In some ways, the arrival of digital photography and rapidly evolving technology has freed photographers from the constraints they once faced. If you want a family portrait, you now have almost unlimited options. No longer are you forced to get whatever Sears or Olan Mills can make for you in their dark, cramped studio. A skilled photographer can take you almost anywhere, at any time, and create some interesting photos—depending of course on the style of photography that interests you.
This transition, in part, comes from the skill gap created by digital photography. It’s just easier to make a nice photo outside than it is inside. At one time Olan Mills and Sears needed highly skilled photographers, but these days, with a few months of practice, just about anyone can get a nice photo of your family outside, and most new photographers never make the jump to taking their skills inside.
So, it’s no wonder that portraits created outdoors have become so popular. More photographers want to do it that way, and in turn, more people begin to envision their own photos being taken outside as well. You’ll find the vast majority of wedding portraits are taken outside. Almost all the family portraits feature a pretty park or public space. And headshots, about half of them use natural light and outdoor spaces.
There is nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s hard to beat the beauty of nature in a studio.
But, there is a distinct caveat in all of this. The outdoors are not always suitable for a portrait session. Sometimes there’s dense, unflattering cloud cover that drops these deep dark shadows under your eyes. Sometimes it’s raining, or snowing. Sometimes it’s way too cold, or way too hot. Nature has the temperament of a spoiled child; unpredictable and unforgiving. The problem is, you never know when the weather is going to have a tantrum, and that matters for who you decide to hire, and how you decide to plan the session.
When you’ve planned a portrait session, or a session for headshots, or even wedding portraits, the answer to what to do when the weather is no-good really comes down to your values and your priorities, and you should consider these things when you’re deciding who to hire to help you. The question essentially has two sides. Either your schedule is the top priority, or the style is the top priority. Lets take these two viewpoints apart and see where you might land between them.
When Style is the Top Priority
When I say “style” is the top priority, I’m talking broadly about the aesthetic qualities of the images. The way they look. That includes everything from your attire, to the kinds of people-arrangements the photographer can do, to the quality of light and the location itself. When you hire a photographer and plan an outdoor session, you probably have a style in mind that is associated with those things. You like the nature, the colors, the relaxed look. Maybe you like the natural light, or that kind of candid energy that comes from being out-and-about with people you care for.
When style is your top priority, a long list of things can derail your session. It could be thick cloud cover—that’s bad light. It could be very cold—that means bundling up and wearing something you might not like as much. It might have rained this morning—that means nowhere to sit without getting wet. The list goes on.
If style is your top priority, there are two important considerations to make. First, you have to hire a photographer who is willing to be flexible with their schedule. Photographers differ on what they consider to be ‘worthy’ of rescheduling. Very few photographers will hold more than one date for you at a time, but when style is the most important thing, you need to hire someone who is willing to reschedule to another mutually convenient date, even if that delays the project.
If the style that you want to prioritize revolves around the outdoors it would be wise to think of your scheduling as dependent on weather. Deciding this right away when you book your session can help keep you from feeling anxious about it before you inevitably have to make some kind of decision the day before. You can rest easier saying to yourself, “If it’s raining, we’re going to move the session to another date”.
When Schedule is the Top Priority
If you’re one of those style people, you might wonder why anyone would hire a skilled photographer and not set the schedule to make the most of their stylistic skills and intuitions. Well, there are a lot of reasons one might need to bow further to their schedule than their preferred style. Perhaps they, or someone they really want included, will only be in town for a short time. Perhaps this is the only time a certain location is available. Maybe they’re extremely busy, or want to make sure something happens before something important unfolds, like a wedding or a birthday celebration.
When you hire a skilled photographer and your schedule is the top priority, almost nothing can derail the session, because it’s more important to you to get something good right now, than to get something perfect eventually. The bad news is, however, you’ll need at least one contingency plan.
If you’re session is going to take place indoors, the weather isn’t going to be a problem. But, are you certain that the indoor location you’re going to use will be open and available? Are you certain the photographer you’re going to hire has the skill to create good photos in an indoor location? If your session is planned to be outdoors, have you thought about the indoor options available to you if the weather ends up being bad?
Between Washington DC and Baltimore, there are a number of indoor spaces that can be suitable for a session, and some that are even available on short notice, but unfortunately they’re not well spread out. You’ll have to venture into one of those cities to find them. So, the vast majority of sessions where the schedule is the top priority take place inside your home, church or workplace.
There are a lot of different options, which we’ll be happy to discuss with you. We make an effort to help our clients answer these questions before their session so that can be prepared to make the right decision for themselves. If you’re interested in hiring a photographer for any reason, check out our Portrait Photography, Wedding Photography, and Headshot Photography pages. We’d love to hear from you!