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Proud pup mom, type A creative, lover of the outdoors, Top Chef fan girl, and wedding and portrait photographer. Welcome to the blog!
HI, I'M RACHEL!
It may be the beginning of a new year, but I am already getting excited for my fav time of year: cherry blossoms season! I’m starting the celebration early with my tips on how to prepare for cherry blossoms photos.
This will be my eighth year photographing D.C. cherry blossoms sessions! Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! I have seen and done just about it all. I have had parking nightmares, permit issues, dealt with multiple reschedules due to delayed peak bloom dates, done sessions in the literal freezing cold, and shot in extreme wind. All for the love of those delicate pink blossoms!
After having experienced all of these things, I figure I am in the perfect position to help you out with my tips on how to prepare for cherry blossoms photos. Keep reading to find out my best tips on how to mentally and physically prepare for your once in a lifetime specialty photo session.
For many people, having their photos taken with the cherry blossoms on the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., is a once in a lifetime activity. A lot of planning goes into these sessions, and most people only want to do that once! haha
Being that this may be the only time you will ever do this, you’ll want to enjoy the occasion as much as possible. It is a unique experience to not only have your photos taken with the blossoms, but to be along the Tidal Basin during peak bloom in general. It is a literal bucket list item for a lot of folks around the world. It’s about more than having your photo taken. It’s also about the magic of the experience.
As you’ll see in the remaining tips, there are a lot of moving parts in how to prepare for cherry blossoms photos. It’s easy to become overloaded by it all, which can affect your level of enjoyment. The best way to mitigate the stress that can come along with a cherry blossoms session is to connect to the reason why you’re doing this in the first place. Find a way to become present to that reason. And remind yourself of that reason each time the stress or overwhelm creeps in.
Flexibility is your very best friend when planning a cherry blossoms photo session. There are so many variables that come into play, it’s a requirement that you remain flexible. (I’m reminding myself of this too!)
The cherry blossoms are in bloom for a finite amount of time, typically 10 days to two weeks. And it changes each year. That means we can’t reserve your session date/time until the National Park Service release peak bloom dates. And sometimes they change after they’ve initially announced them! That means we may have to reschedule your session. (This is rare, but it can happen.)
There’s also weather to consider. If it’s raining, we obviously won’t be able to go forward with the session. We’ll have to reschedule for a date when the weather is clear. That’s also the case if there is extreme wind (30mph or more gusts). If it’s cloudy or just a chance of rain – we’ll go ahead with the session.
See how bundled up I am? That’s how cold it really was! Pic on left by: Cait Kramer Photography
Cherry blossoms season takes place in late March / early April when we’re barely out of winter. It’s easy to look at cherry blossoms photos as the finished product with people in their spring outfits, and think spring = warmth. But that is often not the case! More often than not, we’re doing these sessions in close to freezing temperatures. We’re also along the water (the Potomac River and the Tidal Basin), which means it’s a little chillier and there’s often a breeze.
Bring a heavy coat for each person to your session. You’ll wear the coat when walking to our meeting spot, between shots, and when we’re walking between locations. When you’re cold, your skin – including the skin on your face – turns red or purple/blue, which I am not able to fix in editing. You also tense up when you’re cold, so your shoulders are raised, your hands and jaws are clenched. This is why bringing a coat to warm up in is essential for these sessions.
I have worked with so many clients who have not brought coats to their cherry blossoms sessions and ended up feeling miserable the entire time. The temperature at your house is not the same as it is along the Tidal Basin. You trick yourself into thinking – I don’t need a coat; I don’t want carry anything extra – I’ll be fine. I’m here to tell you – you will not be fine! And your photos that you’ve invested hundreds of dollars (or upwards of $1000 if you’ve had your hair and makeup done) into won’t be as good. That’s the honest truth.
You can still wear your cute spring outfits to coordinate with the blossoms. Just bring warm outerwear to use between shots/locations. This is especially true if you have children. Please please please bring them a warm coat.
Cherry blossoms sessions along the tidal basin are unique because:
Given those reasons, it’s imperative that you make a plan ahead of time. I definitely help a lot with this by giving directions on how to get to our meeting spot, etc. But it’s up to you to know how much time you need to get ready super early in the morning. As well as how much time to factor in for travel from your home to the Tidal Basin, and then to walk to our meeting spot.
My best tip is to take a ride share because parking is a nightmare between street closures and limited spaces in general. (My first year of doing CB sessions, I had a client’s husband drop her off with their baby because they couldn’t find parking, and he never made it to the session! That was heartbreaking. Don’t let that be you!)
For the ride share, you’ll need to calculate wait time, travel time (in rush hour traffic if it’s a weekday), and walk time from where you get dropped off to our meeting spot.
And finally, you’ll need to make a plan to leave. By the time our session is over, there will be crowds of people. Catching a ride share can be tricky. I provide tips on the best place(s) to catch one, but just be mentally prepared to wait a while. I’ve waited around 20 minutes for my Lyft to arrive. And sometimes extra walking is involved in order to find a spot where they can find you. Building in that extra time to your planned schedule for the morning is especially important if you’re heading to work after.
Because these sessions often take place super early in the morning in the cold – a lot of time on weekdays, it’s important that you provide your photographer with some information before your session. Please communicate the following details beforehand:
This ended up being a long post! I guess I’ve gained a lot of insight over the years! I hope I haven’t scared you off of doing a cherry blossoms session! haha I tend to be an over-preparer – I’m a Enneagram 1 and Capricorn – you do the math! In the case of a CB session – that over preparation pays off in the form of clients showing up in a good mood and excited for their session. Instead of stressed out and freezing. I hope to see you out there this year! Cheers!
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Rachel is a wedding and portrait photographer
Serving brilliant, elegant couples in Washington D.C. + Beyond
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