By @ijyoyo | November 27 2022| Envision
Are you looking to take outdoor portrait photography? In this article, I will lay out some fundamental tips as well as a few intermediate tips to getting started and getting the best shots possible. Photography is all about mastering the concepts, and we will surely go over them here.
It’s always a good idea before any shoot to begin with planning for the photoshoot. Think of the wardrobe, lighting conditions, and external lighting devices that may aid you.
As far as wardrobe goes you want something that will match the background of your photos. This doesn’t necessarily relate entirely to taking outdoor portraits, however, you want something that meets the background of the outdoors. Whether this is going for an outdoor look whether that be relaxed or dressy this is up to you. Have a good idea of where you will be shooting and the type of season that matches your shoot.
Next, remember lighting conditions. Back when I first started I avoided the direct sun as much as possible, I would try and test this water. Most articles will tell you to avoid direct sunlight because it distorts the shadows- which is true, but if you angle your subject correctly and get external lighting aid you can overcome the sun!
Let's go back. So desirably you may want to shoot on cloudy days, either complete overcast or partial overcast. The clouds allow the light from the sun to be coated and distributed in soft light. Depending on the thickness of the clouds this will affect both the amount and the “diffusion” of the sun. This way outdoor portraits will have even lighting.
Another way to counteract the sun is simply finding shadows/ trees or buildings that block the sun directly hitting the subject's face. Trees are very helpful even if the tree is not in the photo. You can shoot your subject under a tree in front of a desirable background to get softer light on your subject.
Now, what happens if you shoot in direct sunlight? Don’t fear it. What you will see if you attempt to do it, is that it creates a major shadow under the eyes, hair, and elongates the nose shadow. There are additional effects of the sun including washing out detail and creating stark contrasts in your subject. You might also -blind- your subject in the bright light. Don’t fear as I said.
The following external aids can help you get this under control and create some amazing effects. One aid you can use is a large reflector, this can diffuse or aim the sun in a lighter fashion under the subject. The reflector I currently have has 4 different options to reflect the light color. Gold, White, Black, and Silver.
Reflectors can be intimidating at first. Why should you need a reflector? What does it do? When you hold it at a certain angle to the sun, it will reflect the rays of light from the sun and diffuse and create soft light to the angle of direction of the “image” of the light. This “image” will go directly onto your subject and lower the harsh shadows present on your subject.
The second external aid you can use is filled flashes and strobes. Often these high-powered flashes either on-camera or external have the ability to brighten your subject's face and overpower the sun. It may be worth investing and experimenting with a flash to create amazing daylight photographs without washing out your subject's face or the background.
Now getting to actually taking the photos. Focus on your subject's eyes. Some of the newest and latest cameras have amazing focus options and depending on your lens it may be tact sharp. I find with the Canon 50mm 1.8 and Canon 50mm 1.4 alongside the Canon 70D that manually focusing on the eye created stunning results. Viewers often usually gaze at the eyes before anything else if it is a front-facing portrait.
I also prefer a manual focus on the lenses above because I found that attempting to autofocus on those eye points resulted in misfocus on either the nose or eyebrows. It might be worth testing out.
Briefly fixed focal lengths are prime lenses. Often prime lenses can be tact sharp, especially in the middle of the lens optics. These lenses are often more expensive but well worth the investment. Fixed focal lengths are not like zooms with the ability to shift the focal length such as the kit lenses in many camera kits. You will see them in denotations of 24mm, 50mm, 85mm, or higher. These fixed focal lengths often also come with the ability to shoot “fast”. This means that you are able to shoot at a lower f-stop number or aperture than other lenses. This brings in more light and allows you to use different settings to get your desired look.
The sunny 16 rule is a perfect rule for getting your camera setup for daylight photographs. Especially portraits. It is based on the following settings f/16 ISO 100 1/100 sec. This is based on the idea that these should be the set while shooting in direct sunlight. If you would like a lower f-stop number then you would change the ISO or shutter speed (in this case the shutter speed would be shorter like 1/500th sec). If it is a dark day you may want to lower the f-stop number to compensate for the lower levels of light.
Often outdoor photos can lead to two things like in every photography, overblowing or exposing the photo. When you do this, overblowing creates whiteness in the image that is not recoverable, underexposing photos will create unusable data as well to see detail. Be aware of the light differences and use external aids if need be. I find it best to underexpose in outdoor situations.
Another way to prevent this from becoming too much of an issue is shooting in the RAW format. The raw format will let you post-process these images in editing software. It is important to note that you will need professional software to access this software like Canon or Nikons RAW format handler or Adobe Lightroom. This can however help you out for minor stops of light that you may not have gotten from a single JPEG image.
The RAW format can be accessed through your camera when you choose the resolution of your JPEG image such as the dimensions you would like the camera to shoot at. The RAW format contains more data accessible then JPEG formats. Perfectly made for editing later on or retouching.