Great shots call for more than just a good camera — and capturing images outside can be especially difficult, even for seasoned photographers and cinematographers. Prepare yourself with these 7 tips before venturing into the great wide open.
1. Explore The Location
Every location has a unique aspect that can make an image stand out, but studying your location beforehand will help you get the most out of your shoot. Make sure you’re prepared to deal with potential weather, noise, and lighting issues and start thinking of how your subjects can and will interact with the elements within your location. Pay attention to the space and background surrounding the subject as it can influence how the photo is framed, and always use the space around the subject to emphasize scale and size.
2. Avoid Shooting In Direct Sunlight
Although shooting in the sun might sound amazing, it can make your subjects squint or wash them out altogether. It can also create hard directional shadows and difficult white balance conditions (see below). Shooting in the shade or working in the “golden hour” can emphasize your subject’s natural features and save you some trouble balancing your images.
3. Fix Your White Balance
White balance is the process of adjusting colors in your photos to match the natural temperature and lighting of your shot, removing unrealistic color casts. Cameras today have auto white balance features, but these features don’t always work, especially in tricky lighting situations. For instance, if you’re shooting a background with bright sunlight, your subject’s skin may appear to have a blue tinge in your auto white balanced images.
To avoid this, always experiment with the white balance settings on your camera before taking any shots. Shooting at dusk or dawn when the light is friendly and warm can make white balancing easier. If you must shoot in hard light, you can try to control the direction of the light by using a reflector.
4. Pay Attention to Depth Of Field
Depth of field (or DoF) refers to the distance behind and in front of the subject that’s in focus. A focus on a distant object gives you a greater DoF; DoF will also differ depending on the selected lens and aperture. Make use of the aperture priority mode when shooting outdoor portraits. Changing your DoF settings can have a huge impact on the results you get.
5. Know Your Natural Light (and work it!)
Lighting brings your images to life. While you can’t fully control the light outside, you can always prepare to make the most out of the opportunities available. When you scout your location, take note of lighting and shadows, or other obstructions, and pick the time of day you want to shoot accordingly.
While shooting, be sure to choose the right white balance to mimic the light and its effects as closely as possible. If your subject is bright and well lit, aim for a darker background and vice versa. This puts more emphasis on the subject. Whether you’re shooting in a strong, midday light or you prefer the soft, evening glow, this will have an important effect on your portraits.
6. Take Advantage Of Your Flash
Flash is often seen as a feature that should only be used in low light situations. But using flash can fill in shadows cast by directional light (we’re looking at you, Sun). Just take your exposure reading from the background and the automated flash will take care of the rest or check out this article for more tips.
7. Shoot In RAW
When you’re shooting outdoors, it’s likely that you’ll need to make edits to your images or footage in post. You can set yourself up for successful editing by shooting in RAW. RAW allows for 12-14 bit captures and gives you a wider range of possibilities for editing in post.
Now go forth and conquer!