5 Quick Tips for Photographing People Outdoors

So, let me guess…your pictures of your friends, parents, children, or grandchildren don’t always come out the way you’d like, and you are frequently frustrated by the harsh shadows on their faces when you photograph them outdoors. But you want them to look good, because you care about them (or you wouldn’t be taking their picture, right?).

photographing people outside

Photo by Aikawa Ke; ISO 500, f/2.8, 1/200-second exposure.

So here are 5 tips for improving the pictures you take with almost any camera:

1. Find shade (or wait until a cloud covers the sun). Direct sunlight is directional and harsh. If you want to avoid harsh shadows on faces, find shade to place your subject in. Shade gives you diffused, pleasant light instead of harsh directional light. I know this is contrary to what you think, but trust me… it helps!

how to take pictures of people outside

Photo by Ingrid Truemper; ISO 400, f/5.3, 1/250-second exposure.

2. Use your flash. Your camera will automatically turn the flash off when it is in auto mode in a bright environment. If you override this, and turn on your flash, it will fill in shadows created by the sun, and brighten up the subject without affecting the background much. This is usually accomplished by pushing a button with an emblem like a lightning bolt and selecting the option that looks the same.

3. Use a reflector. You can buy reflectors specifically for photography, but you can also use reflectors for car windshields or a piece of white mat board. Position the reflector so it reflects light onto the subjects face on the shadow side. It will fill in the shadows and even out the light for you.

4. Position the subject with his or her back turned almost straight toward the sun, and use your flash to illuminate the subject. The sun will shine through the subject’s hair, creating an angelic beauty look. The flash will illuminate the person’s face pleasantly, and the ambient light will even the shadows. This will also avoid the squinty look from having the people staring into the sun. Please note that you may need to use your hand or hat to shade the lens so sunlight does not shine directly into the lens and create lens flare.

5. If you are photographing children, make sure your shutter speed is at least 1/125 of a second, and preferably 1/250 or faster. This will keep them from blurring as they squirm! Putting your camera into action mode will usually achieve this.

how to photograph people outside

Photo by U.S. Army; ISO 64, f/5.6, 1/320-second exposure.

And lastly, keep smiling and tell some jokes if it takes you a bit to get your exposure right. People get stiff if they stay posed for too long.

About the Author:
Tristan Limpo (limpographics.zenfolio.com/serenity) is a professional photographer, artist, and instructor based out of Bellingham, Washington.

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2 responses to “5 Quick Tips for Photographing People Outdoors”

  1. Sim says:

    Thank you for sharing the techniques on taking outdoor pictures of people. Very interesting; will try it out.

    Best regards.

  2. sulleiman says:

    Ótimas dicas! parabéns pelo texto.

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