We’re rotating wardrobes, finally shedding those sweaters, and everyone wants to be outside. Let’s face it, nobody has better backdrops than Mother Nature. Outdoor portraits are gorgeous…or at least they can be, but don’t let the ready-made scenes fool you. To produce beautiful pictures while outside, there are things every photographer should know.
Good photographs require technical aspects which many people do not always consider: focus, exposure, composition, and lighting. As the composer of a picture, being able to see light is key. It is our job to know light, the source, the direction, the affects it has on our subjects, colors it creates. Lighting can take years to learn. It may be tempting to not think about lighting when doing outdoor photography, but that would be a mistake. A gorgeous setting and subject won’t look nearly as gorgeous in the height of day. If you are going to schedule an outdoor summer session with me, I will not hold it during peak hours. The sun should be low in the sky, so either early morning or early evening (6:00-7:00pm is ideal). It erases those harsh shadows and allows for less squinting. I simply won’t shoot any other time of day for outdoor photography. I’m sharing this to those of you who want to take pictures of your own – plan the light.
Another thing to steer clear of is dappled light. The most ideal lighting condition is full shade. You may think full sun is best, but it isn’t. Full sun is harsh, and the camera is far more sensitive to light than our eyes. Light colors blow out, leaving no details. And when I say full shade, I mean FULL shade. Before I learned about lighting, I was drawn to forests. I still am, but I know better. Dappled light – or a mixture of sun and shade (like through leaves) is NOT a good idea for portraits. Light should always be consistent on the subject. So if there is sun and shade in your setting, you better at least make sure the subject is completely covered by one or the other.
Most people do not think about the colors that are reflected. Photographers do and should be able to see these color casts. While grass is beautiful, it reflects green color casts on the under side of chins. In shaded greenery, white shirts appear blueish. Bright pink shirts and red almost always cause some color casts on the skin. A photographer should be able to correct these issues in post processing, but if you are a parent just taking a picture, these are things to consider if you are attempting something more than a snapshot.
Since we are talking about colors, let’s bring up white shirts again. In the bright sun, white clothing is your photographer’s worst nightmare. It is very difficult to keep white from blowing out. By blowing out I mean where the white looses all detail. the pixels have been “blown”. it is an exposure problem, but in the harsh sun, keeping skin tones bright and vibrant while not overexposing a white shirt is difficult. Typically, a photographer can correctly expose the white shirt and increase exposure on the subject in post processing. But if you want to make life easier for the photographer – just dont’ wear white! lol
If you know you are going to have an outdoor photo session later in the day, please plan accordingly. In the summer heat, the sun turns cheeks pink easily. If your child is having a portrait session, don’t be outside all day and allow them to be overly pink come portrait time.