy and complacent. here are a few tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of those awesome fall portrait photos.

 

Don’t Be Lazy

You can look out your window and see amazing foliage today, but depending on the weather, it could literally almost all be gone by tomorrow. All it takes is one frost or some strong wind and your amazing autumn backdrop becomes a skeletal arrangement of bare branches that looks like something right out of True Detective. Scouting your spot is basic portrait photography 101, but don’t wait a whole week between your scouting trip and the shoot. Colors can change, leaves can fall, some places like parks even close off sections for the winter.

Unlike the transition of the leaves, the sun remains forever predictable. But, if you’re not keeping track of it, you could miss out on precious golden hour minutes.

 

Dress-Up, It’s Cool!

It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many clients I’ve had show up for an outdoor shoot in October wearing a dress that’s meant more for mid-July. You may have a tough time convincing your subjects that a sweater is good wardrobe for a shoot, but be sure to explain how important body language is, and how difficult it is to nail it when they’re trying not to shiver.

I find the best wardrobe for this kind of shoot is typically something neutral and basic, so it doesn’t fight for attention with the awesome backdrop and, more importantly, the expressions of the people in the photos.

 

Simple, Let People Shine Through

The possibilities are endless when it comes to environmental portraits, but sometimes the options can be a bit overwhelming. I like to start my sessions with a straight forward portrait, leveraging the beauty of the foliage in the background.

This serves a few purposes for me. First, it lets me get a solid shot on the card, so if all my other creative ideas don’t turn out how I want, at least they still have a nice picture. It also gives me a nice, neutral setting in which I can get a feel for the subjects. Even if you’re shooting a close friend, they may be much different in front of the camera than they are at the bar.

 

Details!

I love shots in the fall. I figure, nature is putting on such an amazing show, I want to get as much of it as I can into my photos. Like any other portrait session, though, the details can make all the difference. If you’re thinking about your portraits in terms of a cohesive group rather than a single photo, the details bring out things that might not otherwise be obvious. Have your subject pick up some leaves or shoot their shoes as they stand in a pile of leaves. It helps tell a story rather than giving you a random collection of nice, but disjointed portraits.

 

Try Leveraging Backlight

Backlighting portrait subjects is a very popular technique at the moment, but fall really is the best time to do it. You get the typical, dreamy flare effect that so many shooters (myself included) are fond of, but it also tends to give the leaves an amazing illuminated appearance.

I prefer to keep the sun out of the frame, blocking it with he subjects themselves or keeping it just out of frame, but you can do it either way based on your preference. Practicing with your lenses to find out how they react to backlit subjects is definitely a good idea. Lenses can flare in very different ways, and sometimes a small movement can mean the difference between an image that’s dreamy and beautiful and one that’s totally washed out.

 

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