Photographing children outdoors in Autumn: Top Tips
As I was heading out on the school run this morning , I noticed that the trees are already starting to turn from Summer green to that glorious Autumnal orange. The conkers are on the trees and the nights are starting to draw in (I must admit I even put the heating on last night!). Of course I am sad to see the Summer finish, BUT the photographer in me starts to get quite excited about shooting in the Autumn.
This really is my favourite time of year to photograph children outdoors, but it comes with certain challenges which really don’t apply to outdoor shooting in Spring and Summer.
Here are my top tips for Photographing children outdoors in the Autumn, feel free to share yours in the comments below.
What time of day do I photography families in the Autumn?
Unlike Spring/ Summer where the days and evenings are longer, the amount of time you have to shoot in the Autumn starts to drop quickly from the end of September. I am currently planning workshops in London, Tunbridge Wells & Scotland and within only a few weeks sunset is moving from 6:30pm to just before 5pm.
To help me plan for my shoots, I use my favourite iPhone App Sun Surveyor. http://www.sunsurveyor.com/ It is a paid for App, but I have found it to be really worth the money.
The app shows you sunrise and sunset times, but also at what time golden hour is due to start. One of my favourite features is when you hold it up to the sky it shows you the exact position of the sun (using your phones camera ) and also which line it will travel on. When I am on a shoot, and looking to find exactly what time and where the sun will drop behind the trees, the app shows me. See examples of it in action below. To purchase just search Sun Surveyor in your App or Android store.
Autumn is also the one time of year when I move more towards shooting in the morning as well as late afternoon. The low level light from around 8:30am coming through the trees can be beautiful.
Working with unpredictable weather
With our unpredictable British weather, I find in Autumn I also need to be a little more flexible with my shoot dates, and I find it beneficial to have this conversation with clients in advance.
September and October can deliver days of glorious light, or torrential downpours and incredibly cold temperatures. I tend to book a shoot date, but also agree a provisional second date just in case. I use Accuweather and again have the App on my phone http://www.accuweather.com/en/gb/united-kingdom-weather. This is a short term forecasting services and about 2 days before it tends to be very accurate. On the day of the shoot itself it also gives you hour by hour rain forecasts with updates such as “rain will stop in 15 minutes”
This leads nicely into what I advise my clients to wear on Autumn shoot to work around this changeable weather.
Briefing clients on what to wear
Clothing for family shoots in the Autumn is incredibly important. Outside of the usual suggestions of no strong patterns and logos, I request clients follow two golden rules:
With the weather being so changeable, it is incredibly important our clients do not get cold when shooting outside, especially children.
I ask families to layer up with t-shirts, jumpers, cardigans, coats, hats gloves and scarves. This way we can remove layers if the weather is great, but we also aren’t caught out if suddenly caught out if there is a cold wind and no sun!
I supply my families and models for my workshops, with a Pinterest board which is shown here – feel free to share this board with your clients – https://www.pinterest.com/ninamace/what-to-wear-autumn-shoots/
When it comes to suggesting colours you can either work towards a contrasting, complimentary or neutral colour palette. To create these pallets I use coolors (the free online tool) https://coolors.co/ and start with a base colour of orange from my images from last year. As my photography has evolved I lean towards a contrasting palette like the one below. I love to see blues against orange for example.
The second palette of more complimentary colour set and feels softer, more harmonious.
ISO & Aperture
With the light dropping throughout September and October, I still work with available light but push my ISO a little higher and aperture lower.
“As I shoot mostly with natural light I advocate “exposing to the right” and only ever shooting in RAW”
Exposing to the right helps you to keep noise to a minimum when you are bumping up your ISO. I also shoot mostly using my 135mm at f2 –f2.8 to allow as much light into the camera as possible. See here for more information on exposing to the right, with some 100% crop examples of the impact on noise.
Posing children & families outdoors in Autumn
I love to sit families and children on the ground, and shoot from as low down as possible, but wet ground in Autumn can make this tricky. So I carry with me a very expensive, much sought after prop…..the black bin bag 🙂
I keep black bags on me at all times so I can sit children and families on them and they are also very easy to tuck away so they can’t be seen in the shot (they were used in the image below). I do also own a brown fur rug which is also very useful to take out and about.
In conclusion Autumnal shooting is a very exciting time, but my advise if you are photographing children outdoors is that you need to plan well and be a little more flexible than in the Spring/ Summer.
Thanks and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s amazing colourful Autumnal images!