When photographing portraits outdoors, soft lighting makes a photographer’s job a lot easier. So often, I have clients express their dismay due to the lack of sun, as we often associate the sun as warm, bright, and happy. While this can be true in some cases, during mid day, the sun can be quite harsh. Luckily, I met a group of seven students on a nice overcast morning at Aperture Academy to practice portrait photography. With the defused light, we were able to work with many more locations around the complex without having to worry about harsh shadows.
We started with our indoor session review. After a round of introductions, we dived into the exposure triangle, brushing up on how adjusting ISO, aperture, and shutter speed affects an image. Mainly, we focused on using the proper aperture for portraits. When is a shallow depth of field too shallow? While it is nice to have a nice blurry background, I warned the students to avoid getting into the habit of always shooting wide open. Group portraits, for example, would benefit from using a smaller aperture and a deeper depth of field. We also discussed shooting in priority mode while using exposure compensation; adjusting exposure manually will be one less thing to worry about when taking portraits.
After the review, we headed outside with our model Brianna. I explained briefly how to handle direct sunlight if needed, but with the cloud coverage, we were able to photograph from all directions. So instead of focusing on light, we went straight to positioning Brianna and getting her comfortable. We had Brianna sit at first, hoping to get her in a more comfortable position. Shifting weight and moving were also essential in getting a natural look. We also used natural elements around us to take some weight off her feet; by positioning against a tree, she instantly relaxed.
Another main focus was to also use the telephoto lens. With an office complex as our environment, we had to choose our backgrounds wisely. The telephoto lens makes it a hundred times easier as it compresses the image—showing less of the background and enhancing that blur. With the right tools and knowledge, great portraits can be taken at any location!
Finally, we wrapped up our session with capturing movement. When photographing moving subjects, a camera’s autofocus mode needs to be taken into account. AI Servo (Canon) and AF-C (Nikon) will tell the camera to continuously focus on whatever it sees in the focus point. We made sure our focus point was on Brianna, and when she started walking toward us, the camera did its thing. Coupled with a faster shutter speed and voila! Crisp, sharp images!
And before we knew it, we finished our group picture, and the students departed to continue what they learned at home.
Until next time,
Mary and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team!
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.
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