The nature of working as a portrait photographer requires you to spend quite a bit of time outdoors. Whether you’re working a wedding, a family shoot, or senior portraits, most clients will want to take some outdoor pictures. When the weather is warm and sunny, it’s much easier to plan out your shots and keep your subject comfortable and in good spirits. However, we all know that weather can be unpredictable. If you’re a Midwesterner like me, then you know that any given day can be warm and sunny, cold and rainy, or windy and snowing, all within a span of a few hours. Being prepared for all weather scenarios and capturing beautiful portraits in all forms of weather is essential if you want your portrait photography business to be successful. Today I am going to discuss a few of the most common types of weather that can affect your outdoor session and ways that you can turn them into a positive and give your client an enjoyable portrait experience at the same time.
Not every client will want to “go with the flow” of weather changes on the day of their shoot. Clients looking for sunny beach photos with their family may not be satisfied with wind, rain, and gray skies, no matter how pretty the images may turn out. For cases like this, it is best to know in advance if the client has a specific aesthetic in mind in terms of the weather required for their photos. If the forecast for the scheduled session date does not fit their needs, it would be better to suggest another location or another day that may give you a better chance of getting the desired results. You should do your best to let your client know that weather will be an issue as soon as possible so that you can come up with a new plan that works for both of you.
Windy Day Shoots:
If the forecast calls for wind, there are some things you will need to bring along to make things manageable. First, you’ll need sandbags to weigh down your equipment, so you aren’t dealing with the constant interruption of equipment blowing over. For exceptionally high winds, sandbags may not be sufficient to steady your equipment; in that case, you’ll want to bring along an extra set of hands to help you keep everything positioned the way you need it. Whenever possible, you should find different areas throughout your location, such as buildings, trees, or large outcroppings where your subject is blocked from the wind. If you want to embrace the wind, you can use it to your advantage and create some beautiful movement in your photographs. Posing in windy conditions is going to be super important. A little bit of wind blowing through your client’s hair is pretty but looking like cousin It with hair all over their face, not so much. So you’ll want to pose your clients so that the wind is blowing their hair away from their faces, or have your clients pose with one hand in their hair and directing the hair away from the face as much as possible.
Cloudy Day Shoots:
Believe it or not, overcast days are great for portrait photography because the light is very soft and diffused. Even if you’re a hobby photographer, you’ve probably heard of the golden hour. Golden Hour is the time either at sunrise or sunset when the sunlight is softer and more flattering on a client's skin. An overcast day can have a similar effect as well. When the sky is cloudy, you have the opportunity to shoot in locations and directions that you can’t normally do on full sunlight days. On an overcast day, you’ll want to make sure that you shoot in all directions to find where the light is most flattering. This is especially important for test shots to determine the best backdrop for your photos. You’ll want to make sure that your client’s faces are catching enough light, so you’ll need to have them frequently change the angle and direction of their face to capture more light. On an overcast day, everything tends to look a bit gray and washed out, so to make your subject pop in the photo, you should encourage them to wear bright colors or include a vibrantly colored accessory to draw the eye to your subject
Rainy Day Shoots:
The most important part of shooting in the rainy weather is keeping your equipment dry. Not all camera equipment is made to withstand wet conditions. To keep your equipment in the best shape, you need to invest in a few things to protect it in bad weather conditions. You’ll need a good camera rain cover, umbrellas, lens hoods, dry cloths, and ziplock bags to protect smaller equipment from the elements. Rainy day photoshoots can make for a dramatic and compelling photograph. The moody nature of a rainy day can help your photos tell a great story. Some tried and true methods that you can use to take advantage of the rain are backlighting and reflections. Backlighting involves placing a flash behind your subject so that when you take your photo, the light reflects off of all the precipitation in the air, creating a really cool effect! You can also use puddles or other collections of water on the ground to create a reflection of your subject. These reflection photos are a great example of that moodiness I mentioned earlier. You can also utilize umbrellas to accessorize and keep your client dry. Try these methods out the next time you’ve got a rainy day to see just how dynamic your rainy day shots can be!
Snowy Day Shoots:
Bright white snow acts as a giant reflector and light diffuser; because of that, you can get some stunning photos on a snowy day. Much like rainy days, you’ll want to take measures to keep your equipment dry. You’ll also want to make sure you and your clients have appropriate clothing to stay warm throughout the shoot. You’ll want to make sure that when you’re shooting in the snow that you overexpose your images just a bit, bright white snow is beautiful, shadowy snow looks dirty. Part of the fun of shooting in the snow is the playfulness of winter. Encourage your clients to play in the snow, snuggle up close to each other for warmth and a cozy feel, or even build a snowman! Remember that snow and ice are slippery, so you’ll want to make sure that you and your clients are mindful of that to prevent falls as much as you can.
If you’re looking to add a little warmth to your wintery photos, try shooting a few of your pictures with an orange filter. You can also use the same backlighting method as mentioned previously to capture that softly falling snow effect in your photo.
Part of being a portrait photographer is rolling with the punches. Life happens, weather happens, and if you want to be successful, you’ll have to learn how to pivot when these things pop up and still produce incredible photos. The best way to develop the ability to pivot is through practice. Get outside with your equipment in all different types of weather conditions and just take photos. Learn the best settings for your camera in each weather type, practice other methods to find the ones you like best, and get yourself comfortable shooting in any conditions. Have a friend or family member go with you and practice posing and finding the light in a variety of different settings so that you have that knowledge when you need it. The more knowledgeable and comfortable you are, the more confidence your clients will have in your ability to give them beautiful photos even in less than ideal conditions.