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Outdoor Portrait Photography: Sharing My Shooting Style

Last month, I organised a group outdoor shoot for my photography kakis (friends) who rarely shoots portraits. It was a great learning session for everyone, including myself. While others have opportunities to practice portrait shoots, I have the chance to actually see how my style makes a difference to normal portrait photos.

So in this post, I shall share with you how I capture some of the shots using techniques and tips to create the look that I did for many of my portrait photos.

Backlight
This is one of my commonly-used lighting to create a dramatic effect. Some higher-skilled photographers would be able to control the flare effects but I like my way of shooting against the light.

The above shot cast rather unusual rings of flare, a result of the Nikkor 24-70mm shot at f4.

Here’s one below where the flash is completely covered by the model. It might not look different from a shot without backlight, but notice the model’s arms have a glow.

Here’s an example of a shot without backlight and one with. Notice that the camera auto-adjusts the white balance to give a warmer tone with backlight. Of course, if you shoot in RAW, you could fix the left photo, but you certainly can’t fake the glow.

As for the flash output, I always keep it at 1/8 power, and I don’t factor it into my shooting exposure. Take a shot, evaluate the flash power, and adjust accordingly. You can trigger the rear flash using whatever methods you know that supports your camera system. For my case, I enabled SU-4 slave flash mode on my SB-600 flash and used my Nikon D300 internal flash set to minimum power (1/128) to trigger the rear flash. You could also purchase radio trigger but I want my shooting pals to also try the backlight shooting by triggering my rear flash using their individual built-in flash units.

Wide-Angle Framing
Surprisingly, most of my kakis were shooting close up on the model. During the shoot, I recommended them to pull back and shoot wide, but one of the commented that “there are too many elements when shooting wide, don’t know how to frame”.

The technique is simple: find a background that you would shoot with a wide-angle lens. Then place the model in the middle at about 2 feet. To make the subject large in a wide-angle shot, the subject has to be close enough. Finally, add a dramatic pose. In the above shot, I added another light source to the left of the camera – yep, that’s not from a real sunlight but from my external flash.

Nikon D300, Tokina 12-24mm at 12mm, f11 1/250s ISO200

Here’s another shot to show how wide angle lens can work on portrait shots. I framed the background structure into the photo. For this shot, I underexposed the background by several stops to give a more dramatic effect, then set my external flash to full power (1/1) to light up my model.

Close Panning
When trying to shoot a model with flying hair, you would either need a wind machine or a very windy day. Even so, you might not capture the right poses when the model is stationary.

What I do in this shoot is to ask the model to take a walk, let the wind blow in her face, and ask her to look into the camera at times. As she walks, you walk and pan with her. After dozens of shots, you might get a few good images with sharp focus on the subject’s face or eyes.

Nikkor 85mm f1.8 1/1600s ISO200

Here’s another shot, with all the random elements perfectly come together.

Nikkor 85mm f1.8 1/1600s ISO200

Conclusion
The above shots may not demonstrate perfect framing or lighting or posing examples because I took the shots really quickly in order not to hold up my kakis shooting enjoyment. Try these in your next portrait shoot and add some variety and emotional impact to your portrait images.

Visit my facebook page for more of my photos at http://facebook.com/chesterphoto . And if you need more information on the above techniques, please leave a comment below.

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