Outdoor Portraits Anyone?

I should go to the park every Saturday, because I become so inspired about writing when I see so many young photographers out photographing people without a clue of what they are doing!  I swear there are more photographers at the park on a weekend than children at play!  Well my inspiration came from this weekend from watching all these photographers wandering around without ever thinking or planning.  They were like watching a guy, aimlessly walking down the beach with a medal detector….he really doesn`t where he is going or what he will find, he is just hoping for something.

There is something about people in a creative profession who assume that planning and forethought interferes with creativity.  I hear many younger photographers saying they like to, “shoot on the fly”.  You know what ‘shooting on the fly’ means in reality?  “Throw crap on the wall and see what sticks!”  No one, and I mean no one is good enough to start shooting outside without a plan or using forethought to select a scene.  Not even me and I have been doing this for a very long time and written many books on the subject!

Selecting a scene is a basic decision that must be made before you ever pick up a camera.  That is my first suggestion to new photographers, put down the damn camera and take a walk around.  A camera in a younger person’s hands (and even many older photographers…just watch them teach a class) seem to suck the intelligence right out of someone`s head.  Dont touch your camera until you have looked at the direction of the light you will be using for a main light source, the position of the sun in respect to the position of the person (since sunlight from behind illuminates greenery and acts as a hair light), the elements or focal points in the scene and finally where you will position the subject within the scene to achieve the look you and they are wanting.

No forethought leads to snapshots.  No forethought leads to wandering around hoping for the best.  Without planning outdoors you are sucked in by color, textures and lines without looking at the light and thinking about the way the camera will translate what your eyes are seeing!  A good example of this I saw on Saturday.  There were these trees right outside of  the Japanese Gardens of the park.  They were in bloom and had beautiful pink flowers all over the branches.  The colors were beautiful, but very sparse on the tree branches.  These pink flower were a lure for every photographer in the park.  They saw the color and were captivated, but they had no plan or forethought.  They were posing brides, couples and families right next to these tree to get the color in the photo.  Unfortunately, they were right next to the road, which showed in their shots.  In addition, there was a stop sign on the corner right behind these tree which also showed in their shots and a speed limit sign across the road way which also was in their shots.  Once these photographers saw the beautiful colors, the stopped thinking about anything else.

There were a few photographers that had nice equipment and looked as though they knew something about photography, but they were so caught up in the beauty of these flowers, they put a couple and a bride (different photographers) right under the tree and laid on the ground and shot upward.  Sounds artsy…..sounds creative doesn`t it?  I am sure that is what they were thinking…. unfortunately the sunlight was filtering through the flowers and branches creating all kinds of patterns of highlight and shadows right on the subjects` faces,  “kind of a facial leprosy look!”

Before you ever pick up your camera (if you have impulse control issues…which most photographers do!) the first thing you look for is the scene.  In my case, I look for a beautiful area with the sunlight in the right position (coming from behind) and multiple focal points in the foreground and background.  If I am using completely natural light, the light is always my first consideration, but in most of my portraits I create the main light source using reflected sunlight.  Once I decide on a scene, I then decide where, within the scene I am going to place the subject.  Once that is decided, then I think of the pose to put the subject in to achieve the look I want and to coordinate with the scene and the clothing.  Then I decide on the angle and elevation of the camera to get the areas of the background I want to include.  After all those decisions are made, I pose the client the way, and in the place I have envisioned while they were changing.  I correct the pose, fix the wrinkles and the hair and at that point I pick up the camera!  This is how I can show a client 50 images that I have created out of the camera, without editing any down or removing anything but blinks.  Planning, thinking and forethought create a workable business flow that creates a profit, not endless headaches you create for yourself by over shooting and editing down, as well as have to Photoshop crap into photography!

Outdoor I use a Canon 5D with a 70-200mm 2.8 lens wide open.  My main light is created by feather off reflected sunlight.  I never use flash outdoors, with the exception of using studio flash with battery packs for large families or groups!

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on March 7, 2011.

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