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Taking Amazing Outdoor Portraits

written by: Misty Faucheux•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/20/2011

Taking portraits in the great outdoors can be very inspiring, although there are some challenges. Get some ideas on poses and tips to taking great outdoor portraits.

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    Outdoor portrait photography sessions are great way to capture photographs with natural light. But, just because you are outside your studio doesn’t mean that you need to throw out all of the photography posing techniques. So, here are some tips on how to take great outdoor portrait photography poses.

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    First, let’s discuss some general information about shooting photographs outside. You need to account for the light. Generally, the best time to take photos outside is either during the early morning or late in the afternoon. Middle of the day or direct sunlight pictures tend to be too bright, causing your photo to look overexposed.

    If you are planning on taking pictures during the middle of the day, then you need to account for the light. You should try using your flash on a few pictures to see if that takes away the sharp shadows on the person’s features. If not, set up some photography lights around your subject. Position them both above and below to counteract the sunlight.

    Or, wait for some clouds to move in. This will give you some diffused, natural light.

    Always scout out your location beforehand to figure out where you can take the best shots. Water, hillsides, fields and trees are obvious choices, but you can also consider buildings, streets and cityscapes. Figure out what you want before you bring out your subjects. Your background is going to be just as important as the subject itself.

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    Group Poses

    For group poses, look for either an open field with maybe some trees in the background, or go for something near a waterfall or similar water source. Then position your group in the front of this background. Sitting usually works best for groups with the tallest people in the back. Try getting them to sit either with their legs crossed or with their legs to the side and leaning slightly inwards. Read these tips on how to take great group photos to learn more.

    If you have children in the shot, leaning in works great. You can even try taking some shots where the grownups are looking at the children and not at the camera. For couple photography, try something like standing up, holding each other under a tree or arbor. Shooting in the evening, with the couple looking at each other, using diffused light is also a great shot. You can also create silhouettes of the couple like this. If you're interested in learning more about this technique, read How to Photograph Silhouettes: Seven Key Tips & Tricks.

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    Individual Art Photography Poses

    You have a little more creative freedom when it comes to outdoor portrait photography poses for individuals. If the purpose of the photo is art photography, then don’t worry about catching facial features. Instead, try to capture the spirit of the person.

    by new35168 If it’s at sunset, try creating a silhouette photo with the subject stretching their arms out. Yoga poses also work for this since it simulates action. Another great art photography pose is capturing the person from the bottom of a hill or similar natural formation, including sand dunes. Sand is a great medium since you can capture the lines and footprints in the sand (just make sure to protect your camera from the sand!). But, you can also capture the sky and/or water body. Good poses for this include ones with the model's arms crossed or looking away from the camera.

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    Traditional, Close-up Poses

    For traditional, close-up outdoor portrait photography poses, find an interesting background. Then, focus on the person looking at the camera and blur out the background. This is really good for traditional portrait headshots, especially those for graduation or yearbook photos. The person should either be looking dead on at the camera or off to the side. To get a blurred background, you first need to understand depth of field.

    You can also take full-length portraits with a person laying down in a field while you photograph them from above. Or, have them lay down on a rock with their head propped up on one hand.

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    Non-Standard Portrait Poses

    For non-standard outdoor portrait photography poses, try taking vertical pictures, where you capture most of the model. This is similar to the old 1940s pinup shots. Capture the model winking, blowing kisses at the camera or something fun.

    To add even more interest, position the camera where you capture most of the model, but where you also capture the background of the picture. For example, you could capture a cityscape alongside the model.

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    Children Photography

    Children are one of the hardest subjects to capture. They don’t want to sit still for traditional photographs. And, you can generally only get them to sit still for a few minutes at a time. For children photography, outdoors may be the perfect place to take their pictures. Give them something to play with, and be prepared to take a lot of pictures.

    If you want the parents in the shot, position them standing off in the distance while you have the child in the foreground of the shot. Allow them to play with leaves, toys or grasses. Then, make noises or talk to them to get their attention. With children, you can stage the scene a bit. But, most of your photographs are going to be candid. Let the kids play with their parents. For example, parents swinging their child between them while the parents look at the camera is a great shot. You just have to be prepared for anything with children.