Outdoor Portrait Photography Lighting Tips

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In outdoor portrait photography, you have a whole wide range of backgrounds to choose from.  However, you usually depend on sunlight as the key, and often only, light.  Thus you need to use the ambient light wisely to get the effect you want.  Here are some tips for outdoor portrait photography lighting.

Shooting in the shade or on a cloudy day

This is the best lighting to shoot outdoor portrait photographs.  You will get softer portraits and will avoid having your subjects squinting into the camera.  Generally the natural light in this setting is sufficient to get clear pictures.  While shooting in the shade or on a cloudy day, keep the camera aperture at f8 so you get a shallow depth of field and keep the focus on your subject.

Shooting in bright sunlight

Shooting in bright sunlight produces bright, harsh portraits.  If this stunning and dramatic effect is what you want, go ahead and shoot directly in sunlight.  Set your camera aperture value to f16 and ISO to 100, get your subject to face the bright sun and click as many pictures as you can and as quickly as you can.
    

Angles

While shooting either in direct sunlight or in shade, you will get best results if you have your subject facing the light.  If it is a cloudy day, find out which direction the sun is in and get your subject to face that direction.  You can click the portrait from a low angle so that you get the sky as the backdrop.  Also try out capturing the portrait from the side with your subject’s face only partly in the light.  Experiment with angles and you will discover a whole range of lighting effects and expressions.

User of reflectors

Reflectors are used to bounce light back onto your subject’s face and are particularly useful in brightening up the subject’s eyes.  There is a whole range of reflectors that you can choose from and each one will produce a different effect on the portrait.  The drawback is that most of these are very light and tend to fly off in the breeze.  However, if you have an assistant, you can get them to hold the reflector in position.  If you do not have a reflector with you, use whatever natural reflectors are available around like a white truck, sidewalks, white walls, a car sun shade or even just a sheet of white cardboard.
    

Use of flash

Shooting in natural light can lead to uneven lighting on your subject’s face.  This can be corrected by use of a flash.  Do not hesitate to use a flash even if you are shooting outdoors and have sufficient natural light.  The result will be well lit, clear outdoor portrait photographs.

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