Is Wind Bad for Photo Shoots? My Secrets to Windy Success

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There's nothing like waking up on the day of a photo shoot (for both the photographer and client alike) to some of Earth's bravest elements making their presence known.

Whether it's rain, snow, extreme heat or wind, a natural light photographer is always at the mercy of the natural elements.

Here is the good news, though: as a photographer, you can learn how and when to either discern a reschedule or adapt to the weather—a decision that depends on the client, the type of shoot, and of course, YOU!

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The Client

Recall their vision

If your client has specifically requested photos with sunbeams streaming through the trees, a brilliant sunset, or perfectly placed hair for their shoot, you have to ask yourself a few things:

  • Are the client's desired circumstances realistic in my area, given its climate?

  • Can I add these desired elements in post-processing to give the client what they're hoping for? Will this be relatively doable or will it take up a huge amount of time?

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Be Honest

Communication is always keys with your subjects—before, during, and after a photo shoot. In the event that less-than-ideal weather occurs, it's important to contact them sooner than later and present them with your options:

  1. We continue with the shoot and try to use the elements to our advantage.

  2. We change locations, if possible.

  3. We reschedule, but pose the risk of similar circumstances happening again, and of course, throwing both our schedules for a quick loop (but hey, loops can be fun).


The Type of Photo Shoot 

Depending on the type of shoot a client has booked, some situations might be more flexible than others. For example, if we're talking about a wedding, that bride is most likely walking down the aisle rain or shine. I once saw photos of a wedding where the ceremony was completely, 100% outdoors, and it absolutely poured rain. This was in sunny Southern California, mind you. The coolest thing about the photos, though, is you could tell that the bride and groom could not care less. They were beaming. Soaking wet...but were their guests and bridal parties. It was truly a moment, and a shining example that what's meant to happen, will happen, and there's something really wonderful about embracing that regardless of the physical circumstances.

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Other shoots that tend to be set in stone:

  • Large family portraits

  • Event photography

  • Indoor photography (not having to worry about weather is a definite perk of shooting indoors)

On the other hand, other types of shoots can be more flexible:

  • Graduation photography

  • Headshots

  • Smaller family photos

  • Portrait sessions

  • Engagement sessions

In these instances, it (again) comes down to the client and their initial vision. Unless the client is traveling for this specific date, it's important to realistically evaluate whether or not the weather will make or break the photo shoot.

But how do you, as a photographer, know? Or, how can you, as a client, trust that your photographer knows what's best?

Trusting the Photographer

When it comes time to shoot, control is (and should be) in the hands of the photographer. It is not only a right but also a responsibility of the photographer to communicate clearly with the client, therefore understanding their needs, and being able to discern what scenarios will deliver gorgeous shots to a happy client.

I'd like to walk you through an example of a situation where I didn't have a whole lot of time to make this decision. What I thought was a beautiful, perfect, sunny day at the beach turned out to be extremely windy when I arrived.

Client: Kiley

Sweet as can be, requested confetti, but made it clear that she was open to ideas from me in terms of location, shots, etc.

Type of Shoot: Senior Photos

Could we have met at the pier like we planned and decided to reschedule? I suppose. But I really didn't see the point in doing that, and here's why:

The Photographer: (Ahem, me. Hi.)

This wasn't my 'first rodeo' so to speak. I have shot in wind before, and I had actually shot in much, much windier conditions that what I was experiencing with Kiley. I knew I could use a few tricks to get shots that both leveraged the wind to our advantage, and also get shots where we were out of the wind entirely. I proceeded to:

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  • Place Kiley according to the sun first, and the wind second. After making sure her back was primarily to the sun, which allows the light to drape over her shoulders and face (instead of it blaring into her front side), I had her turn her shoulders toward the direction of the wind slightly. In essence, back to the sun, face to the wind.

  • Take as many shots as I could, because her long (beautiful) hair had a mind of its own. There were many shots I couldn't use due to large chunks of her hair blocking major parts of her face, like her eyes or smile.

  • Encourage Kylie that even though she feels like her hair is doing crazy things and her eyes are watering a bit, she looks stunning and the shots are reflecting that.

  • I also had an assistant with me at this shoot use a reflector to brighten up her front side when she was really turned from the sun. It's okay if you aren't able to do this—but if you can, try it!

  • Find spots that are blocked from the wind. We were shooting in San Clemente, so we explored areas under the pier and found some calm, serene spots that were perfect for getting more still shots.

    • Note: I have shot in areas where there's absolutely nowhere to hide (like an open field, for example). If that's the case, take your time. Explain to the client that you'd like to wait for the wind to die down and once it does (if it does), snap like crazy.

  • Overall, so cheesy, but honestly - just have fun. The wind can be really, really beautiful because motion makes photos less posed and more moment-based. Sometimes windy, hair-framing-the-face-like-medusa-but-better shots are my favorites because of their power!

P.S. Kylie even said she was *happy* we shot in the wind because she wanted her curls to fall a little bit. HA! Win.

In Summary

Hope this helps! Just remember, with time and experience you (as the photographer) will be able to discern whether or not weather is going to make or break a photo shoot. Clients, I encourage you to have an open mind about weather, and when choosing inspiration photos for your shoot, try to include photos with all types of weather (cloudy, windy, sunny, even rain!) This will mentally prepare you for just about anything. 

Lastly, dear photographer and dear client, communicate. It just never hurts.


Jenna Renee

It only took me nine months of working in the data analytics industry post-graduation to realize that I was destined for something greater.

It only took me nine months of working in the data analytics industry post-graduation to realize that I was destined for something greater.


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