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  • Writer's picture Tony Brown Photography

Tips For Taking Amazing Outdoor Portrait Photography

Have you ever wondered what makes incredible outdoor portrait photography? Today I'm sharing my professional photography tips that will help you prepare for your shoot and teach you to take beautiful, natural light portraits using daylight as the primary source.

Tips For Taking Amazing Outdoor Portrait Photography in london

What’s the Best Time of Day for Outdoor Portraits

Outdoor portrait photography means shooting at a specific time in order to avoid harsh shadows on the model’s face. 'Golden hour' is the 2-3 hour gap right after sunrise or right before sunset. To get the best light, try going 2-3 hours before sunset or 1-2 hours after sunrise. The sun at these times is pretty low and won't cause contrasting shadows. Shooting at this time provides you with great outdoor portrait lighting.

A gloomy, cloudy day produces soft light for outdoor portraits with a natural, rounded look. This light is a little bit harder to manage. If your day turned out to be cloudy, pictures would get a very silver-ish ambience. You have to be careful in this kind of setting as a lot of detail can get lost. Especially if you chose the wrong angle or position the camera straight against the sky.

Location, location, location...

Finally, make sure you plan the location of your outdoor portrait photography in advance. Where will the shoot take place? Do you need special permission to photograph there? If you do, how long in advance do you have to make all the necessary arrangements? How big is the place and how much variation of light can you get? Consider transportation time and cost as well.

For extra light in your images, try a wide aperture. A shallow depth of field allows you to keep your ISO 100 for greater quality, and your shutter speed low. This is a great photography tip for portrait photographers in London to gain better results. You may find that aperture priority is the best mode to use. Go from close-up portraits to wider shots.

Wardrobe, Hair and Make-Up Are So Important

The story or the scene that you have decided on will give you an idea for the selection of the right wardrobe for your model or subject. Think about hair and makeup as well to complete the overall look.

If you are shooting natural light portraits in the park, choose light clothes. This will help avoid dark, underexposed areas on the model’s body. This way, outdoor portrait lighting will work best.

Portrait Photographer in london

Working With Non-Professional Models

One of the key elements of any successful photo shoot with people – is creating the mood. A professional photographer in London should act as an emotional balancer on set.

Many people, especially non-professional models, often get tense in front of the camera. This shows up on the photographs. It is the photographer’s job to make their model comfortable and at ease. If the person is your friend or if you know each other well, it is much easier, usually! But if you have never seen each other before or only met once, stiffness could be an issue. This might not be the time for the most intense close-up portraits. Especially at the start of the session.

There are different techniques to help you get through. Grab a drink and have a chat or take a walk before your shoot will help to create more of a rapport between you. This helps to build trust and keep the model relaxed in front of the camera.

Jokes are a very strong catalyst, but don't force them! Wait till both of you get comfortable with each other and then go shoot. After all, no matter how serious the project, it is always good to have some fun!

Try More Interesting Backgrounds

Now let’s get a bit more technical. What you have in the background of the frame is very important, even if it’s blurred. The name of this is bokeh. Sometimes this very feature makes the photograph stand out. You need to use a shallow depth of field and a wide aperture for this effect.

There are many objects that produce interesting bokeh. Try small branches of the trees, snowflakes, raindrops, lens flares, flowers, or street lights. Any textured backlight also works.

cyclists in the park in london

Shoot in RAW for More Control in Post-Processing

Most modern cameras allow you to choose the format to take pictures in. Two basic options are JPEG and RAW. Unlike JPEG, RAW allows you to make considerable adjustments to your original file without losing quality on the post-production stage.

In order to work with RAW files on your computer, you would have to get a specialized software: a RAW converter program. Adobe Lightroom is the standard in the industry, a rather intuitive and user-friendly program with support for the majority of cameras on the market.

More Photos Mean More Choice

This is one of the secrets to amazing outdoor portrait photography - take lots of shots. Take one or two duplicates for every shot you take, so later you have more to choose from. You never know when the crucial element in your balanced composition can get out of focus and ruin the shot, or a spark of emotion or the right angle of your model could make the shot.

Shooting more than you need is one of the best outdoor photography tips. It works even for outdoor headshots.

cowboy feeding cow portrait photography tips

How to Post-Process Outdoor Portrait Photography

Taking a great picture is 80% of your success. The remaining 20% lies in post-production. Here you can showcase your unique style and get creative, but be careful not to overdo it.

Even the best shot can be spoilt by unskilled Photoshop use. You want to keep the feel of that outdoor photography lighting. It is a good technique to select a sample picture from a photographer whose style you like. Try to match the colours and the look of your picture with this reference. The more you practice the better you will get. Sooner or later you will be able to develop your own signature style in natural light portrait portraits.

Tip for copyright. Do not place your copyright horizontally. It distracts attention from the actual picture. If you want to place a copyright, put it in the bottom right corner. Turn it vertically, so it doesn’t drive away the viewer’s attention, but is still readable.

Show Off Your Work on Social Media and Beyond

Post your outdoor portrait photography on Instagram and let people see them! Listen to what they have to say, constructive criticism might not always be pleasant to hear, but there is a lot you can learn from it!

If people give you amazing ideas for future shoots, write them down. Photography is often subjective and people’s tastes often differ. But you can significantly develop your aesthetic by learning from professionals.

Portrait photography, like any art, takes practice. These tips can save you time and energy - whether you are a professional or an amateur.

Now get out there and take some amazing outdoor portraits.

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