Saskatoon Digital Photography » Blog
Saskatoon Digital Photography

Saskatoon Digital Photography and Design
» Taking Outdoor Portraits

  • “Taking outdoor portraits present photographers with unique challenges. Here are a few tips to help with taking outdoor portrait photos.”

    Paul Hamilton


First of all, most will find that there really is no trick to replacing proper exposure, white balance, and sharp focus. Digital camera metering systems have become so much more advanced in 2016, but will still have exposure latitude that is limited.

Try to Pick One Focus Point

The autofocus option does allow a digital camera to select focus points, but this feature often picks whatever is closest to the lens and focuses on that point. This also includes the possibility that your camera will choose a cluster of focus points, averaging the distance between all of the chosen points. If you were to change this and select one focus point yourself, it will give you much better control over the final favourite image. Typically, the subject's eyes are the best focal point of any good portrait. Not only are the eyes the most important part of a good portrait, but they are the sharpest element on the face and should be left that way. When taking pictures with a wide aperture value focused on the eyes, it will often aid in softening the skin as well.

Shooting Wide for Shallow Depth of Field

There are a number of reasons to aquire a fast lens capable of wide aperture values. Obtaining a shallow depth of field at F2.8 or F4 should be used if possible as many great natural light portraits are with wide aperture values that create a wonderful smooth background blur. Try not to shoot a portrait at less than 50mm; keeping preference to 70mm or higher. Focal lengths below 70mm can distort digital photos, even if it isn't all that noticeable. The compression effect of a telephoto lens will increase the blur of bokeh, with many digital photographers saying their best is produced with a lens between 120mm and 200mm.

Shooting Photos in RAW

Raw photos are an unmodified compilation of your sensor's data during the time of exposure. A Raw photo is your digital negative. Shots in JPG format do strip away a lot of the data you may have intended to capture. From there, every time you edit a JPG, you lose additional data. With Raw, you will witness a vast range of available edits before creating your final JPG. Think about all those times your white balance may have been set incorrectly, and you tried to remove the color cast only to worsen the image with every attempt. RAW digital photos will save you by allowing you to adjust more color before affecting the image for retouching.

Pictures in The Shade

Direct sunlight is harsh, makes your subject squint, and creates hard directional shadows with unpredictable white balance. Shooting photos in the shade removes harsh shadows and produce smooth lines of your subject's natural features. With proper exposure and white balance, you can make these shots look amazing. Nature's blanket of clouds can be your "softbox" that helps to enrich colors, and make smoother pleasing shadows. Always be aware and control your light direction. If you have to use a light reflector, do so. Try not to put the sun directly behind your subject, unless you are trying to make a silhouette. If the sun has to be at the photographer's back, ask the subject to look slightly off camera and away from the sun to obtain nice photos. If you do have clouds to work with, waiting for a cloud to move in front of the sun can help create a nice bright yet contrasted image.

Clouds can create a wonderful giant blanket of natural sunlight diffusion that makes any digital photo rich. If shooting on an overcast day, custom white balance is especially important. Every day can be completely different for color, and sunlight on a cloudy day is still directional. Make sure you know exactly where the sun is so you can adjust it towards your back and continue to shoot great digital photos.

Digital Photography and Design Blog >>

Contact us for Digital Photography Editing from $0.99 - Minimum $50 order.