Outdoor portrait tips and techniques

© James McQuarrie
© James McQuarrie
© James McQuarrie
© James McQuarrie
© James McQuarrie
© James McQuarrie
© James McQuarrie
© James McQuarrie

Outdoor portrait tips and techniques

by: James McQuarrie | .
The Memory Store | .
published: April 03, 2017

When you first get a camera it will not be long before you want to take photographs of family or friends. Maybe family and friends are already asking you. Portrait photography is one of the most popular types of photography. Here are some outdoor portrait tips and techniques.

When taking portraits, there is so much going on and so many things to think about that you may be tempted to put your camera on auto and just fire away. Modern cameras are great machines but you will never get the best shots while in automatic. So here are a few easy steps to improve your outdoor portrait skills.

Now what you want to do is set up your camera to get good results, and to give you the best chance of getting great portraits. If your camera allows you to, set your camera to a single autofocus sensor. Make note which one you selected, as this is the one you will be using during your portrait session.

Now what you want to do is set the aperture on the lens. If your camera has aperture priority mode, set the camera to that and set the lens to the widest aperture. Typically that will be F4 or F5.6. Now the reason for doing these two things is that if you keep the focus point on the subject and the lens is wide open, you will get nice clean, crisp shots with as blurred a background as possible. You don’t want the background to be a distraction, and you also want a fast shutter speed so your images don’t suffer from camera shake.

At this point you want to be reasonably close to the subject without crowding them, so a lens of around 85mm is perfect for this type of photography. If you don’t have an 85mm lens, a lens between 70mm-100mm will also work well.

Now that you have your camera settings done, you are ready to start taking photographs. When taking photographs of people, it is very important that you always remember to focus on the eyes. Focus on the eye closest to the camera. If you can take your images in a shaded area that is still bright, this will help avoid people squinting at the camera.

When I’m taking photographs of children or adults who don’t particularly enjoy having their photograph taken, what I normally do is start at a position farther away and work my way closer as they become more comfortable. This technique gives people much more time to get used to the idea that they are being photographed. This works very well. All the time you are taking photographs, be careful to focus on the eyes and also make sure if you can that no one has a tree or similar sticking out of her head.

If you can, mix it up and get some formal shots and also some candid shots. I recommend that if you are taking photographs of children, take them to the playground and take natural images of the children playing. You will be surprised how well this works. If it’s an adult, go for a walk and take some images while you walk and talk; it is a very relaxed way to do things and works well.

What you want to do with these portrait sessions is capture the character of the person. If he is into a particular sport, have him hold an item associated with that sport. From shots like that you get a sense of who the person is. That’s the whole idea.

If you have groups of people, make them get close together — they are family, they are friends — people should be close together. Try to get heads at different heights; use nearby stairs or other places available so it’s more than just a row of people.

Don’t let a photo session go on too long. With children, maybe 20 minutes; with adults, 40 minutes then have a break and start again. When someone says enough, then it’s time to pack up. You will never get good images of people who do not wish to be photographed. That’s why it’s important to put people at ease.

If you decide to work with a group of people, keep the group small. Three to five people is enough. It’s much easier to manage, and you are likely to get better images. If you get some nice images, let the group see them; it will help put them at ease.

When taking photographs of children make sure a parent or guardian is present at all times. When taking photographs of adults, always make it clear that it is fine if they bring along their partner or a friend.

What equipment will you need?

  • Camera: SLR if possible or a compact with the ability to be taken off auto will also work.
  • 85mm lens; 70mm-100mm lens will also work.
  • Reflectors (white): to help fill in shadows on the formal shots.
  • Someone to hold the reflector.
  • Energy: It can be a lot of work chasing people around and taking photographs.
  • Patience: Don't get upset if you don't get the shot the first or even second time. It is also important that the photographer is relaxed.
  • Flash to fill in shadows.

To see more of my images or to contact me, visit www.memoriesinstore.com and www.facebook.com/TheMemoryStore.TMS.

Tags: outdoor, photo, photography, tips
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