The relatively controlled and static nature of a studio is often the most ideal place to shoot a portrait. After a while you get a feel for the studio; the space, the light and how your equipment handles it. However, there is an undeniable sense of dynamism when you take your portrait photography outdoors.
Outdoor portrait photography can be spontaneous and produce results that can exceed your expectations as a photographer. When you’re outside, you have a blank canvas and each natural element brings a whole new color to your palette.
While you may not have complete control over the colors at your disposal, a good photographer learns to be quick on their feet and work with what they are given. While studio portrait sessions are all about control, outdoor portrait photography is about catching lightning in a bottle.
What is the best camera setting for outdoor portraits?
Photographers can disagree on the “best” of everything related to their craft. As with any tool, there is a time and a place for almost everything. And as with any craft, there is also the freedom to break with tradition and forge your own path.
However, a fundamental principle of outdoor portrait photography is often this: shoot with a lens longer than 50mmshoot with your aperture wide open (for the best use of natural light and background blur) and never use your auto setting.
10 simple tips for taking outdoor portrait photography
In addition to your camera’s settings, there are a few other outdoor portrait photography tips that beginners can learn that lend themselves well to successful outdoor portrait photography.
1. Use a fast lens with a large aperture
You want a fast lens that focuses and shoots with precision, but you also want a wide aperture (the f setting on your camera lens). The faster you shoot and the wider the aperture, the more blurred your background will be. We call this blurred effect ‘bokeh’ in the industry and it’s a popular part of outdoor portrait photography — it gives your subject perfect clarity while removing much of the background detail.
2. Shoot with the widest aperture
Along the same lines, you’ll always want to adjust your camera settings so you can shoot at the widest possible aperture. Your ISO settings and shutter speed settings can be adjusted along the way to achieve this. Simply setting your aperture to the widest setting will give you mediocre results, so be sure to compensate for this.
3. Shoot on a cloudy day (if possible)
Lightning for outdoor portrait photography can be counterintuitive. Amateur photographers might assume that a sunny day means more light and more light is a good thing. However, the opposite is true. The more light you have to work withthe more unwanted glare, shadows and squinting you will have to deal with on your model.
An overcast day brings a more natural, diffused light that will shoot cleaner.
4. If you shoot on a sunny day, shoot in the shade
Some days you plan a shoot and have no choice but to endure the overwhelming light of the sun, especially in the summer. You can’t always reschedule a shoot, so you’ll often be forced to keep going even under less than ideal conditions.
However, outdoor photography isn’t meant to give you perfect conditions — it’s meant to challenge you to improvise, and who knows, at least your shot might have beautiful warm tones. Shoot in the shadows or using a light reflector will help you overcome the glare of the sun.
5. Shoot in RAW format
RAW format is an uncompressed file format that you can shoot with most DSLR cameras. Believe it or not, even if you shoot manually and in high resolution on your DSLR, your camera is still making important decisions about color contrast and exposure. Your camera ends up compressing that high-resolution photo, reducing the maximum quality.
Shooting in RAW tells your camera not to touch anything when you shoot – your camera leaves it exactly as it is, giving you more control in post-processing to fine-tune what you want without anything else getting in the way.
6. Wait for the “Golden Hour”
You may have heard the term “golden hour” even without fully understanding it. Simply put, the golden hour is an hour (or less) when the sun begins to set on the horizon before it officially sets. It’s right in front night. As the sun sets, the light scatters through the atmosphere in such a way that it casts a magical, delicate orange light over the world.
You may have seen it with your own eyes – you may have even stopped in your tracks and thought, “Everything looks especially nice now” without realizing that what you were walking past is a coveted 1-hour time frame for photographers all over. worldwide.
7. Invest in wardrobe and makeup
Whether you do makeup and wardrobe, have your model do it herself, or hire a professional to join your shoot, you need to make sure that both wardrobe and makeup are intentional components of your shoot.
While it’s great to get a “natural” look with some of your shots, you need to prove you can master a session and do the kind of things the pros do, like deliberately dressing and formatting your subject in a a way that complements your surroundings, tells a story or radiates something that is often overlooked by nature.
8. Shoot outside the penalty area
You’ve made the jump from shooting in a studio to shooting outdoors, so make sure you take advantage of the biggest benefit of outdoor photography: the sheer amount of spontaneity. Don’t get so focused on your subject that you forget to look around.
When you’re outdoors, there are plenty of opportunities to improvise and go against your original plans. And sometimes it’s those shots that elevate your subject to something completely different.
9. Take lots of pictures
Gone are the days when you had to pack reels and rolls of film during a shoot. We have portable storage that can hold over a terabyte of space, giving you plenty of options to shoot to your heart’s content.
The best photographers in the world take thousands of photos, of which they may only keep ten in total. Keep that in mind when shooting a subject – you’ll have plenty of room to shoot, so don’t skimp.
10. Learn post-processing
Most photographers agree that there is an 80/20 ratio for photography. 80% of your photo is taken when you are shooting your model. The remaining 20% will be created for your computer afterwards.
If you haven’t already, learn software like Adobe Photoshop. Understand the basics of retouching and post-processing. Once you understand it, get good at it. Most photography these days is edited on a computer – that’s why you shoot in RAW.