Outdoor Portraits…JPEG’s?

The snow is melting (not for me I live in CA.) it is slowly starting to warm up and soon we will be taking our clients to the great outdoors to capture the early spring flowers and lush green grass.  As business people when we work outdoors, just like when we work in the studio, time is money.  The way we capture an image will greatly determine how much time you must take to prepare the image for viewing and eventually the final order.

The color temperature of “natural” light can vary considerably from one scene to the next.  Many photographers custom white balance each scene to get consistent color, while other photographers shoot raw tiffs and say to themselves, “heck with it, I will just fix it when I bring it into Photoshop!”  For the ultimate in time consumption some photographers will white balance all the time and capture everything as raw tiffs.

In business I question anyone who says always and never. The most inept and the most closed-minded are the people who will “always” or “never” do anything!  There are times I shoot raw tiffs, there are times I shoot jpegs.  As a business person, I felt I needed to come up with a way to shoot jpegs on most of my outdoor sessions.  I have been to the programs and heard most of the theories, but as in a majority of cases the most direct and simple solution is the best.  Personally, I don’t feel an “on-camera flash” is a professional quality light source for a portrait.  I wouldn’t use it in the studio, so why would I use it outdoors.  The other problem with flash outdoors is having enough control over the light to have your foreground and background look natural, while providing a professional quality light source on your subject.

All of my outdoor sessions are done during business hours, so for the majority of outdoor sessions the sun is high in the sky, providing a volume of light to reflect that varies little in color temperature throughout the time of a session.  Most of the outdoor portraits in all of my outdoor books are created using a single reflectors during the middle of the day.  First of all this provides me a constant source of light that I can see the characteristics of  and second the color temperature of reflect sunlight is the same throughout any given session.

Many photographers that aren’t used to using a reflector complain about their client’s eyes watering or squinting.  This typically happens when you direct the beam of reflected sunlight right at the subject.  This light is too harsh for their eyes and also to be used for a lighting for portraiture.  You must feather the direct beam of light off the subject (slightly above their head).  This softens the light to provide less eye strain, as well as a more usable portrait lighting.

This light is consistent enough in its color temperature to shoot JPEG’s outdoors provided you are a consistent enough photographer to insure you get a proper exposure.  I have heard photographers talk about shooting raw tiffs and claim “no one is good enough to shoot jpeg’s.  If I could shoot slides with only a crappy old light meter and color temperture meter, I am sure I can capture quality images using a jpeg format with today’s digital cameras.

As I said before though, only an idiot says always or never when it comes to a creative profession.  I do use raw tiffs when I don’t have sunlight to reflect (heavy overcast, shooting on a winter afternoon, etc.)  When I work with truly nature light and must reflect back that natural light I will shoot raw tiffs, because of the color variations in the lighting.  I also shoot raw when it is the first time I am shooting at a location.  It is easy to get distracted while you are trying to find scenes to use for the first time at a location, so  I don’t like taking any chances with my client’s images, but once I have used a location once or twice, 90 % of everything is jpegs!

Jpeg’s save time and space, which in the end save money.  If you spend an extra $.10 on every raw images you capture (download time, storage space and handling) that adds up to quite a sum of money over a year.  The way some photographers over-shoot that could add to a significant savings by the end of the week!

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on February 16, 2010.

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