Taking Outdoor Portraits

30 Jun

Lots of people are getting out and about and making the most of the amazing Summer weather we are having. It's a great opportunity to get out and take some Summer portraits but there are a few things to watch out for to avoid some of the problems that bright sunshine can create when taking photos.

The sun is particularly strong at this time of year, so on a bright day the sun creates harsh light and strong shadows, it may be very nice to be outdoors on a warm day with clear blue skies, but often this creates tricky conditions for taking the perfect photo, particularly if you rely on the 'automatic' settings of your camera or your camera phone.

Here are some hints and tips on taking portrait photos in bright sunshine.

If you set up the photo such that the sun is behind you, shooting 'away from the sun' with your subject then looking into the sun this can cause your subject to 'squint' or need to wear sun glasses which then obscures their eyes. If they are wearing a hat, then it is likely the hat will throw a shadow on to the subjects face, potentially again obscuring their eyes. Depending on the time of day, your own shadow might be long enough to appear in the shot, which can look distracting in the final image. The advantage of the sun being behind the photographer though, is that it provides light on the front of your subject, meaning it is more likely your subject will be reasonably exposed if you are shooting on automatic settings.

If, alternatively, to avoid some of the issues above you have the sun behind your subject, shooting 'into the sun', if you aren't careful you are likely to get lens flare which may ruin the image, if shooting on automatic settings, your subject is likely to be too dark as the camera exposes for the background rather than your subject. If the camera does lock onto and expose correctly for your subject, then because they are in shadow, the background is likely to then be over exposed or 'blown out' 

Don't panic though, there are a wide range of options for ensuring that you get as good a photo as you can.

If you can, find some shade for your subject to stand under, a tree is perfect as it produces a nice diffused light. If no shade is available near by, position your subject so that the sun is to one side of your subject rather than directly behind of or in front of your subject. 

If you do shoot with the sun in front of your subject, ensure that your shadow isn't intruding into the shot. Then when taking the shot, start off with your subject having their eyes closed, and on the count of three open their eyes which is when you take the shot - this will help them not to appear as though they are 'squinting'. If you shoot with the sun behind your subject, ensure that the sun is totally obscured behind your subject to avoid lens flare, this will also help with the camera achieving a correct exposure. 

These are some examples shot on a very bright and sunny day recently at the London Excel exhibition centre, a mix of shots shot under the shade of the trees and in direct sunshine.

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