Follow these five steps to instantly improve your location portraits
Like every genre, portrait photography comes with a set of challenges. It gets even more challenging when you shoot on location. The background and the lighting may not be perfect, but you may also not be doing enough to make the best of them. In this video from Adorama, Gavin Hoey guides you through five steps that will take your portraits from “meh” to “wow!” He shows you what you can do and achieve amazing results with minimal equipment wherever you are.
I like the concept of this video as Gavin goes from the basic idea and builds upon it to make better and better portraits with each step. In the final two steps, he uses an off-camera flash, but you can use the reflector instead. So, make sure to bring it to the location, and also have a few props with you. Let’s have a quick review of the steps Gavin guides you through.
So, you have arrived at your location and found the spot where your model will pose. In Gavin’s case, his model Jess is sitting under a tree. The sun is behind her and she’s in the shade, and Gavin starts by just taking some photos while standing. The portraits he makes are… Well, average at best. But the first step already makes them better.
- Get to the model’s eye level – as Gavin goes from standing to kneeling, the portraits immediately improve. Shooting approximately at the model’s eye level makes the photos look more natural and creates a stronger connection between the model and the viewer.
- Include props – remember those props I mentioned? It’s time to add them to the equation. They will give your model something to do, and they also help you tell a part of your story. Depending on the props, they may even help you hide an ugly background, which is certainly a plus.
- Fill light – a 5-in-1 reflector is a handy piece of gear to have with you. I’d say it’s even a must when shooting portraits on location. Use it to bounce some light back to the model’s face and add a spark to their eyes. This is another step that will take your portrait to the next level.
- Move around – there are many different options and corners to explore at the same location. So, be sure to move around and find the place that looks the best, has the best background, or the best light. When moving around a bit, Gavin and Jess found a place with tall grass that worked even better than the previous spot under the tree.
- Try all angles – don’t be afraid to experiment with extreme angles. In Gavin’s case, it ended up with definitely the best portraits of Jess he took during the shoot. As I mentioned, he used an external flash and a softbox, but you can try with a reflector as well.
Make sure to watch the entire video as Gavin guides you through the location and the steps for taking awesome portraits. And keep these steps in mind during your next shoot, I’m sure they’ll come in handy!
Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.