Outdoor Portraits…Getting Back To The Basics!

The snow is melting, in California, those bitterly cold 60 degree days are coming to an end and we all start looking to venture out into the great outdoors again.  Outdoor locations give us so many options, such beauty and depth in the scenes and backgrounds, it fills the photographer’s soul just to think about.

When I talk about getting back to the basics, I am referring to getting back to a natural approach to a very natural type of photography.  For the average photographer, they approach outdoor photography from a new-age, digital, “let technology crap up something beautiful”, perspective.  Bring flash outdoors is like bring a your own steak to a 5 star restaurant!  With so much beautiful natural light all around that only needs to be modified, why would you even think of using a flash?

The other problem with using flash outdoor is the unnatural results that you so often see.  A good example of what I mean can be seen when using the interior of a home or office for a portrait.  To make a home or office look normal and natural to the people who see the home or office all the time, you must study the light patterns that exist in the space when it is normally lit.  You may add light to illuminate your subject or parts of the background, but you must have complete control over the light to produce a final portrait that visually makes sense.

Using flash outdoor is the same thing.  First of all you can not see the exact effects of the flash outdoor and like the interior of a home there are nature light patterns that exist in the highlights and shadows of the background and foregrounds.  These are light patterns that need to be duplicated, if at least not considered for the portrait to visually make sense.  To achieve a natural look to your portrait in an interior or outdoor when using flash requires a higher skill level than the average photographer has.  It requires more attention and effort than most photographers want to willing to invest for a natural look.

When I photograph interiors, I like use the natural light to illuminate my clients so the interior appears as it does daily to the client.  Outdoors is no different.  I am like you and time is money and clients are often late.  Rather than trying to work with a system that is too complicated to possibly do right in the average session, I use the natural light and modify it to make it work.  Whether using completely natural light or reflectors and gobos to manipulate the natural light, you will never produce a portrait that is anything but natural in it appearance.  Even use reflectors to over-power the main light source is a much more precise lighting system than flash, because you see exact the effect you are getting rather than trying to guess.

Pairing natural light with a natural scene only seems like common sense, however the gadget freaks of the world will have to think for a change instead of hoping the camera and flash are thinking for them!


~ by jeffsmithbooks on January 31, 2011.

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