Make the most of your fall portrait shoots

Take advantage of the changing seasons with these tips.

Autumn photo of beautiful girl
Nature is about to offer some very photogenic backdrops. Take advantage of them during your next portrait shoot.CoffeeandMilk via Getty Images

The days are getting shorter, the air a bit brisker, and in many parts of the United States the leaves are about to start changing. For portrait photographers, it’s an exciting time of year. It’s hard to take a bad picture in fall, especially during golden hour. But, you can go beyond the simple headshot with blurry trees in the background. Here are some tips to make the most of your time.Coordinate your subjects color palette to compliment the backdropYour subjects should be dressed for the lower temperature—a sleeveless dress seems a bit out of place among the changing leaves. Sweaters, coats and scarves look great for a shoot like this.When it comes to clothing color, suggest something neutral—think black, grey, navy or cream—or match elements of your subjects outfit to the autumn colors. A pop of red or orange can also go along way on a shoot like this. We love a bright red lip, a model’s orange hair or the inclusion of a colorful scarf.

woman lying in autumn leaves
Ask your subjects to coordinate their outfits to compliment the colors of the falling leaves.RichVantage via Getty Images

Scout your location and check the weather

Once the leaves start changing they don’t stop, so it’s really important to scout your location the day before you are planning your shoot. An afternoon of bad weather can change an entire vibe of your shooting spot, especially if there’s a frost, which can make leaves fall off in a hurry. As beautiful as fall is, it can also be unpredictable, aim to shoot during periods of time that have been sunny—the leaves will be crisper and the ground will be dry. These are both things that will matter if you are planning to have your portrait subjects interact with the landscape.

The weather channel maintains this helpful map to help you determine the best times of year to capture the colors of the changing leaves. Utilize it before you begin planning for your shoot.

Young smiling woman lying on fall leaves
Try to shoot when the weather has been nice so your portrait subject can interact with the leaves on the ground.Sam74100 via Getty Images

Shoot during golden hour

It's always smart to try to plan your outdoor shoots to happen during golden hour, but in fall, the time of day right before the sun sets throws some extra magic into the images. Download an app like Magic Hour to help you keep track of when it starts, when the sun will be setting and when it will officially be ending to plan your locations and set ups accordingly. Photo Pills is also great, because it tracks the direction of the sun, as well as its position in the sky.

Play with depth of field

Shooting wide open to blur out the foliage might seem like the obvious move during a fall portrait shoot, but don’t be afraid to stop down between F/5.6 - F/8 to capture some of the details of those trees. Experiment with a tilt shift lens to add some additional dimension to the images. You can also try placing your subject with foliage in the background and foreground for a dramatic effect.

Newly engaged couple
The colorful backdrops are also a great place to stage an engagement photo.RealCreation via Getty Images

Backlight and embrace lens flare

Backlighting your subjects with the sun during a shoot will give you a dreamy look and have a nice effect on the backdrop. Different lenses will react uniquely to the sun in terms of flare, so feel free to experiment. In some cases you might want to use their bodies to block the sun, but other times it might fit the mood to let a ray of sunshine cut into your frame.

Grab details

This is especially important if you are shooting a group of portraits that will tell a story. Maybe its a child running their hands through the leaves, a dog's tail swishing around in them or the feet of a bride and groom on their wedding day. Something that seems small and insignificant can actually have a big impact in a photograph. Find a few that you can focus on during your shoot.

Twins laying in yellow autumn leaves
Plan to shoot when the weather has been nice so you can ask your subjects to jump into the leaves. It may seem like a cliche, but when working with children or families it can produce some nice moments.Jasper Cole

Have some fun

Asking your subjects to lay in a pile of leaves, throw them into the air or somehow integrate them into the shot may seem like a tired cliche, but if you are working with families, children or animals, asking them to do something that seems silly can often result in moments of pure joy—which look great on camera. There’s a reason that children enjoy jumping into piles of freshly raked leaves, and just because it seems obvious, doesn’t mean that it can’t make for a good shot.

young couple in love
Having your subjects wear neutral colors for the shoot will make the colors of the backdrop pop.Rohappy via Getty Images
Father and son laying in autumn leaves
Father and son laying in autumn leaves.Mike Kemp via Getty Images
man and dog in autumn leaves
Fall is also a great time for making portraits of people and their pets.MilosStankovic
Father and son playing in the park in autumn
Experiment with backlighting your subjects with the sun during your shoot for a dreamy look.Kohei Hara
Young couple lying side by side on autumn leaves in a park
A playful portrait of a couple in fall.Westend61 via Getty Images
Portrait of a Golden retriever dog with a maple leaf on its head
Don't be afraid to utilize the fallen leaves as a props during your shoot.Franlaurendeau via Getty Images
Portrait playful mother and daughters in autumn leaves in sunny park
Something that seems silly can often result in moments of pure joy.Caiaimage/Robert Daly via Getty Images
Adorable happy baby girl throwing the fallen leaves up, playing in the autumn park
It's okay to embrace the obvious setups—it might make for an excellent shot.Olesiabilkei
Close-Up Portrait Of Young Woman Lying On Dry Fallen Leaves
We love how this photographer utilized his subjects bright hair in the scene.Krzysztof Gackowski / EyeEm
The bride and groom walk along the autumn leaves
Don't forget about the details—especially if you are planning to present the portraits as a group.Виктор Высоцкий via Getty Images
Dog in colorful leaves
Bring your furry friends along for a fall shoot too.Grzegorz Leraczyk via Getty Images
A woman wearing a knit hat and scarf in autumn
Place your subject with foliage in the background and foreground for a dramatic effect.Irena Ivanova via Getty Images
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