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Tips for photographing portraits on location

photographing portraits

Open-air photography is definitely more difficult than in the studio. This is due to the fact that you can not always predict the weather conditions, the presence of clouds due to which the light can change not in your favor, and many other factors. Of course, there are ways that you can use to make such shooting easier. By the way, if you are wondering how to take better selfies go to Skylum`s blog.


Establish contact with the subject before the photoshoot 

Talk to the client ahead of time and understand what kind of portrait he expects to see. Not always what you like is what your client likes. 

To find the right location you need to know the following beforehand: 

  • What style the subject will be dressed in; 
  • What style he wants the portrait in; 
  • What his mood is; 
  • And what his preferences are (perhaps he likes flowers, or he strongly dislikes romantic portraits).

Find the right light. 

A portrait will not turn out well in low light, so take this point very seriously. The best time to take a portrait at an open-air location is in the morning, at sunset, or after sunset. This is due to the lack of bright overhead sunlight. In this period of the day beautiful silhouettes are obtained. In order to make such an idea come true you should lower the camera a bit and shoot the client against a bright sky background. 

Good background for taking pictures

When looking for a good background, keep the following in mind: 

  • Avoid bright spots and lots of contrast from the back of the subject; 
  • Avoid bright colors in the background. Such elements will visually distract attention from your client. 
  • Match the background to the subject and the idea of the portrait. For example, we will not be able to make a romantic portrait of a mysterious blonde in the background of a cemetery. 
  • We’re talking about the background, but let’s talk about technique too! Use a long lens and a wide aperture. (1)

Give your model tips on posing. 

This is certainly one of the most important things in photography. If the subject’s specialty is not in some way related to photography, he or she is sure to feel stiff and insecure. These feelings of the subject are always evident in the frame! Such photos are always staged and unnatural. 

You will have to spend some time preparing the subject of the photograph, give him or her some advice, and even show the successful poses yourself. The latter method is one of the most effective and takes the least time. Also, the following will help you in posing: 

  • Pay attention to your hands and feet. Keep your hands busy with something. You can grab a cup of coffee, put them in your pockets, fix your hair, and the like. Feet! If you want a “heavy torso” effect, put your foot on top of your leg. To make the body lighter and airier cross your legs at the ankles, or put one leg forward of the body. Important, don’t just leave your legs straight – this is usually the pose of someone who is nervous and doesn’t know what to do in the frame. 
  • Photograph their natural poses. The subject might sit down, in their natural pose, at a table in a cafe with a cup of coffee; or sit down on a park bench. Catch the shot with the person naturally sitting down rather than posing.
  • If you have a couple of people in the frame, pay attention to the difference in height. 
  • Also, remember that there should be no cropped arms and legs in the frame. It looks ridiculous. 


Maintain contact with your model

Almost all people experience confusion and nervousness when having their portrait taken, especially somewhere in the location. First, the people themselves are not used to being photographed; and second, an open location is often noticed by the people around them, and the subject himself is confused by it (only if he is not a professional model). Find a common language with your subject, and talk about common topics and interests, to relax your client. 

The mistake many novice professionals make! They, too, get nervous and feel uncomfortable about it. Because of this, novice photographers start paying more attention to setting up their equipment than to the subject because they themselves have fallen into a stupor. As a result of such work, both you and the subject are in a daze – the photo shoot is a failure because there will be no good shots. You have to be able to work with your emotions and help the participants. 

stylish woman

Support your model’s ideas 

Yes, your model is not a photographer, but sometimes he or she has good ideas too. Don’t turn him down right away, and do deviate not much from your shooting script. Even if you know the idea is a loser, try it out. First, your subject will feel more confident and relaxed. Secondly, this way, you’ll build rapport between the two of you faster. And by the way, not always the object’s ideas are bad. There are times when his ideas need to be tweaked. This is due to the fact that the object has no theoretical knowledge about photography and technical characteristics. If the subject’s idea is bad, you can suggest his interests and offer your own similar and more suitable idea for portrait photography on location. 

One last word about portrait photography at the location 

If you prepare yourselves and your client for an outdoor photo shoot, you’ll do just fine! Keep the above tips in mind, and you’re sure to get a quality portrait! By the way, a good portrait can be taken with selfies too. How to take better selfies? Read more about this on Skylum`s blog! (2)