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I love studio photography and the ability to "make" your own light, but nothing beats the beautiful, natural light you find outdoors.

Outdoor portraits are at the core of portrait photography and are also the first real step in understanding how light works on the human figure.

Here are 4 easy steps to get you started with outdoor portraits.

1. Use shade

If you're out shooting on a sunny day, it's best to find shade and darker areas. Direct sunlight is harsh and unpleasant and it also casts bad looking shadows on the subject's face. One other option is to shoot on a cloudy day. Clouds act like a natural diffuser, making the like soft and even.

2. Use a fast shutter speed

This is especially important when photographing children. Because they have quick movements, using a slow shutter speed will result in blurry images. Use at least 1/160th or 1/250th of a second. If the light isn't good enough for these speeds, boost the ISO and open the aperture to its widest value. Prime lenses are best for outdoor portraits, and one of the reasons is their unmatched brightness that allows you to use fast shutter speeds in low light.

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3. Use fill flash

Don't be afraid to fire your camera's flash when shooting outdoors. Just do it with a purpose. As I mentioned before, bright sunlight casts harsh shadows. The best way to counter them is by using your camera's built-in flash or an external unit. If you use one of your camera's automatic or semiautomatic exposure modes it will most likely take care of business on its own. If you want to be a little more creative and give yourself a challenge with full manual exposure, make sure you take one shot without the flash and have the background properly exposed. Then take several shots with the flash turned on to adjust its power until your photos start to look like they should.

Canon Rebel T5i | Nikon D7100 | Nikon D810 | Canon 5D Mark III | Nikon D5200 | Sony a7R

4. Use a reflector

Reflectors are cheap and very effective. You don't even need to buy one. All you need is a white piece of plastic or cardboard that you will use to direct the light your subject's face where the shadows are stronger. You can also use a standard windshield reflector. Ideally you should have someone else hold it for you because most of the times it requires minor adjustments for maximum effect.

If you really want to get creative, use both a reflector and an external flash.

Before you plan your shoot, remember that outdoors portraits have to first of all be fun. Even normal places like a park or a street can be way more interesting than a studio that has lights everywhere you look. Try to schedule your shoot when the light is at its best and don't forget to take brakes, especially on hot summer days.

Have fun!

Helpful links:  Sell your old camera gear.  OR See the best way to market your images.      


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