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Helpful Tips to Shooting Outdoor Portraits
For most people, when the word “portrait" is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is a picture of a person taken in a professional studio with perfect studio lighting, great backdrops and the camera perched on a tripod. While this is true in many cases, an expensive studio is not always necessary to create great portrait shots.
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What you should do when shooting outdoor portraits
Many professional photographers take advantage of the beauty of nature as their studio. You heard it right – you can now create dynamite portraits with a decent outdoor setting (preferably with trees in the background), a willing subject and a digital camera. Here are a couple of tips to do just that:
- Move in close. In portraiture, the tighter the shot is framed, the more impact it has. Use your zoom lens, or if you don’t have one (for point and shoot users), move your feet – anything just to get close. Remember to shoot a series of photos - get closer if you have to and shoot again.
- Use fill flash. This is a trick that’s being used by a number of wedding photographers for a couple of years now. If you really want to impress your subjects, ask them to go under open shade, turn on the fill flash and shoot. Quick note: make sure you are standing within 10 feet so that your flash can reach your subjects.
- Work the scene. This is a technique used by many photographers who are working for magazines. You can ask your subjects to turn a little to the left or right. You can experiment with different camera positions, but make sure you do it quickly, unless you want your subjects hating you. After all, you’re not in a fashion magazine photo shoot.
- Talk to your subjects. You need to communicate with your subjects and put them at ease. Tell them which way to face, how they can project the message they want to convey. Everybody hates a silent photographer – this makes them unhappy and bored.
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What you should avoid when shooting outdoor portraits
Here are a couple of things you need to avoid when you’re shooting outdoor portraits:
- Don’t use side lighting for women. Side lighting highlights texture and this can cause problems when you’re shooting a woman. Of course we don’t want to accent the skin imperfections, do we? Unless you’re using side lighting for special effects, don’t use it! Use fill in flash to minimize texture.
- Don’t show frustration. Sometimes, getting a great shot can be difficult but you don’t need to blame your subjects. They’re already putting their self confidence on the line by letting you take their picture. When the photographs look great, compliment your models, if it goes bad, then it’s your fault. A famous photographer once said, "Keep your ego in check so theirs can stay intact."
- Don’t take single shots. A basic rule in photography is to take as many shots as you can, especially when we’re talking about portraits. Some photos may look great on your 3 inch monitor but when you upload them and blow them up on a computer screen, you’ll see a lot of things you don’t like. The solution? Take as many shots of a pose as you can. After all, you’re trying to become a professional and that’s the way they do it.
- Don’t make your models look into the sun. Of course, we’ve been told that the sun should always be behind the photographer. But if you keep doing it, you’re only going to make your models to squint. When you place the sun behind your model, you can get highlights along the hair but your photo might get underexposed. To resolve this, use your fill in flash to accentuate the hair highlights.
- Don’t use busy backgrounds. Bright colors and landscape elements may look great but when you’re taking a portrait, you’ll realize that these are the worst backgrounds you can choose. You need to maintain the focus on your subject’s face – that’s what a portrait is. Keep the background out of focus, this can make your photos look more professional.