We’ve all been there: you’ve marked the date in the calendar, you’ve organised with your clients when and where you’re going to meet, you’ve prepared your equipment and bundled it all into the car. Then, after an hour’s drive to your destination, arrived to find less than desirable weather.
So what do you do?
Well, you could call it off and head back home, but then you might as well wash all those hours of preparation down the drain.
Here in Brisbane, I’m no stranger to the summer thunderstorms, and they happen quite often. But if I cancelled every time the weather looked a bit iffy, I’d be out of a job! Luckily, experience has taught me some valuable tips for handling the weather, and I want to share them with you.
Windy weather tips
Find a Barrier
I’ve found that the best method for keeping the wind out is by finding a solid barrier - either a wall or cliff base, some bushes or trees - and have your subjects pose in front of it. They don’t necessarily have to have their backs pressed up against the barrier, just as long as the wind current is flowing over their heads and not blowing their hair into their faces. Most importantly, make sure your barrier of choice still makes for an attractive background.
Find lower ground
Sometimes I’ve found that even the windiest of locations can be useable by finding lower ground, away from the current.
Often moving off the top of a hill or cliffside, particularly by the beach, down to the water, is enough to settle the raging winds.
Keep in mind that beaches are naturally windy places. Be prepared by bringing clean hair ties, bobby pins and a small mirror in case any hair needs to be tamed.
Face your subjects into the wind
For women, or anyone with long hair, by facing them in the direction of the wind, their long tresses are swept up and blown behind them. This method might actually work to your advantage, giving your model the shampoo commercial look. Who needs a giant fan when you have a natural breeze?!
Just be careful that the winds aren’t so strong that they’re making it hard for your subjects to keep their eyes open. The same goes for if they are facing into the sun – if it’s too bright, it just won’t work.
Photo by Catherine Ramsay for My Family Photo
One of my favourite candid poses, especially for family photos, is to get everyone to come together for a big family hug. Nice and tight! This tends to get some great genuine smiles out of my clients while also turning them into their own wind barrier.
For couples, get them to turn their bodies in so that they’re almost facing each other, then have them lean in close. You might consider having the shortest of the pair rest their head on their partner’s shoulder or chest. Again, this tightness helps to block out the wind.
Crop in close to their faces for some great expressive portraiture.
Create a wind break
If you have an assistant or a friend handy, get them to hold up a scrim, reflector or blanket to block the wind from messing with your subjects’ hair. This works particularly well with headshots, as the wind break can be held close to their body without getting in the shot. Not so easy to achieve with a family or group shot.
Rainy weather tips
Before the rain starts to fall, why not get a wide shot that shows the stormy skies in the background of your scene. What better way to also add a unique and dramatic spin on your portraits! This works particularly well if you are shooting by a beach, in a field or cliffs.
Huddle under a big umbrella
Just like my windy day suggestion for getting your clients into a big group hug, this time, throw in a big umbrella to keep the water off. Rainbow or clear ones work a treat. You may need to use a little bit of fill flash to brighten any under eye shadows and throw some catchlights into the eyes.
When all else fails, just embrace it! If you have little tots with raincoats and umbrellas, let them run around in the rain and splash in puddles. They usually get a big kick out of it and their genuine smiles will be worth the trip.
If you’re photographing plants and nature, remember that water droplets on leaves and petals make beautiful macro photography subjects.
In contrast, city streets, especially at night, become glossy and reflective in the rain; a perfect time to try out some street photography or long exposures.
Always try to stay optimistic for your clients. They will pick up on your doubts and feel uncomfortable throughout the shoot. Just remember to stay safe during bad weather and pay attention to weather warnings.