Shouldn’t Outdoor Portraits Be Good in EVERY WAY?

An Outdoor Portrait has to have: Beautiful light, a great pose, clothing that coordinates with the scene, depth and a beautiful background with textures and lines that complete the look of the portrait you are trying to create (after all, what is the point of doing outdoor portraits if you don’t have a beautiful background).  When did it become acceptable to only have some of these vital parts to a professional outdoor portrait?  I am not talking about student photographers or soccer moms here.  I am talking about otherwise very talented photographers that try to take shortcuts in producing outstanding outdoor portraits.

I see so many portraits that sacrifice many of these vital parts of a professional outdoor portrait to achieve a certain effect.  I see outdoor portraits with beautiful cloudy skylines behind the subject but the subject has a 2400 watt second blast to the face to balance the amount on light on the face with that in the skyline sacrificing quality light for pretty clouds.  This would be really important if we were selling cloud photos, but we are selling portraits of people which must have beautiful light on their faces to want to buy the portraits.

Technology is another cause of shortcutting your way to crappy outdoor portraits.  I just watched a video of two guys with an arsenal of ‘on-camera-flashes’, connected together, with a state of the art triggering system and everything worked with the camera’s metering system.  These guys went on and on about how easy it was and how many lights they could link together.  The one thing they couldn’t say is how beautiful the light was, but it sucked in a majority of the images.  Why?…. because an “on-camera flash” isn’t a professional quality light source, no matter how much you dress it up.   Another problem is that flash outdoors is a guessing game when it comes to critical lighting outdoors.  While on-camera-flash is a must when doing weddings, it simply doesn’t produce a beautiful, natural looking lighting, especially when the face is going to have a larger facial size in the portrait.  I can always tell when a portrait is lit with this type of flash because it looks very un-natural.

The last groups of photographers have beautiful light and a concept or idea that is so strong (pose, clothing, story) they forget to select a background that has the depth and beauty that paying clients want to see in their portraits.  Can you imagine being a client that spends the time to meet a photographer at a location, you put up with the heat, the bugs, the dirt and the grass stains and when you see the portraits you have background that is a wash of green and could have much easier to create in the studio with a painted background.

All of us photographers are getting in such a hurry to grab a camera and shoot, we are not thinking and planning every detail of what we are creating.  As professionals, we know what beautiful light is and in most cases to use beautiful outdoor lighting you have to work for it.  It isn’t easy, but if you (and the two dudes in the bridal session) want it easy, get a high quality point and shoot and start snapping, then you can try to transform your snapshot into portraits like the students and un-trained soccer moms do.

Clients can get crappy outdoor snapshots from shooters that can’t create one image with all the necessary elements in it, a lot cheaper than what you are charging, so now isn’t the time lessen your standards for simplicity or because it easy.  As professionals we need to set ourselves apart by the quality and look of what we create, not lower our standards to a level of those that charge next to nothing.


~ by jeffsmithbooks on July 18, 2010.

2 Responses to “Shouldn’t Outdoor Portraits Be Good in EVERY WAY?”

  1. AMEN

  2. Thanks Jeff! You are amazing and I appreciate all your ideas willingness to share!

    Take care,


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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: