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Autumnal Ideas

Ways to take advantage of the spectacular colors and cool weather of fall

With fall here already (I know, right?), it’s time to think about how you can take advantage of what is one of the busiest times of the year for photographers. With the cooling weather and the changing colors, along with the impending holiday season, you will want to be braced for a time of year that backdrops some of the most beautiful outdoor photography. Many couples plan autumn weddings, many seniors book their photo sessions around this time, and many events are happening in the fall so this gives you, the photographer, a unique opportunity to capture the array of colors surrounding this season.

Be aware of your city’s trees

To find the color you’re looking for, you’ll have to chase the trees that are turning. Of course we all learned in elementary school that deciduous trees change color as it cools in the fall, but what actually causes this turn is the shortening days, or the increasing lack of sunlight. It also depends a bit on the health of the tree, and unhealthy trees tend to turn first because they have a harder time coping with the seasonal change. From what I’ve gathered, trees within city centers tend to turn before, say, trees that are located within expansive parks because trees in the city are under more environmental stress. Of course there are larger parks within urban areas that have very healthy trees, but it all depends.

My advice is if you get booked around this time of the year, take a drive around to familiar spots with trees a couple of days before your shoot in order to make certain you’ll be able to have a richly colored background. In Cincinnati, we have a wide gamut of parks to choose from; some larger and on the periphery like Miami Whitewater Forest and some tiny within the urban core like Garfield Park. Spring Grove Cemetery has a great range of trees and Mt. Airy Forest contains an arboretum with some of the most beautiful and unique trees. This is your chance to explore your city’s park systems, both big and small, and see what colorful options you have no matter if you’re shooting before the peak of the seasonal colors or after.

Be aware of the seasonal changes

Of course, this is a little harder to predict, but generally there’s a 1-2 week timeframe that most of your local trees will be turned at their peak. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has a weekly update with a report on national park foliage coloration. This year, they are predicting that most of Southern Ohio will be at its peak in late October. Look up your own region’s predicted fall color change and you’ll have a better idea of how to book requests for autumn-colored shoots.

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Consider the colors

The great thing about fall is the fantastic variety of colors that each tree turns. Colors range from light yellowish brown to rich orange to bright red, depending on both the week of their turn cycle and also the species of tree. Utilize this palette! My warning is that in post-production, refrain from saturating the colors much more than they appear naturally in your image. The colors are already brilliant enough on their own, but saturating them a significant amount will make your photos appear over-produced and overwhelming to look at. The foliage colors are supposed to accent the images, not foreground them.

If you are booked to shoot a portrait or engagement session, also consider suggesting that your clients wear colors that will compliment the colors of the season. With so much color entering your photographs during autumn, sometimes more neutral or dark-colored clothing can serve as a pleasant contrast to the bold reds and oranges of the foliage. Then again, shooting bold-colored clothing against a backdrop of additional bold coloration could make a statement about the client. These are decisions you will want to think about in preparing for your shoots.

Consider the weather

With the transition of the season, this is also the perfect time of year for people to get a cold. Prepare yourself and your clients by giving them a heads up on the weather and letting them know they should dress to be comfortable for a couple of hours outdoors. It’s surprising how people forget about dressing for the weather when they’re trying to pick out the perfect outfits to have family photos taken in.

If it’s an October sunset shoot, encourage your clients to bring hats, scarves, gloves, or whatever will keep them warm not to mention add a splash of color and personality to their photos. It may feel warm at 5:30, but once 7:00 ticks by, you can tell what time of year it is. Bring blankets in your car for the shoot just in case, plus they come in handy if you want to try out shots of your clients posed on the ground.

Above all, take plenty advantage of shooting in autumn, even if you’re not getting paid for it. Bring your camera around with you as much as possible during those peak weeks and shoot around for fun with your friends, family, or just out by yourself. Those photos may end up making your portfolio and attracting new people to your profile for bookings! The awesome thing about fall photos is that everyone loves them, even if you don’t feel like they’re the most spectacular photos you’ve ever taken. The warm chromatics of autumn simply have that power to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, like sipping on some hot apple cider by a fireplace with your feet covered in wool socks. Mmmm.

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