How to Get Better Portrait Photos Outdoors – Quick Tip

At some point, many of us will end up taking a picture of someone. Whether we are using a phone camera or an expensive DSLR there are a few key techniques that can make a big difference to the resulting image. In this brief post we will look at a quick tip for how to get better portrait photos outdoors. First of all, here is an example of the sort of thing we want to avoid:

How to get better portrait photos outdoors - quick tip - how not to do it - Sunlight on face creating contrast

The image above was taken in bright sunlight. As you can see, the sun was shining from camera right. This gives a very bright patch on one side of our subject’s face, while the other side is in shadow. Sunlight gives high contrast images and for beauty photography especially this can be a problem. The shadows on her face are not that flattering. But, this problem, can be solved very quickly and simply:

How to get better portrait photos outdoors - quick tip - demo shot - Sunlight behind creating rim lighting

See the difference? The light is much more even on her face and looks much better. There is even a glow to her hair adding a “rim” light (light around the edges) as well. This was taken at the same location as before. The only difference is that we turned round so that the sun was behind our model instead of on the side of her face. We wouldn’t want the sun to be face on as she would find that uncomfortable and squint badly. This kind of backlighting gives a softer look to the face and that rim light to help separate the hair from the trees behind. 

This simple technique takes just seconds to do and works with any type of camera. All you need to do is find the direction of the sun and put your subject with their back to it. On a cloudy day this probably isn’t needed as you won’t get the nasty contrast. But for sunny days this works a treat. If you need an extra boost, you can also try adding in some flash.

Do try it next time you are taking portrait photos outdoors if you haven’t before and see what a huge difference it can make to your portrait photos! There is also another article on this site giving even more tips on how to take portrait photos outdoors. Or, you might like to find out how to edit portraits using Lightroom.

© Joe Lenton, October 2018

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