{Mentor Monday} Bad-Weather Fixes

Isn't it fantastic that we live in a world where the sun is always shining, with a perfect gentle breeze, and comfortable warm temperatures? It's so convenient for us photographers and mom-tographers out there hoping to snap the ideal photo!

What?? You don't live in this fantasy land??

Yeah, me neither. 

In fact, I live in Virginia, which means we'll probably have a freak blizzard tonight and a record-breaking heatwave tomorrow. Sadly, that's no hyperbole either. In the two years since I moved back to the state, we've had: miserable heat, hurricanes, an earthquake, a tornado, and of course SNOW. What's a photog to do?? The only thing any of us CAN do, my friends: Adapt. 

Ok, so maybe hurricanes are a great excuse to work on your indoor photography skills!

Ok, so maybe hurricanes are a great excuse to work on your indoor photography skills!

Universal Truths

  1. Set yourself up for success! Know what challenges the weather will bring, and prepare accordingly.
  2. Work fast! Some subjects will have a greater tolerance for miserable weather conditions than others, but let's not further sour the experience by pushing everyone to their breaking points!
  3. Prioritize! Start with your group shots. You have the best chance of them turning out when everybody's patience for the inclimate weather is "fully charged." 
  4. Split up your subjects! Feel out your subjects and get individual portraits while they're still feeling cooperative. Prioritize the littlest of kids first: they have little-to-no filter, and don't fake contentment well. 
  5. Snap a ton of candids! They're your best resource of genuine smiles in an otherwise unpleasant outdoor setting. 
  6. Embrace a NEW vision! For 99% of us, inclimate weather is our "Plan B". The worst thing you can do in this less-than-ideal scenario is to gauge your photo-taking success based on your dreams of warm, sun-shiny photos. It's a sure-fire way to get flustered and frustrated.  Find the beauty in the setting you have. After all, you can't have a rainbow without rain! (Do I win some sort of "cheesiest line" award for that one??)

When it's HOT

  • Weather-appropriate attire may be obvious, but in this scenario it's worth repeating! When planning photos in HEAT, think flowy, breezy, light weight fabrics. 
  • Incorporate lots of MOTION. You know how nice it is when a breeze hits your dewy (doesn't that sound so much better than "sweaty?") skin? Motion is the perfect way to generate a breeze where there is none. Twirling in dresses, swinging on swings - get creative! Just don't over do it. Too much motion will only overheat your subjects further!
  • Incentivize your sticky bunch. Sweet treats like ice cream cones make adorable photo props for subjects of all ages.

When it's BRIGHT

  • We've already talked about the ideal lighting environment, so I won't rehash the benefits of the "Golden Hour" of photography. If you must photograph in the harsh light of mid day, find shade! You'll still have enough ambient light in the shade of trees and buildings to receive the benefits of natural light, and avoid all those unflattering shadows of mid-day sun.

When it's CLOUDY

  • Clouds actually make for very soft, even lighting! It's still directional, so keep an eye on your shadows, but otherwise this "inclimate weather" actually makes for pretty amazing photo conditions.
  • Want to capture beautiful bright eyes? On a cloudy day you can ask your subject to look upwards so their eyes catch that cloud-diffused light, without the squinty-eyed consequence of a bright sunny day.
  • BUT clouds do provide the extra challenge of dulling the vibrancy of colors. Compensate for this by having your subjects wear colors that will add a nice "pop" in your images! 
  • Whenever possible, crop out an overcast sky. The same "even lighting" that is so flattering on people, can make for a boring backdrop. Keep an eye out for a background with more visual interest.
Observe: Beautiful, even lighting! And check put how those teals and pinks pop against the muted tones of the cloudy sky.

Observe: Beautiful, even lighting! And check put how those teals and pinks pop against the muted tones of the cloudy sky.

When it's COLD

There are TWO rules to cold-weather shoots:  

  • Speed! Especially if its cold AND wet, your subjects are going to have next to no patience for a lengthy photo session. Get the shots you need, and be mindful of the "I'm so over this" clues your littlest subjects are giving you. There's nothing like a meltdown to sour a fun photo session in the snow!
  • Layers! Bundled photos are cute, too! Between hats and scarves and (my personal favorite cold-weather footwear) boots - there are SO many adorable ways to accessorize AND stay warm. But do NOT make the mistake of thinking littles will tolerate a nasty chill for the sake of a few jacket-less portraits. Like I said earlier: their poker faces are less than convincing, if they have them at all.
    Let's not forget my favorite photo accessory! A partner! Let your subjects snuggle up with friends or family. While they're huddling for warmth, you get to capture cute moments that really illustrate their relationship.
Fur-lined hood optional, but encouraged ;) (Don't worry PETA, it's the faux variety!)

Fur-lined hood optional, but encouraged ;) (Don't worry PETA, it's the faux variety!)

When it's WINDY

This is a hard one. For the most part, you can't "see" cold or hot in photos - but you can certainly see hair-whipping-in-my-face and squinting-into-the-wind. My best advice is:

  • Contain long hair. Tying hair back is really the only sure-fire way to keep it from becoming a distraction in your photos.
  • Avoid loosey-goosey clothing. You want your subject to feel confident and attractive in their photos - neither of which are possible when they're in fear of recreating a Marilyn Monroe moment! 
  • Hide! Whenever possible, use natural or man-made blockades to shield your subject from the wind. Trees, fences, and buildings are just a few "shields" you may have available around you.
  • Or you know, DON'T hide! C'mon, admit it: recreating Julie Andrews' dancing on a windy moutain top sounds pretty fun doesn't it? But you have to COMMIT! Let that hair whip all over the place, and bring as many props (clothing choices included) that will pick up the motion of the wind as possible.  

When it's WET

Rain didn't hold this adventurous trio back! We had lots of fun playing with puddles and reflections in our soggy environment.

Rain didn't hold this adventurous trio back! We had lots of fun playing with puddles and reflections in our soggy environment.

I've loved ALL of my photo sessions, but the one above done in the pouring rain has got to be my absolute favorite. I couldn't have pulled it off without cooperative subjects, which in this case meant "willing to stomp in giant puddles" and "soak themselves for the sake of awesome pictures". Here's how we made it work:

  • We found as many covered locations as we could. I got soaked to the bone (a sacrifice any artist is happy to make!) so they could be shielded from the rain by the limited protection of doorways and available awnings.
  • Umbrellas were used as both a way to keep the subjects dry between covered-location shots, AND as fun photo props when a setting just screamed "take a picture here anyway!"
  • I used reflections in the photos as often as I could. Unless you live on the water (you lucky duck...), chances to use water reflections in photos don't come around everyday! 

Regardless your setting, regardless your subjects: make sure your subjects are wearing appropriate footwear for rainy day photos! Taking photos is the most fun when everybody involved is SAFE.

Which leads me to my last point...

PLEASE use your best judgement when deciding to take outdoor photos in poor weather conditions. Let's not get carried away with the possibilities here and risk our loved ones out in a thunderstorm just to get a few puddle-jumping photos! (On that note, the former lifeguard in me would like to remind everybody to stay INSIDE for at least 30 minutes following the last rumble of thunder. Just because the threat of lighting isn't immediately obvious, doesn't mean it's not there!)

This PSA brought to you by your friendly neighborhood photog. Now get out there and take some pictures! (...safely.)