Quick and Easy tips for Beautiful Outdoor Portraits

Working outdoors isn’t easy.  The natural light is completely uncontrolled.  Half the time the light has a blue cast, the rest of the time it has a green cast and both of these colors are not so good color for the skin-tone!  While white balance can take care of the color casts, developing the ability to see natural light, it’s direction and characteristics (position and size relative to the subject, whether it is soft or harder, etc.) and working with it (balance the natural light on the subject with that on the background, posing the subject relative to the light direction, etc.)  takes years of practice to be able to master.  It was, by far the hardest part of learning professional photography for me, which is ironic because I have written the greatest number of books about outdoor portraiture, I guess the learning was worth it.

As we are learning to “see the Light” most photographers look for something to bridge the gap in their knowledge so they can create salable portraits during their struggle to understand outdoor lighting.  Some photographer look to technology to fill the gap in knowledge and get one or several TTL flash units to take an outdoor portrait with no thinking necessary.  Three problems with this, FIRST, you never learn to see the light if you simply have flash over power it, TWO, no flash system available can give you precision lighting with the variety of clients we have (diversities in skin-tone and facial structure) to provide professional quality results.  Yes some of the photos might be passable, however you will never know for sure what you have on the card until you download it onto a computer,  THREE, what happens when technology fails?  You want to see a guy start walking around in circles and talking like RainMan, watch a photographer that lets technology think for him as technology fails.  With on camera flash, your photography is a game of chance and as a professional you can’t rely on chance!

Here is a reliable, predictable and somewhat easy method for creating outdoor portraits that are salable, consistent and help you to SEE THE LIGHT!  First of all, look for a spot to pose the client that puts the sun at the back, this way direct sunlight or sunlight filtering through tree will be act as a hair-light/separation light. Also this illuminate foliage from behind bringing out more of the vivid green color.  Step two align and adjust the height of you camera to find a background that is mostly in shade.  Step three, use a silver/white reflector to reflect sunlight back at your subject to become the main light source, positioned in the same relative position and height as your main-light in your studio.

The reason this simple system works so well is that it work 95% of the time.  I hate when I learn something that will only work once in a while.  A few things to understand, because you are using reflected sunlight as your main light source you have eliminated the need to white balance all the time, the color temperature of reflected sunlight isn’t going to change through a session.  Second the lighting effect you see (or learn to see) is the lighting effect you get.

Two things that will greatly help you create beautiful portraits, first when using a reflector you have to learn how to feather the light, which is a confusing term which simply means to position the main beam of raw reflected sunlight over the head of the subject. This illuminates the subject with the softer edge light.  Second thing, when you are at the camera have the main beam way over the head of the subject, then have your helper/assistant slowly start to lower the main beam of light down toward the subject.   When you see two distinct catch-lights in the eyes (from the camera position) you have just create a main-light source that has over powered all other light sources.  Now look at the shadowing on the face and take the portrait.

The only problem that photographers can have with this quick and easy light set-up is a need for another person to help you and this isn’t a problem, but a blessing in disguise.  In the world we live in, if you go to outdoor locations which can have remote areas or at least areas where there aren’t other people and you photograph anyone who is under 18 years old by yourself, you are asking for trouble.  You can be the most honest, church going, God (whoever your God might be) fearing man or woman in your town, but one accusation about improper conduct of a sexual nature by a minor and you will have your entire life come crashing down around you, even when it is later proven to be a lie.  An assistant, whether paid, a friend or family member helps in the session and makes accusations for spite or profit have no merit.  We also insist on a parent being at the session for this  same reason.  Outdoor or in the studio you must protect yourself and your business.

For more on outdoor lighting you can view my Outdoor Lighting Video Clip on YouTube.com

or don’t be cheap and buy one of many book on Outdoor Photography.

Advertisements

~ by jeffsmithbooks on June 1, 2010.

2 Responses to “Quick and Easy tips for Beautiful Outdoor Portraits”

  1. Proper deliverance of a good lighting is one of the most important asset in photography. The control over the light is attainable by various methods of achieving a accurate light variation. You have mentioned it with justification that I’m sure gives a very inspiring insights to those who wants to pursue with photography.

  2. Proper deliverance of a good lighting is one of the most important asset in photography. The control over the light is attainable by various methods of achieving a accurate light variation. You have mentioned it with justification that I’m sure gives a very inspiring insights to those who wants to pursue with photography.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: