Fall Portrait Photography
Ayn Lexi September 13, 2019
Fall is my favourite season to shoot outdoors with the vibrant fall colours creating stunning backgrounds for portraits, and for object and even abstract images! Here are a few tips I’ve picked up to help you create beautiful fall prints for yourself while enjoying our great fall weather.
Have your subjects dress for the weather. There’s nothing worse than shivering, uncomfortable subjects who are not enjoying themselves and who don’t look like they belong in that environment. Ideally they’re also wearing something neutral that won’t clash with the background or be attention-grabbing.
Best time of day for outdoor portrait photography. When you’re getting out to take advantage of the best portrait backdrops available, the best time to shoot is after the golden hour in the morning and before the sun is high in the sky, as well as after high noon and before the golden hour in the evening. If you’re using the sun for your lighting and having your subjects facing the sun a Pro Tip is to have them shut their eyes until you’re ready to click the shutter, then telling them to open and shooting as soon as that happens. Doing this will avoid those portrait-ruining squints and blinks.
Flash Filling – if your subject isn’t facing into the sun and is instead backlit, remember to flash fill so that you won’t end up with a grey silhouette. Remember too, that when using a flash you can also control the amount of ambient light entering the camera. So if you want the background to show clearly, slow down your shutter speed so that more ambient light is let in and your background is lighter; if you want a darker background, light for your subject only using your flash.
Pro Tips – Start with some static poses, so if your creative shots don’t work out you always have some fall-backs. If your subjects are sitting in a small group, try arranging them in a loose triangle. People tend to spread apart and give each other a little room so it’s your job to squeeze them back together, and triangles are more aesthetically pleasing as an arrangement.
Backgrounds – please do not position yourself so that you have things growing out of people’s heads. I’ve seen too many photos where the photographer has allowed this to happen. Yes, even in wedding photos.
Foreshortening – When you’re using DSLRs, unless you’re shooting with a fixed 50 mm lens, you can experience perspective distortion. You’ve all seen those photos where something closer to the photographer looks abnormally large, relative to distant objects that tend to look abnormally small. This is known as foreshortening, or extension distortion (where distances are extended) and occur when you shoot close in with a wide-angle lens. Alternatively, when shooting with a telephoto lens the opposite occurs, as distances are compressed, making closer objects look smaller than they should, and distant objects larger. (This is why most studio photographers use fixed 50mm lenses when shooting portraits as it’s the closest focal length to what the human eye sees).
Losing limbs – watch your subject’s angles as well because you don’t want to be the reason your subject loses a limb!
It’s always nice to have some shots with movement in them too, hence the playing in the leaves and throwing the leaves in the air shots. But, while cliché, these can also work if you’re careful. Only try it if the leaves are fresh and colourful though, don’t use dead dried leaves. Do take a lot of shots as well because you’re going to get a lot that don’t work, with leaves in front of faces etc. If you face your subjects into the sun you won’t need to use a flash or reflectors either, so try to keep your equipment to a minimum so it doesn’t feel so staged. Also, set your focus on your subjects faces and try to have them stay in the same spot. In this way, once you’re focused to the correct distance, you can set your focus back to manual so auto-focus doesn’t kick in and inadvertently change the focus to a falling leaf.
It may be fall, but you don’t just have to focus on the colourful leaves prominent during this season. Ripe fruits and vegetables have colours just as rich, but also a variety of shapes, sizes, textures and patterns. An outdoor fruit stand can be a hotbed of beautiful images.
Also, experiment with getting in close to isolate the subject or its details. Open up your aperture, f 2.8 to 5.6, to create a clear depth of field, creating some visual contrast with your crisp subject and your soft background. Create more visual impact with contrast by using a bright colourful subject against a neutral background like some soft faded and weathered wood, or a dark shadowed background.
Create Your Own Abstracts
If you like abstract prints and artwork, why not try your hand at creating your own, using photography? Here are a few techniques you can try.
Over-exposing your shot to create a colourful abstract; this works well when you have some bright objects in front of a light background. You can also experiment with images created using focus blurring. You can go from creating dreamy photos with just a little blur, created by moving your focusing ring (on DSLR lenses), to more dramatic and abstract blurred images. Adjusting your shutter speed and aperture opening also influences your blur so this is an opportunity to play using the great fall colours available. Another thing you can try in post-processing is adding more than one image together. This is harder than it seems though to create a good print so you may need to practice.
Quick Tips & Tricks
Trick- (even most pros don’t know this one). If you have a fixed 50mm lens, take it off your camera, turn it over and hold it against your camera body as if it were fixed in place. Voila, you have a macro lens!
Tip- If you don’t have post processing software (which you should because it’s everywhere now) you can also get that deep enriched colour by slightly under exposing your shot.
Tip– Don’t be too impatient. Sometimes just 5 minutes will make the difference between a good and a great shot! Lots of things can change in a short amount of time, like action, shadowing and lighting to name a few.
If you enjoyed this series and you’d like to see more int he future, just let me know by contacting me here. Check out Part 1 of the Fall Photography series for more helpful tips.
So get outside and enjoy the brilliant fall colors while they last and visit GiftGator.ca for all your Okanagan adventures and experiences, to book directly or to gift to others!