3 Ways to improve your Outdoor Portrait Photography

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It’s spring, and while taking photos of all the new flowers is great, maybe it’s time to start thinking about photographing your friends and family too. Sure flowers are better subjects, they don’t move a lot and never complain about the photo later, but here are a few tips for photographing people that might keep them from complaining.

Zoom in and open up your aperture. A head and shoulders portrait is classic, but even if you want a full body portrait, stay in tight. The other advantage of zooming in is that you’ll prevent any distortion which can happen when you use a wide-angle lens up close. Opening up your aperture will blur the background and keep it from becoming a distraction, but it will still pay to avoid having a too busy background of people, cars, etc.

Lighting is probably the most important aspect of a good portrait. So what is “good light”? For outdoors, an overcast day, or in the shade is the best. The light is soft and even, and will be flattering to everyone from children to grandparents. If shade isn’t an option, your best choice is to pose them with their back to the sun and use a fill flash. If you haven’t used a fill flash before this can be tricky. But there should be settings in your camera or on the flash itself that allow you to increase and decrease its intensity. Another option is to have a friend hold a reflector to bounce light on to the person you are photographing. A reflector can be as simple as a white poster board. Either way, it’s better than the alternative of the portrait subject having squinty eyes.

Posing is what separates candid photos from portraits. A nice photo can turn into a great portrait with a few careful tips. First look for details: Is their necklace clasp showing? Is there a gap in their hair or are their bangs in their eyes? Fix these issues. Now look at their body position, make sure they’re sitting up straight. If their shoulders are square to you they will appear wider than if you angle them slightly. Now you need to position their head. You want their face to be square to you, because otherwise one side of the face will appear larger than the other. Another detail to look at is the nose, you don’t want to see up their nose, but you also don’t want their nose to appear too long. You can try this on yourself in the mirror. Move your head up and down and see the effect on your nose, and then you’ll know what to look for when positioning someone else.

Like all photography, these rules can be broken with fantastic results, but these rules will make for nice portraits of almost anyone. Looking at advertising photos online and in magazines is a good way to get portrait location and posing ideas.

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