Fall is a great time to take portraits, but sometimes creating unique photos can be challenging.
Here are five ideas to help you capture extraordinary images during your next fall portrait session.
1. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Find a spot that screams fall! If you live in an area with a plethora of deciduous trees, go for a drive and search for a beautiful spot – a location that shows off the beauty of autumn.
In Northern California where I live, the tree leaves are just beginning to change color. So, last week for my sister's maternity shoot (photo above), I selected a nearby field with tall, golden grasses instead. And because I shot about one hour before sunset, the grasses had a beautiful, autumnal glow.
There are many other fall location ideas, too. An apple orchard is a wonderful location for fall photos. You can take photos in a tree (kids love to climb trees!), under a tree, between the rows of trees, or even as you munch on caramel apples.
A pumpkin patch is also a great place for fall portraits. There, you’ll find plenty of pumpkins, gourds, hay bales, wagons – and maybe even an old truck.
Bear in mind that sometimes you have to pay for the use of a farm for professional photos. Most of the time, I’ve found you simply need to ask permission ahead of time.
If shooting outside is not an option – perhaps because of inclement weather or time constraints – head indoors.
Many families love to bake in the fall! Whether it’s apple pie or pumpkin pie you’re making, have the whole family get in on the action. Dress up in aprons, cover the counter with bowls and ingredients, and get to work. If a little flour gets on your face, all the better! And when the pie is ready, enjoy a warm slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
2. LEAVES FOR DAYS
Although it may seem too obvious, there are many ways to uniquely incorporate leaves into your fall portraits.
One idea is to rake up a huge pile of leaves, and then ask the kids to jump in them. (Or if you have a little one, place them in the center of the leaf pile.) Another idea is to tell the kids — and perhaps, the adults, too — to throw the leaves up in the air. Be sure to set your camera to continuous shooting, so you can capture as much of the action as possible.
Another idea is to create a layer of leaves on the ground, and then ask the subject(s) to lie down on the leaves. Try to get up high above the subject and shoot down. (If you are vertically challenged like me, you may need to bring a step stool or ladder.)
Or select one pretty leaf and cut a small hole in it. Then, ask the subject to hold the leaf up in front of her face, so that the hole is directly over one of her eyes. During a senior portrait session, Photographer Lacey Carroll captured this unique image (above).
Or use a few piles of leaves to spell out the year (for a graduating senior) or a child’s age.
3. PUMPKINS AND OTHER FUN PROPS
Pumpkins make great fall props – for the young and old alike. Gather up a bunch of pumpkins and set them all around your subjects, or place them in a Radio Flyer wagon around the kids. If you have a little one, consider cleaning out a pumpkin and placing your child inside it. It's not only a unique idea, but an adorable one, too.
There are so many other seasonal props that are often synonymous with fall: warm quilts, mugs filled with coffee, hot cocoa or apple cider, bales of hay, Indian corn, gourds, stalks of wheat, red barns, flowers such as mums, and even roaring campfires. (The photo above was taken by Photographer Justin Wilcox.) You should be able to find most of these food items at your local farmer’s market. As for the other props, check with friends and family, peruse Facebook yard sales, search Craigslist, or ask your photography friends for recommendations on where to rent seasonal props.
What you wear can also help your fall portraits stand out! Consider bundling up in a warm sweater, a pretty scarf, or a fun hat. If you live in a milder climate, don a floral crown with flowers and leaves found in the fall. In addition, riding boots and jeans almost always work well for fall portraits.
4. SCHOOL IS IN SESSION AND FOOTBALL IS ON
In the fall, the kids return to school and football season begins in earnest. If you missed the first-day-of-school shot, snap some beginning-of-the-year shots now. (No one will know!) Props such as an old desk, newly-sharpened pencils, lined paper, books, and an apple work well. If it’s possible, take photos of your subject(s) on their school campus in the late afternoon or early evening. (Check with the school for hours and availability.)
If you’re a die-hard football fan, why not sport your favorite football team’s jersey? Throw in pom-poms, a megaphone, or a foam hand, and you’ve got the makings of a spirited fall portrait session.
5. ADD OVERLAYS OR TEXTURES
There’s a lot you can do before snapping fall photos to make them unique, but there are also ways to take your images from ordinary to extraordinary post capture.
For instance, after you’ve shot your fall photographs, you can easily apply overlays or textures to your images in Photoshop. What are overlays and textures? Overlays and textures are JPEG images that you add to the top of your original image. With overlays, you can add gorgeous light, rich color, beautiful skies, and even elements such as falling leaves or snowflakes to your photos.
Special thanks to Lacey Carroll and Justin Wilcox for providing images for this article.
Happy fall everyone, and happy shooting!
About the Author
Jennie Harless is a hobbyist photographer who loves capturing life through her lens. Her favorite subject is her 3-year-old son whom she and her husband adopted at birth. Jennie and her family make their home in Northern California, but love to travel to places all over the United States. Her photography and writing can be found at The Life and Times of Jennie Rose and Jennie’s Journey.