June 15, 2018
One of the more challenging things when working on location is figuring out where my subjects should change their clothes. It’s a bit harrowing, especially if we’re out in the middle of the woods with no bathrooms or vehicles within a mile. On the flip side, it’s surprisingly difficult to find a restaurant, coffee shop, or store that will allow access to their bathrooms in the city without first purchasing something; especially when it’s late at night. So if there isn’t a dressing room handy, how can you change outfits without becoming a momentary exhibitionist?
This tip is WAY more accessible in the fall, winter, or spring seasons when you’re already working with a layer or two. Changing out a sweater or jacket is simple and can provide a significant difference in outfits. For example, I can have a business-type fellow wear jeans, a button-down shirt, sports jacket, and dress shoes for one look, and then transition to jeans, a long sleeve shirt, vest, and some sneakers with relative ease. Keeping pants the same between looks is the key point here. Undershirts are also helpful for changing tops without feeling overly self-conscious.
This isn’t always possible, but sometimes the backseat of a car or the trunk of an SUV is the only privacy you’re going to find. It’s cramped, usually messy, and may make the car look like the Dilophosaurus scene from Jurassic Park with Nedry and the Jeep.
Let your photographer handle this part. If you’re unfamiliar with the location(s) for your session, your photographer should advise you on the best spots to do your outfit swap. If the only option is a local coffee shop that requires a purchase, then enjoy a warm drink and take a breather. Short breaks are a beautiful thing in the middle of your photo shoots.
This responsibility again falls on your photographer. Once you’ve figured out the location(s) for your session, your photographer should do some research and plan your shooting locations such that you end up near a changing area/room/place without having to hike back and forth to the car. Figure out the best means/places to perform your swap and plan around them.
Bathrooms aren’t always clean, so it helps to hang up your clothes. I also bring a spare lightstand to my sessions to serve as an improvised coat rack. Now, instead of laying freshly pressed clothes on top of bags, they can hang them on my lightstand and be perfectly water, dirt, and wrinkle-free. You can also hang your clothes off of trees, fences, railings, etc.
This one requires a couple of extra hands and occurs on shoots in remote locations. A couple of people hold up large sheets or towels and create a small room around you to change within. So long as no one is a Peeping Tom and the sheets are big enough, this is a pretty safe and comfortable way to make a change in the middle of the woods. Only downside? People’s arms are going to get real tired, real fast and you need at least three people. If you’ve got the manpower available to carry it all, your photographer can use their lightstands to hold up the sheets. A small tripod style chair or large bag may also help too if you don’t have gymnast-level balance.
There’s no perfect solution, unfortunately, but the above tips can help make changing clothes on location much more manageable. I’d also recommend having some clothespins and a lint brush handy. If you’re good with moderation, a de-wrinkle or wrinkle release spray helps too (be careful not to create wet spots). I had a recent engagement session that spurred this article because my clients had to change in the bathroom of a Moe’s. It worked, but in their feedback survey, they mentioned how having a better idea of where and how to change would have been nice to know. I’ll have a bag of goodies and a plan for all my clients moving forward. If you’d like information for what to wear to your portrait or engagement session, check this LINK.
Know any other tips or tricks for on-location changing? Comment below!