14 Good Tips for Making Outdoor Portraits

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Who did not even do outdoor portraits? Think about walking with your camera and traveling with your family or friends. Sooner or later, you will eventually take photos of portraits, either individually or as a group. Wearing a good camera does not guarantee that you will get a good portrait, as many other factors that are not just related to the camera, such as lighting or composition, need to be considered.

In this article you will find a number of tips that you should consider when planning an outdoor portrait next time for more surprising results.

1. Find the Shade and Avoid Direct Solar Light

14 Good Tips for Making Outdoor Portraits

Often we feel that the portraits appear better because we have more light. The reality, however, is that in most cases there is more than enough light in the shade to make the photo look right. There are also a number of advantages that usually improve the result when taking pictures in the camera.

When the sun is projected directly onto the face of the person we are photographing, it is normal for light to project unwanted shadows on the face that affect our work. Depending on the position of the sun in relation to who we are photographing, this can lead to discomfort that will cause our or our model does not accept a flattering expression.

When we overshadow our model, we achieve that the light is much softer and more diffuse, although yes, that shade is uniform. For example, if we place the model under the shade of a tree, the light can travel through the leaves irregularly, leaving areas with light and shadow. This difference in light between the different areas can cause a strong tonal contrast in the face. So if you can, try to make the shadow as even as possible.

2. Take advantage of Cloudy Days

14 Good Tips for Making Outdoor Portraits

There is no better diffuser than clouds. As we have said, we tend to think that a portrait is better if we expose our motive to the sun, but seeing that the shadows caused in this situation are hard and unflattering.

To avoid this, we can search for the shadow or shoot portraits on a cloudy day. The clouds act like a giant diffuser, which makes the light more homogeneous and softer.

3. Do not Forget the 5 in 1 Reflector

The 5-in-1 reflector is an indispensable accessory in photography. It is not only one of the most versatile, but also one of the most economical. This accessory helps us to control the lighting indoors and outdoors.

If the location where you take your portraits does not have much shadow, you can use a reflector to fill in the shadows of the face or to dampen the light through the diffuser part.

To know in detail the possibilities that this accessory offers you, do not miss our item Reflector 5 in 1: A highly recommended accessory for your photographic equipment.

4. Consider Taking an External Flash

14 Good Tips for Making Outdoor Portraits

Another lighting fixture that can help us improve the lighting of our outdoor portraits is an external flash . A flash will help to soften the contrast between light and shadow that may be in the face of our model, as well as can help us to highlight and separate it from the background. In addition, it will also allow us to have both the background and the face of our model well exposed.

5. Take advantage of Natural Reflectors

Sometimes you just have to know the environmental conditions to make the most of it. There are many natural or artificial elements that you can find outdoors and that can serve as a natural reflector.

As with any reflector, we will succeed in making the transition between light and shadow more gradual. A white wall, beach sand, water, a white car or a truck or even snow are perfect natural reflectors. So use it.

6. Play with the Scarce Depth of Field

14 Good Tips for Making Outdoor Portraits

When we make a portrait outdoors, as beautiful as the place we are, the main reason for taking pictures is our model. This means that it is advisable to highlight them from the remaining elements that appear in the recording, and it’s a great way to play with the shallow depth of field. If you work with a 2.8 / 4 aperture, our subject will be highlighted in the background.

Even with the large apertures, you can use the bokeh. The bokeh is a term of Japanese origin used in photography to refer to the aesthetics of defocused areas that produces a lens when a reduced depth of field is used in a photograph.

If you take the photo with the background at a distance and use an opening that allows us to blur our background, we can use color combinations in the background to get a very nice appearance in our composition, without paying attention to the Main presentation to neglect reason of the photo.

7. Use Long Focal

14 Good Tips for Making Outdoor Portraits

Surely you’ve ever made a very short focal length portrait, that is, with an angle lens, and you’ve noticed that this kind of lens distorts the perspective, making our portrait look weird because it seems the head seems to be weaker. or that your body seems much wider than it really is.

If you want to create original and funny effects, use this type of lens. However, if you want a portrait in which the proportions of the face and the model look good, you should opt for focal lengths in excess of 50 mm.

With these long focal lengths, the subject is not only not distorted, but the compression of the perspective also highlights it from the background and increases the blur of the background bokeh.

8. Beware of the Balance of Lenses

To correct this type of errors we have the possibility to configure the white balance . The white balance (White Balance, WB)  is a control of the camera that serves to balance the levels of the basic colors red, green and blue (RGB) so that the brightest part of the image appears as white , and the less bright as black. If we perform the white balance correctly, those black and white will be pure, and will not have any dominant color.

14 Good Tips for Making Outdoor Portraits

We can do it in several ways:

  • Automatic White Balance. Although it usually works well, there are times when it fails, offering photographs with very different tones than those captured by our eyes.
  • White Balance Presets. Most cameras come with different presets that conform to specific standard environments, so that we select them according to the situation in which we find ourselves: Tungsten, Fluorescent, Day / Sun Light, Flash, Cloudy and Shadow.
  • Personalized White Balance. With this balance we will indicate to the camera by means of a capture to a white or neutral gray surface, which is the reference as a result of which it must establish the rest of the tones.
  • Balance of Targets in Kelvin.  The most manual mode, with which we can indicate to the camera directly the Kelvin with which we want to work.

With an adequate balance we will make sure that our outdoor portrait has the tones we desire.

9. Shoot in RAW Format

14 Good Tips for Making Outdoor Portraits

If the photo you want to create is important, shoot in RAW format. We have already given this advice several times, and this format allows us greater latitude for editing the image.

As for the white balance we talked about in the previous point, when you record in RAW format, you have the option to edit it without losing any quality, as if you were working in JPEG format. This is because the RAW is like a digital negative that does not process photography.

10. Watch the Background

The background of your portraits can be a perfect ally or finally ruin your photo. It is important that we try to avoid elements that can pay too much attention to what really interests us in this kind of photographs that are human beings.

Also try not to appear elements that affect the image, such as: As containers, containers or electricity pylons. With a simple angle change, we can sometimes avoid it, and if it does not, you can always try to blur that background so you can not distinguish.

On the other hand, another highlight is the illumination that the background has with respect to the subject. We have told you before that you would look for the surplus to place your subject, but if we then shoot the shot on a background that is in the sun, it will probably appear burned in the shot. That is why it is advisable that you look for funds that also have some shade, since otherwise the fund will detract from our protagonist.

11. Focus on the Eyes

14 Good Tips for Making Outdoor Portraits

This advice is not necessarily related to outdoor portraits, but we should not forget that as it is one of the most important tips in portraiture photography. In other words, if this advice does not strike us, the rest of the Council is of little importance.

And is this in a portrait in which the face is the main element, the visual weight of the image lies in the view of the person portrayed. If we do not get the eyes to come out sharp and clear, when we look at the picture we will feel uncomfortable, which may cause photography to not quite please us.

12. Care for the Composition

14 Good Tips for Making Outdoor Portraits

Lighting and composition are two essential aspects for a good photo. We talked about lighting, and now is the time to ask you to take care of your composition.

There are many rules that have arisen and developed through the experience of other photographers, such as the well-known rulers of others, the rule of the gaze, the search for balance, the leaning against the lines or the depth of our image echo them and use them to improve your portraits.

13. Varies the Shot Angle

Another compositional resource that will give variety to your outdoor portrait session is to change the angle from which we shoot the shot . We are used to always shooting at eye level, partly because it is our usual point of view, and partly also because we are comfortable.

14. Work the Pose

14 Good Tips for Making Outdoor Portraits

And last but not least, we have the pose of our model. A good pose can drastically change the result of an image , so it is important to spend a little time analyzing the posture of our model and, if required, give the appropriate indications to improve it.

Capturing a portrait outdoors is easy, now … getting a good portrait outdoors is something else. It’s not that it’s complicated, do not get me wrong, but we’ll need to look at a series of details before we start shooting like crazy. 

In this article we have compiled the essential points that we must take into account when making an outdoor portrait photograph, but it is likely that when you read it you can think of many other tips, so we invite you to share them with us.

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