Taking pictures outdoors creates an interesting challenge for a digital photographer. There are weather elements to consider, different lighting and the dread of a possible photo bomb. Top digital photographers weigh in on how they always achieve the perfect outdoor portrait.
Avoid Using Auto Focus – When you are photographing portraits outside, you will need to choose the focal point manually. Your camera is unable to read your mind, and will simply zero in on what is closest to the lens. This means that if you are shooting your subject in a field of flowers, the flowers in front will stand out, while your subject is blended into the background.
Focus on the Eyes – If you focus on the eyes of your subject, everything else will fall into place naturally. The skin is softened and the natural background stands out in contrast to the color of the eyes.
Shoot in the Shade- Direct sunlight is harsh on a portrait picture. Not only will your subject be squinting, but the shadows will create unpredictable effects. Use objects of interest to create the shade and add extra effect for your portrait. For example, if you are trying to capture the mood of someone at a campsite, pose them in front of the family size tent with the door partially open. Or place them in the shade of a mighty tree as they look pensively at their pocket compass.
Wait for an Overcast Day – Clouds make a wonderful natural softbox and allow you to pull your subject from the shade without harsh white effects. These are the types of portraits where the natural beauty of the sky will serve as your ideal backdrop.
Avoid Distractions – Unless they are a part of the portrait story, avoid having things like street signs or power lines in the background. This may create a posing challenge, but if you pay close attention to the way you position yourself, you should be able to exclude anything unsightly from your pictures.
Make Sure that You are at the Same Level as Your Subject – This is especially important when taking portrait shots of kids outdoors. Get down on your knees so that the photo does not appear as if it was taken by a giant. If shooting at a park or other area where kids play, position yourself where you can get their most natural expressions as they play. For example, put yourself at the bottom of the slide and then shoot them as they are sliding down.
Last but not least is that inevitable photo bomb. Whether it be a human or object, having something suddenly appear in the background could ruin the whole feel of a sophisticated portrait shot. Pay close attention to your surroundings as you are photographing outside to make sure you can stop a photo bomb before it starts.