Location Selection

Outdoor photography is challenging, but the So how do you begin to choose an outdoor location for pmtrakmx? There results can be dramatic. are a few approaches. Start by asking yourself what's important: the scene or

the lighting? Both approaches are viable; for best results, they should be used in conjunction with one another.

Find the Right Scene. If it's the scene itself that is important, then you need to locate a scene with lots of depth. The background should also have light falling on it, so it won't go dark if you have to add a flash on your subjects. Additionally, you should look for a background that is not distracting. For instance, you will want to avoid backgrounds where bright light comes down through trees; this will create a dappled effect that distracts viewers from the portrait subject.

Find the Right Lighting. Another approach to creating portraits outdoors is to find a situation where you have ideal lighting—a place where you know that you can create nice portraits. Then, look to see how you can control the background effectively. If necessary, you can put up your own background when you feel that you've found great light for your subject.

Sometimes the availability of good lighting is a deciding factor. To create a professional-quality portrait, however, you still need to determine how best to use the background.

LIGHTING

Fortunately, good outdoor lighting situations exist all around us—we simply need to train our eyes to see them. When good light isn't readily obvious, we

Sometimes the availability of good lighting is a deciding factor. To create a professional-quality portrait, however, you still need to determine how best to use the background.

also have to know where to look for it. Most of all, when there's no good existing light at a location, we need to know how to create it.

Shade. Some of the best locations for outdoor portraiture are in the shade—particularly areas where there is little or no light coming from above. Ideally, you'll find a location where light is coming from one basic direction, rather than from all around your subjects. ( Note: If there's unwanted light coming from another direction, you can simply cut it off with a black gobo. I use the reflector I had Westcott design for me: the Monte Illuminator. It is a silver/black reflector, and when I want to cut off light from any direction, I simply use the black side to block the light.)

When you see light next to shadow, you can be certain that there's an opportunity there for good portrait lighting. The easiest place to find this type of lighting is under a covered porch. Open garage doors also work well. I like to stay close to the edge of the opening, but under cover just enough to have a strong main light coming in from the side.

Another good place to look for directional lighting (that is still blocked from overhead) is at the outside edge of a foliage canopy. ( Note: Contrary to

The first thing that I look for outdoors is a place where light will not be coming down from above. Finding good directional lighting is the goal.

The first thing that I look for outdoors is a place where light will not be coming down from above. Finding good directional lighting is the goal.

popular opinion, unless the bottom branches of a tree are much higher than the subject, the best light is not found at the tree's trunk—it's out just under the ends of the branches.)

I always suggest that photographers position themselves on the shadowed side of their subjects and photograph out into the lighter area. That way they get nice separation light on the back edges of their subjects and they won't have to worry about their backgrounds going too dark and virtually disappearing. At the same time, they will be creating great depth—something that we should all strive to accomplish in our photographs. Again, shoot from the shadow into the light.

Direct Sunlight. Good lighting can even be found outside in direct sunlight. If you have the option to conduct your session just before sunset, you can use the direct sunlight as your main light source. Sometimes, however, you may need to create portraits in a location where there is direct sunlight that is too bright or harsh to illuminate the subject effectively. In these situations, I use a scrim to soften the light. I always carry a Westcott Illuminator, a 48x72-inch collapsible diffuser, with me whenever I am shooting outdoors. Scrims soften sunlight and reduce its intensity, while retaining its color and quality. They also take away the harsh shadows normally associated with direct sunlight. In short, they produce soft, beautiful portrait lighting.

Good effects can also be achieved by backlighting or sidelighting on the subject, then adding some sort of fill light. Reflected fill is not really an option in these brightly lit circumstances; it will cause your subjects to squint. Therefore, flash is the best option.

If you want to retain good detail in the sunlit background, set the exposure for the background. Then, use the flash to balance the light on the subject with the exposure of the background. I try to use the flash on

If you have the option to conduct your session just before sunset, you can use the direct sunlight as your main light source.

If you have the option to conduct your session just before sunset, you can use the direct sunlight as your main light source.

When positioning the scrim, you have several options. You can use it as the main light and place it where the main light would go. Think of it as a large softbox illuminated by the sun. To open up the shadows, use either a reflector or an off-camera fill flash, as in this example.

Using a scrim overhead diffuses the direct sunlight. With the addition of a reflector to fill the shadows, you can produce very nice portrait lighting in conditions where the unmodified light would be unus-

the same side from which the direct sunlight is coming, but that's not always a necessity. (Note: The best way to measure flash in direct sunshine is to set the shutter speed on your exposure meter to a speed that is so short that it will cut out most of the ambient light. That way, your meter will be measuring just the burst of flash. Without using an exposure meter, you can always look at the image on the back of your digital camera and then go to the histogram to see if any parts of your picture are over- or underexposed.)

The other option in this situation is to expose for the shaded face, ignoring the bright sunshine in the background. Doing this, you can retain good detail in the face, but the background will be overexposed. If that is your intention—go for it. It's something I do quite often.

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