Shooting outdoor portraits is similar to shooting indoor portraits, with a few differences. You will learn how lighting changes and reacts with your photos and your subject. It is important to learn how to eliminate unflattering photos and poses and create a photo where the person is the focus, not the background. Be open to moving around, playing with composition and poses and learning about your equipment to take great outdoor portraits.
Shoot outdoor portraits when the sun is low in the sky in early morning or late afternoon or evening or when it is obscured by shade or clouds. Clouds make colors more enriched and create appealing shadows in the background. Watch for shading over your subject and adjust lighting by using a reflector or positioning the person near something white or reflective to change how the light plays on your subject. Use reflection to mimic studio light if you have to shoot in direct sunlight. Set your shutter speed to f16 if you are shooting on a sunny day. Set your shutter to f8 on cloudy days. Use your flash.
Composition and Background
Select a background that will not distract from the person in your photo. If you have a background, add at least two meters between the person and the background so you can blur the background, creating less distraction. Fill the frame with the person you are photographing. Focus your photo on the subject's eyes and shoot at eye level, even if that means bending down or sitting on the ground to get the shot. Watch for hues of green on your subject if you are in an area with a lot of leaves and grass. Unwanted color and background distractions can be eliminated and adjusted in the editing stage. Do not shoot power lines or signs in portraits.
Do not face your subject toward the sun. Shoot your photos with the sun behind your subject so the light adds depth. Do not shoot your portrait head on, where the person's toes and shoulders both face you. Add interest and create a flattering shot by shooting at an angle. Watch for uncomfortable, unnatural poses. Create natural poses and make adjustments to the pose while you are looking through your camera to obtain the most flattering shot. Avoid shooting from behind your subject unless you are photographing babies or toddlers.
Equipment and Modes
Never shoot portraits with a lens less than 50 mm; lenses that are 100mm will prevent feature distortion. Set the camera to aperture priority mode and set the white balance and ISO based on the lighting and conditions outside. Select the widest aperture available with your lens so you have a shallow depth of field and less distraction in the photo. Use RAW files so they are easy to edit later. Use a tripod to get a steady, even shot. Add a skylight filter or UV filter to protect your lens and reduce glare while letting the most light through the lens. Bring a second battery and memory stick.
- Digital Photography School: 13 Tips for Improving Outdoor Portraits
- Digital Photography Tricks: Outdoor Portrait Photography Tips
- Photoflex Lighting School: A Daylight Outdoor Portrait
- Outdoor Photography UK; 6 Outdoor Portrait Photography Poses That You Should Avoid; October 2010
- My Photography Tips: Outdoor Photography Tips for the Budding Outdoor Photograper
- Pro Nature Photographer; 5 Lighting Tips for Outdoor Portraits; Charlie Borland; March 2011
- Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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