Getting Married during fire season?
Here’s 5 things you can do to make the most of your photos when the skies are full of smoke.
The magnificent mountain views in the Banff National Park are a huge reason why so many people visit, get married, and have their portraits made here.
Understandably, It is a major disappointment when the skies are heavy with smoke and the air quality suggests more of an ashtray than a pure mountain valley.
What should you do if you have a portrait session booked or a wedding day approaching and the sky is orange with the mountains nowhere to be seen?
I’m asked this often this time of year. Unfortunately, wildfires have become a harbinger of summer. As a long time Banff photographer, here is my advice:
- Be as flexible as possible.
The amount of smoke in the sky depends on the wind direction and precipitation. Visibility can change dramatically from hour to hour and day to day.
If possible, play it by ear and have the flexibility to reschedule your session based on the conditions. A few hours later in the day may make a big difference. Having a day or 2 around the session date to work with will give you better options. Discuss if this is possible with your photographer. It may cost more, but in the end, be worth it.
These photos were captured during the height of high smoke warnings in the Banff area. Just a few hours earlier the mountains were shrouded in smoke. Thanks to high winds coming from the right direction, the skies cleared up in time for the ceremony.
2. Lean into it!
Often the most striking pictures are created from adverse conditions. The smoke allows photographers to get shots they wouldn’t normally get.
The orange skies create a surreal, otherworldly look, like a Maxfield Parrish painting. This phenomenon can be accentuated in post-production to give your pictures a stylized painterly look that can be very cool and interesting.
In the photograph above, we added orange gels to the key lights to match the orange glow of the sky. This glow is kind of like an extended “golden hour” that lasts hours rather than just a few minutes. We added foreground and background lights with purple & turquoise gels (complementary colors to orange) to create a soft and dreamy look.
Smoke also makes posible interesting visial effects that would normally require haze or mist. In the picture above, the smoke created a graduated effect where the mountains look magnified and layered. In the picture below, smoke particles in the air makes rays of light more visable and defined.
A skillful photographer can use these compositional elements to create unexpected, and unusual work. Ask your photographer about adding stylization in the post- production editing to further enhance these ffects.
3. Add some color!
Bright colors will really stand out and give drama to a picture when skies are grey and lack contrast. Wear colors that pop—red is great!—or add color with accessories. Parasols, flowers, scarves, bow ties and the like all work well.
4. Use what you do have!
The mountains may be missing, but photographers can still get good close-ups of the forest, foliage, and other attractions. When all else fails, remember, you still have each other! The most important element of any portrait is you, not the scenery! If the landscape is a letdown, focus on each other and let your love shine!
If your heart is set on clear skies, your best bet may be to wait out the smoke and reschedule for the cooler fall months. For weddings, consider booking a Post-Wedding portrait session. It is a great opportunity to don that gorgeous wedding gown again and have fun in front of the camera without the stress of it being your wedding day.
At Burnett Photography, we’ve worked in just about every condition imaginable. It’s often the worst conditions that inspire —or force!— us to get the most creative.
What’s the worst weather you’ve photographed or been photographed in? I’d love to hear your story!
For more stories and examples of our work, check out this proposal during an electrical storm at the top of Sulphur Mountian from our wedding blog.