How to Take Good Pictures Outside


Taking good pictures in an exterior location means less control on how available light falls onto your subject. This has a major effect on how your subject will look. Ideally, it is best that you and your subject be the one to adjust to the lighting condition in your location. Even professional photographers who already have additional equipment and accessories to use in such cases still need to adjust to the uncontrollable lighting situations when shooting photos outside.

Things You'll Need

  • Camera
  • Subject to shoot
  • Additional camera equipment or accessories like reflectors, diffusers, camera umbrella, filters (optional)

Planned Shoot

  • Finalize your location and check how your preferred area exactly looks and where the sun is situated at a specific time frame. If it's a night shoot, check how the streetlights affect your location.

  • Prepare your camera equipment and other optional accessories. In a professional photo shoot, this may include camera umbrella, reflectors, diffusers and specific props that you want to include in your photos. Even if you're a non-professional, you can simply bring a Styrofoam or even a white shirt with you so you can bounce light onto the face of your subject.

  • Set up your camera and your additional equipment. If using a DSLR camera, choose a program that can work best for your exterior shoot. These programs may vary from one camera model to the next, but usually, there are specific programs best meant for shooting portraits, landscapes, sports or fast-moving subjects and night shots. Other consumer cameras may also have them. Depending on your camera model, you may also manually set the camera's exposure, shutter speed, camera opening, contrast and other image-capturing attributes.

  • Frame your subject and start shooting.

Unplanned Shoot

  • Look for the main source of light in your exterior location, then base your final shooting area with it. If it's a day shoot, harsh sunlight falling onto your subject would mean higher contrast for your photo. Don't shoot a photo in an area where your main subject is at the back of the sun to avoid silhouette effect, which makes the subject very dark or mainly looking like a shadow in front of the camera. A sun that is directly overhead can also cast a shadow downwards, which may not look good on a photo. However, if you can't avoid it, try to find a better angle so you can make your subject look better regardless of the unlikely lighting condition.

  • Configure your camera settings. DSLR cameras and even a number of point-and-shoot cameras have available programs that can work better for exterior shots.

  • Frame your subject shot and start shooting.

Tips & Warnings

  • If shooting outside, you can use a polarizing filter to reduce reflections on reflective surfaces seen on the photo. It also helps darken the sky in a very bright day.
  • The idea of bouncing light using a Styrofoam or other white, diffusing materials is based on the concept that the color white reflects light. And so, if you place such material under the face of a main subject who is under very bright sunlight, you can bounce or reflect that light onto your subject's face. A bounced light from a reflector is already diffused or softened so it is not as strong as the harsh rays of the sun.
  • If you have enough disk space in your camera's memory card, take multiple photos and try making slight variations in your framing, zooming or distance from your subject and camera angle. This is especially haelpful when taking photos of spontaneous moments. After the shoot, you can simply delete photos you don't like so you can allot more disk space for new photos.

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