Tackling Outdoor Portraits

Taking pictures outdoors can be a challenge due to varying ambient light. On sunny days, light intensity and direction can turn on a dime, and exposure settings must be altered to provide proper exposure. One must also be cognizant of where the light is hitting the subject as well. Having the sun perpendicular to the individual causes harsh shadows across the face from the forehead and nose. Placing the subject with the sun behind them will make light metering difficult and under exposure of the subject is common using anything but manual settings. Because my next wedding assignment will be outdoors on the beach, it's key that I have a good handle of taking portraits in sun and shade. I borrowed Ryan to practice spot metering and composition so that I can use the ambient light to my advantage. Luckily, we have a beautiful park behind our house to use as a great background. I started off with a few wide angle shots with the 17-40mm, stopping down at f/7.1

Each photo was filled with a diffused flash. T he photos were touched up in lightroom to add more contrast, saturation and removal of some residual shadows.

My largest pet peeve is ensuring proper focus and "sharpness" in a photo. This can be especially tricky  when working with portrait lenses with an aperture of f/2.8 or less. It takes finesse in selecting the proper focus point in a picture.  A trick I learned recently is to put the AF point on an individual's eye, which is the most important feature in a portrait. Fuzzy eyes draw attention to overall focus imperfections. Below are a few examples with my 50mm f/1.8 II.

Ryan back-lit by the sun with fill lighting from a diffused flash. 50mm at f/2.8.

Ryan tried really hard to smile. This was his reaction to me trying to get him to laugh. Apparently, telling him to picture Tusker's "air licks" wasn't the right choice!

The photos aren't as crisp as I would like, but there will be more practice to improve this. So far, most photos I have been taken were with on-camera flash. Being able to use off-camera flash will add more dimension to portraits. I will be borrowing a 580 EX II flash in the coming weeks to use as a master slave in order to use my 430 EX II on a light stand. I'm looking forward to doing a little experimenting and seeing the results.

I will be meeting with the wedding couple this week to discuss their wedding and photo schedule. I'm excited as we will also be doing  a mini photo session! This will ensure that the couple is comfortable working with me on their wedding day.  I'm looking forward to the shoot and  will post a few of these pictures on my next blog entry!