- Outdoor Portrait Photography Tips for Gear<
- Use All of the Seasons
- Selective Focus Technique
- Environmental Portrait Photography
- My Top Two Outdoor Portrait Photography Tips
- Alternate Nature and Architecture Settings
- Create a Portrait Photobook
- Recommended Photography Gear
- What to Look for when Ordering a Photo Book
- Personalized Photo Books and Three Other Top Photography Gifts
- Custom Artwork Ideas for Your Photography
Photo by Hailey Seelig via iStock
Seasonal changes always make me think of going outside for some photography ideas. Every season has its own beauty and special appeal for various types of photography. I have some outdoor portrait photography tips for you to add to our other articles discussing outdoor imaging.
Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall, grab your camera and some choice lenses and other accessories and take people outdoors for some great portraits. Here are seven outdoor portrait photography tips that cover outdoor portraits ideas, techniques, and equipment.
Table of Contents:
Outdoor Portrait Photography Tips for Gear
Photo by scyther5 via iStock
Outdoor portrait photography in each season has its own appeal and considerations. Weather and lighting conditions change, requiring us to adapt our gear care and our exposure, posing, and lighting ideas.
To start, we want to be prepared with basic portrait photography gear options. I like to have a variety of focal lengths to take advantage of the multiple viewpoints we can seek out in most outdoor portrait photography locations.
A high-quality normal-range zoom lens with a fast f/2.8 aperture is invaluable. With a Full Frame, a 24-70mm or 28-100mm f/2.8 is great. On APS-C cameras, I would use an 18-50mm or similar zoom, but not necessarily the kit lenses since they have very slow maximum apertures at the telephoto end, right where I need a fast aperture for certain techniques.
With a high-quality fast zoom lens in the wide-to-normal-to-short telephoto range, I can quickly change from a wider view for environmental portraiture and immediately switch into a head and shoulder portrait pose.
For some outdoor portrait photography tips and ideas, I like to have at least one very fast lens with a longer focal length. In Full Frame format, an 85mm or 100mm lens with an aperture of f/2.0 or faster works, while an APS-C format user might opt for a 50mm lens with a fast maximum aperture.
A good flash and some other lighting accessories come in handy, too. Outdoor portraits with lighting gear? Absolutely! I’ll explain why later in this list of outdoor portrait photography tips. A tripod and a remote trigger round out my basic gear needs.
Use All of the Seasons
Photo by LightFieldStudies via iStock
Summer portraits may revolve around recreation. Spring images can incorporate feelings of new growth. Fall portraits can take advantage of all the warm colors. Winter outdoor portraits can benefit from the austere, monochromatic scenes common in many areas.
Here’s a great tutorial with several outdoor portrait photography tips by PPA Photographer Jessica Kobeissi on YouTube
In all seasons, be alert for how you can fully use the seasonal changes in light quality. It also helps to be prepared for varying weather conditions. A lens hood, fully charged batteries, and maybe a protective shooting bag are all valuable accessories to have on hand.
Selective Focus Technique
Photo by kupicoo via iStock
One of the most basic of my outdoor portrait photography tips is to use selective focus to isolate a subject from the background and foreground and to eliminate distractions from busy elements surrounding the portrait subject.
Since depth of field is a function of focal length, subject distance, and lens aperture, certain types of lenses or focal lengths lend themselves better to shallow depth of field also known as selective focus.
A short telephoto lens, a medium distance pose, and a wide aperture usually give me the image I want with only the portrait subject in focus. My fast normal range zoom lens works well for this also. I zoom out to the 70mm or 100mm end of the lens range and open up the aperture as wide as the exposure triangle allows.
Environmental Portrait Photography
Photo by NKS_Imagery via iStock
At the other end of the focusing and depth of field ideas is using deeper depth of field for environmental portrait photography. In my environmental portraits, I lean towards wider focal lengths in order to capture part of the environment, whatever it may be.
A wider focal length, a small lens aperture, and a moderate subject distance provide significant depth of field, which translate into more things in the image area being in focus. Though not absolutely necessary for an environmental portrait, deeper depth of field is what I usually try for with this style of portrait photography.
My Top Two Outdoor Portrait Photography Tips
Photo by ABRAHAM GONZALEZ FERNANDEZ via iStock
My top two outdoor portrait photography tips could be put together as one, but I like to separate them since the second part has a couple of ways to make it work.
When capturing portraits outdoors, my absolute top tips are to turn away from the sun and use a reflector or fill flash to brighten up the resulting facial shadows. This also puts a wonderful catchlight in the eyes of the subject.
A snapshot portrait is often ruined for serious consideration because of that grimace squinting that always happens when the sun shines straight into someone’s eyes. So we turn the person away from the sun, which ends the grimace.
That creates an unlit looking face, though. One solution is to unfurl my collapsible 5-in-1 reflector and move it around until I see the shadows lift and that twinkle of a catchlight in their eyes. Another method is to set up my flash unit to use for fill-in flash. Many newer cameras actually do this completely automatically, balancing ambient light, focus distance, and flash power.
Alternate Nature and Architecture Settings
Photo by CasarsaGuru via iStock
Another of my favorite outdoor portrait photography tips when shooting outside is to look for architecture in nature and look for nature in an urban or suburban setting. I’ll often take my portrait subject to a local park with flower gardens, trees, and several manmade structures like a gazebo or a bridge.
Almost any city scene has little snippets of nature if we look closely enough. A flowering bush against a brick wall may create interest for an outstanding outdoor portrait. Some of my favorite photo spots in nature have older abandoned shacks that add great interest to any outdoor portrait. And a bridge works anywhere, anytime.
Create a Portrait Photobook
After using all of my favorite outdoor portrait photography tips, I want to display them somehow and show them off. If I’m creating portrait images for a paying client, I will provide them with options for showing the images to others. Wall art and photo books are perfect for this.
Photobook Press has both of these products, plus others, that will allow you to fulfill your own wants or what you need for supplying to your portrait photography clients. I like the lay-flat photo books because of the special binding that eliminates the tendency of photobook pages to bend up from the spine.
There are more ways to display our fine portrait photography work, from acrylic prints to softcover photo books to gift items such as photo calendars. Photobook Press also has a professional services department with discounts for products and expedited shipping arrangements. Check them out.
I hope you get a lot out of my outdoor portrait photography tips. Try them out the next time you capture portraits of your friends, family, and clients.