With outdoor portraits, keep it simple. What do I mean by this? Out of the studio we have one light, the sun. It might seem obvious but how we use it matters a lot. What I will say here is that my way is not the only way but it is not a bad place to start from. It works and is very simple.
My favored method for outdoor portraits is to have the sun behind your subject. This puts a back-light on the hair. Once there is back-light on the hair it gives a separation between the subject and the background. Even in woodland you will find areas where the sun shines through. Use these areas as your place to shoot and think of them as your starting point for a shot.
When you have to sun behind the subject it gives a lovely soft light on the face. It is a very flattering light with no black shadows cast across the face.
The other thing to say here is to use your lens at the widest aperture, f2.8 to f5.6, this puts the background out of focus. It adds to the effect of separating subject from background.
The first image of Sarra is shows the effect that you get clearly. The light on her coat particularly gives great separation from the background. The light on her face is just stunning.
What isn’t as obvious in the first image is the use of a reflector. I always use a reflector to put a little light back into the face. This has the effect of brightening up the face and especially the eyes. It also gives a massive bonus of creating some catch lights in the eyes. This does make a massive difference to any portrait.
What are reflectors? Basically they are something that will reflect a bit of light. They can be silver, try aluminium foil stuck to a board, a white sheet, white paper stuck to a board. I have used a white shirt that I was wearing. Very easy, very simple. You can buy silver or gold reflectors but I find white is perfect for what I want.
I personally find the Lastolite tri-grip reflectors perfect for my needs. These flip up and fold down very easily and so easy to carry. My kit includes a regular size one and a large on. Both have a white/silver side. 90% of use is the large one on the white side.
The second shot of Sarra, you can see the catch lights in the eyes whilst still having a lovely soft light on the face.
Going outdoors to shoot portraits of children seems much more natural to me than being in a studio. I like to fit portraits into a scene. With a little planning you can create beautiful images. People have beautiful gardens that can be used or try local parks.
Look for nice even lighting, open shade is ideal. Under trees, arches in the shadow side of buildings.
I particularly look to reflect seasons, the first photograph was taken in a local park. You need to have good communications with the family to organize the shoot and type of clothes. The autumnal colors of the leaves in the foreground is reflected in the child’s clothes.
Rather than leave shots to chance, plan to get the child in the right place you want to shoot. Then let them be children. Let them behave naturally.
They only have a short attention span so get the shots quickly and move on to the next spot. Make the shoot as much about play as the photography as you can.
Make sure that you take a variety of shots from full length to close ups of the face. Remember that you are satisfying not only the parents but grandparents. All will like different shots so offer variety particularly if you are looking to sell and maximize sales.
The shot below is one from a walk through a park. Not traditional as the little girl is facing away from the camera. Nevertheless it is endearing as you see her face as she carries her dog. It would make a lovely piece of wall art for people rather than a close up of a face.
Rather than in the previous urban portrait which I made high key so reducing the color in post processing, with this one I have saturated the color to emphasize the color in the brickwork. The place is an old railway arch, water has run down the walls to create some amazing colors as a backdrop. A good tip is when you look at color, see what you can do with it rather than always just as it appears. The clothes chosen were to match in with the backdrop. Saturating the colors in Lightroom also added the emphasis to the girls red hair.
When posing someone in this type of scene, look for something that adds interest to the scene rather than just a straight pose. Urban portraits should be a little edgy not like classical portraits. The great thing about an area like this is that the light is lovely open shade which in nice and soft and allows you to vary things as you require.
To turn your photography from recording an image to art is making a scene your own. Look at the scene and see how you would like it look to look then make it happen. You will find plenty of tutorials on You Tube about working with your RAW files, watch and learn from them.
With urban portraits, do not be frightened to be different and try something new. Often it is best to fit people into scenes but here is a head shot and the emphasis is on the eyes. The face in this shot is cut into sections by some bars on the front of a hotel but the eyes hold the viewer. The image has been made into a high key image to take out some of the tonal range and leave the beautiful eyes as the main point of focus. Part of working outdoors is to take what nature throws at you and here the hair is left to it’s own devices, it has worked out beautifully in this shot giving the shot an extra dimension.
As a change from my usual posts I am adding people into this post and talking about outdoor portraiture. I have great love of capturing people naturally. I like to fit people into landscapes and scenes. As with all portraiture the aim is capture something about a person. A feeling or a look that says to someone this is me. The great thing about working outdoors is that people tend to be more relaxed, the images should be more informal.
You will need to find your own way to work but the way that I work is to put people into a position I want to photograph them in then get them to move slowly and change position and give me different looks. Talk to people and continue to shoot all the time. You will get a few mistakes shooting like this but you will get many great shots.
Use a longer lens for this type of work and a big aperture, f4 or f2.8 should work for you. However you shoot the most important thing is the person or people that you are photographing.