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3 Top Outdoor Portrait Photography Tips

Photographing models outside is fun, challenging and the results can be brilliant but, it's not always straightforward so we have 3 essential tips to help you out.

| Portraits and People

3 Top Outdoor Portrait Photography Tips: Laura


Outdoor portraits add levels of interest to a shot you can't always get from an indoor shoot and as this time of year particularly, it's the perfect excuse to wrap up in layers and pose in front of snow-filled scenes. No snow? Well, your highstreet at night can be an equally cool location as can be your local woods or even your backyard should you not want to walk as far. 

To kick-start your outdoor photoshoot, we've put a few easy to understand but rather essential outdoor portrait tips together for you to peruse. Plus don't forget to share your examples of outdoor portraits in our Gallery or Daily competition forum


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1. Get Your Lighting Right 

Once you've found a model brave enough to go out, possibly in the cold, you need to sort out your lighting. It is a good idea to have a friend or fellow photographer on hand. This applies to both male and female photographers and an extra pair of hands can be really handy to hold flashguns and look after things during the shoot.

If working a night, a powerful torch will help you focus. Just shine the light at the subject – not directly into the model's face and focus. It is worth considering shooting using manual focus for this subject because autofocus might continually adjust and throw the subject out of focus once the torch is switched off. Flash modifiers, coloured filters and lighting stands will find a use too. 

One of the big problems of using flash at night – apart from the attention (sometimes unwanted) that it attracts – is that a flashgun can pump out too much light and burn out the subject. You need to watch this and use flash exposure compensation to cut down the amount of light if that is the case. 

Another important thing to remember is the inverse square law – double the distance between the flash and the subject and the power output falls by a factor of four, not two as you might expect.

As well as on-camera type flashguns, there are several studio-quality flash units that run off portable batteries. These are more powerful than a typical flashgun and worth trying.

3 Top Outdoor Portrait Photography Tips: Lucy


2. Tripod Or No Tripod? 

Your tripod is handy here too, especially if you want to mix flash and ambient lighting. That said, blurring the ambient light can be an effective technique. Any tripod will be fine, although if you have to walk some distance to your chosen shoot location you may want to consider packing a light-weight model. Carbon fibre models are lighter than those made of aluminium, although they can be cold to the touch but many tripods feature thick foam on the legs that enable a secure grip and stop you having to touch the cold surface.


3 Top Outdoor Portrait Photography Tips: Lucy

3. Poses & Direction 

Make sure you've primed the model regarding poses, clothing and the location that you will be shooting in. You need to think of their comfort, dealing with the weather, keeping warm in between shots and so on. Conversation can help with the flow of the shoot but if you're not very good at banter, just be concise with your posing instructions and don't try to be something you're not. 

You can find plenty of ideas about posing in lighting in fashion magazines and in ePHOTOzine's gallery but just don't simply copy someone else's work, always put your own 'stamp' on it. You need to shoot quickly and have fresh batteries in the flashgun. Minimal messing around is a good idea too and show the model the effects you are getting as you go along. 


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