We asked eight talented photographers to discuss the images they expect will be most popular this fall, and share their best tips for capturing them.
“Fall is by far my favorite season to document,” South Carolina-based photographer Megan Hassold tells us. “There is so much beauty to be found in the changes of our natural environment, and it is also a time of human connection. For many, it means family and traditions are at the forefront. I believe that will remain true this year — although it may look a little different.”
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the look and feel of many of our seasonal gatherings and celebrations, but lifestyle photographers around the world are working with their families to shoot on-demand, timeless images around autumn themes, from pumpkin carving to Thanksgiving dinners. They’re finding inspiration in daily life and highlighting those small, yet important, moments that bring people together during this time of year, while also getting creative and staying safe.
“As lifestyle photographers, I think we find ourselves in a unique position to document this unprecedented time,” Hassold adds. “Be ready to photograph families gathering around video calls, pumpkin picking with masks on, and discovering brand-new family traditions.” We asked eight talented photographers to tell us about the images they believe will be most popular this fall, and how to capture them. Read on for their ideas and behind-the-scenes insights.
Shoot Idea: Walks in Nature
“Some of the ideas I plan to shoot this season are solo outdoor sports — families, children, and couples in the park, and other excursions in nature,” Jovan Mandic, who runs Adriaticfoto with his wife, explains. “These are timeless fall themes that sell well in my portfolio.’
“This season, unlike others, there won’t be large groups of people in my photos. My focus will continue to be on highlighting human diversity and incorporating different ages and generations. In my photos, I will try to show that people, although socially distant, are not alienated. We want to continue to maintain closeness and socialize in new conditions, and I hope to reflect that.’
“The pandemic has significantly influenced me as a photographer. Travel to other countries is limited, but it has also inspired me to explore my hometown more deeply and find new locations. I am lucky that my country, Montenegro, has beautiful, diverse people and beautiful nature.”
Pro Tip: Incorporate Warm Tones
“When shooting for fall, I feel like we must really lean into warm color palettes,” Washington-based photographer Erika Roa advises. “Fall is so heavily associated with reds, browns, oranges, and yellows that, without those colors as a strong presence, the seasonal feel won’t shine through.”
Shoot Idea: Cozy Moments at Home
“When you have children, fall seems to be the busiest season, but I love to make time for walks in the woods — just to smell the earth and the leaves on the ground,” Massachusetts-based photographer Léa Jones says.
“My favorite part of the walk, however, is coming back home to a warm cup of tea. I love to challenge myself to take photos of coziness. I find it much harder than it looks. Translating the coziness of a scene with the camera is not easy. My favorite tip is to shoot in light that inspires you. Warm light really brings the fall colors out.”
Cozy at-home shoots were the most-mentioned ideas among the photographers we interviewed, and there are several ways to visualize this theme. Erika Roa tells us, “This fall will be all about cozy days at home — baking, enjoying cider, and exploring our backyard as nature changes the look of it. I’m really hoping to capture the feel of it in jackets, hats, flushed cheeks, steamy mugs, and seasonal foods.’
“Also, I feel we are going to see more at-home images evoking coziness and hygge, as we are all spending more time at home and actively seeking more of a sense of safety, contentment, and relaxation at this moment. I think we are going to see images that are more attainable and less aspirational. It’s going to be a while before we carelessly travel or go to a concert again. But small, elegant dinners with a few close friends or a solo walk in the woods are things that we can feel are within reach.”
Pro Tip: Play with Natural Light
“During this time of year, I am especially drawn to rich colors and moody lighting. A pop of rusty orange or long afternoon shadows can immediately evoke feelings of fall,” Megan Hassold explains. “As the weather cools, many of us naturally spend more time inside, which can make lighting a little more complicated (and/or amazing). When possible, turn off those artificial light sources and look to the windows. Take note of the light in different rooms in your home at different times of day, and use it to your advantage.”
Shoot Idea: Fun with Leaves
“I am lucky to have (too many) maple trees around my house, so I generally spend my weekends leaf blowing the leaves!” Léa Jones says. “I love to take photos of them while they are still on the ground, especially by my front door or on the patio. The colors change fast, so when the light is right, you have to run for your camera. It could be all gone the next day — I have learned that the hard way.”
Pro Tip: Focus on Textures and Details
“I plan to incorporate textures that scream fall, like chunky knit sweaters,” Megan Hassold tells us. “I will also look for opportunities to shoot seasonal details like pine cones, little hands baking, and the steam coming off a cup of hot chocolate.”
Shoot Idea: Social Distanced Pumpkin Picking*
“This year, we will go pumpkin picking as a family, the same way we have every year since my daughter was a baby,” Virginia-based photographer Marti Austin explains. “Although I’m sure it will look different this year, I plan to capture many of the same pictures I do each year. I plan to incorporate as many of the COVID-related changes I notice, as well. Apple picking is another favorite fall activity I love to photograph.’
“If I know I’ll be taking photos of my own family, I make sure everyone is dressed in a way that will complement the warm, muted colors of fall — warm browns, tan, burgundy, burnt orange, olive green, etc. I’m always on the lookout for details that are quintessentially fall, but this year I’ll also be looking for details showing signs of life during the coronavirus — masks, gloves, signs, six foot markers, etc.”
*Please note: As of this writing, visiting patches and orchards are considered moderate risk activities by the CDC. It’s important for everyone to use hand sanitizer before touching or picking pumpkins or apples, wear masks, and practice social distancing. Be safe, and check and follow the local regulations in your area before planning a visit, as they might vary.
Pro Tip: Try Different Lenses
“During fall especially, I like to shoot with a wide lens as it allows me to capture much of the scenery surrounding my subject, whether that is colorful autumn leaves or a field full of pumpkins,” Marti Austin explains. “More recently, however, I’ve started shooting with a 100mm lens rather than the 35mm, which had been my default lens until COVID struck. Using the 100mm lets me stand far from the families I’m photographing, while still getting ‘close up’ shots.”
Whatever lens you use, open up that aperture. “During fall, I always try to create a cozy feeling in my images by using warm tones with a large aperture to create bokeh in the background, and if it’s possible, I try to shoot during golden hour to get that gorgeous light,” Austin adds.
Shoot Idea: Seasonal Foods
Thanksgiving and fall, in general, pose the perfect opportunity to create food photos, whether it’s vegan holiday dishes or trendy top-down compositions. “During the pandemic, I tried my hand at food photography for the first time,” Russian-based family photographer Maria Evseyeva explains. “I was thinking about it for a long time, and I finally had enough time to learn some new skills. It was really exciting to try something new, and now food photography is part of my portfolio, too. It’s a good option right now because you don’t have to think about social distancing!”
On Shutterstock, visuals of treats and sweets have been trending, so combine still life and lifestyle photos of people making and enjoying seasonal desserts. Don’t forget Thanksgiving table settings either.
Pro Tip: Browse Shutterstock and Offset
“I recommend looking at best-selling fall-themed photos on Shutterstock and analyzing them,” Slovenia-based photographer Natalia Deriabina suggests. “Ask yourself, ‘What do I love about this photo, and what would I do differently?’ That’s a good way to spark new ideas. I also draw inspiration from my own life, so if I go on a picnic with my family, I might visualize that in my photos.”
Shoot Idea: Crafts and Projects
“I plan to shoot the things that bring me joy this season because I want to make others happy, even during this difficult time,” Natalia Deriabina says. “Every year, we decorate our apartment with our children using autumn-style natural materials. We paint pumpkins or carve them, cook a lot of pastries, draw a lot, or do other creative activities. I’m going to capture all of this.”
Shutterstock’s October Shot List includes DIY projects like painting and yardwork, which are all topics to explore right now, along with larger home improvement projects.
Pro Tip: Use What You Have
Fall photo shoots don’t need a big budget to be successful. “I always try to use things I already have, which makes everything easier to organize,” Maria Evseyeva says. “For example, this is a photo of my daughter picking leaves in my own garden, so it’s a ‘real-life’ capture without any special props or accessories. There are so many beautiful things to capture this time of year. My only problem every year is not having time to capture them all.”
Shoot Idea: Rainy Days
“Bad” weather isn’t a reason to cancel a shoot. “Photographing people outdoors on rainy, cloudy days is a good way to capture the spirit of fall,” Vladimir Cosic of Impact Photography says. “Get out there, and use props like umbrellas, rain coats, and boots.’
“Capture those raindrops on skin, those water splashes created by car tires or kids jumping in puddles. Foggy fall days can also allow us to create the illusion of depth on our photographs, especially when using an aerial perspective.’
“In my case, my best-selling autumnal photos all depict people spending leisure time in nature with vivid foliage colors all around them. Take the opportunity to spend as much time as possible outdoors. Look all around you. A simple walk through a city or a park could inspire you to create awe-inspiring images.”
Pro Tip: Stay Safe
“As the coronavirus pandemic is still here, I plan to organize all my autumnal shoots in accordance with the recommendations of local and global health experts,” Vladimir Cosic tells us. “The health of everyone involved is my priority. With that said, my plan is to photograph individuals or smaller groups of people outdoors. I also plan to photograph small groups consisting only of close family members spending time together and celebrating Thanksgiving.”
“We all have to accept the fact that things will be different for a while, and we have to learn to live with the new normal and make the most of the situation. We should be practicing social distancing on set and disinfecting all the surfaces and props we use. If you work with a team of people, the best thing would be to do the editing, tagging, and uploading remotely, from home offices, to avoid unnecessary contact.”
Shoot Idea: Colorful Landscapes
“In the place where I live, I am surrounded by a lot of nature and country life, so fall is the most beautiful season of the year,” Natalia Deriabina says. “I hunt for stunning sunsets and amazing landscapes, and I use my family or close friends as models within those landscapes to highlight eternal, timeless themes. I plan to go to the mountains and observe the changes in nature. Autumn is the time to slow down, spend more time with family in the evenings, and embrace the small comforts of life.”
Pro Tip: Start thinking About Next Year
“The most amazing spectrum of fall foliage tends to appear almost at the end of the fall in November, so this is an ideal time to capture people spending time in nature, as well as landscape images characteristic of the season,” Vladimir Cosic explains. “Of course, by this time, it’s usually too late to upload autumnal images because most people are already getting ready for the winter holiday season. So, the most important thing I can suggest is to plan ahead and create fall-related content this year for the next one.”
Cover image by Anastasia Nurullina / Addictive Creative.
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