Outdoor fashion photography is one of the most challenging but fun to learn-form of photography, but you need to do is keep in mind and practice some basic rules which can make your photos stand out from the rest.
When you are outdoors shooting a model or even your friend, you need to plan few things in advance and make sure that you have required permissions. You do not have any control over the natural light, this is the reason that you need to master the technical aspects of your camera and learn to use light modifiers and external light sources.
In order to help you learn and execute your own outdoor fashion photo shoot, I thought of writing down 10 basic tips.
1. Scout the location a day in advance
It is always a great idea to plan your location some days in advance to avoid wastage of time during your day of the shoot. Visit your location at least a day in advance and plan out the frames you would want to click during your outdoor fashion shoot. Make sure there are no restrictions and you are allowed to click photos at the location you choose. If you need permissions from required authorities, try and get them in advance.
2. Make the model comfortable
Expressions of the model are one of the key elements of fashion photography. It is always good to spend some time with your model and exchange a few words with each other before the shoot begins to make your model comfortable during the photo shoot.
Adding to that, continuously complimenting the model about his/her poses and expressions during the photo shoot would help the model to relax and fell confident.
3. Using the natural light as key light source
Unlike the artificial light source, controlling the intensity and direction of the natural light source is not in our hands. But we can overcome this by placing our model in such a way that we can get the desired amount and direction of light in our frame.
Personally, I prefer placing my model in such a position that the natural light falls on the face either from the side or it falls on the hair and shoulders from the back creating a majestic look. In the case of using the backlight approach, it would be great if you can use a strobe light/flash or a reflector to properly expose the face and body.
If possible, avoid placing your model directly facing the sun, as it will result in hard and deep shadows and will wash out the natural color of the face.
4. Using a flash as the key light source
Who does not like viewing dramatic photos with a dark background and a directional light source focusing on the model? It is always a great idea to carry a flashlight or a studio light along while going for an outdoor fashion photo shoot.
Add some creativity to your photos by under-exposing your background by setting the light source directed towards the model, use a small light modifier to make the light directional and avoid from spilling. See the image below for some inspiration.
5. Using the correct lens for outdoor fashion photography
Carrying the apt lens in your camera bag during the outdoor fashion photo shoot is really important. One must have a basic knowledge of what role does a specific kind of lens play in fashion photography, be it a wide-angle lens or a telephoto lens.
The logic is simple, the longer the focal length (telephoto lens), the shallower will be the Depth of Field and more flattening it will be to the models face and body, and vice-a-versa for shorter focal length (wide-angle lenses). Wide-angle lenses help you capture the overall perspective with everything in focus, whereas longer focal length will help you get rid of the unwanted and distracting background.
My personal favorite lenses are Canon 70-200 mm f.2.8 IS II and Canon 50 mm f/1.8 as these lenses help me frame both full body and waist length photos and also covers the close-up portraits.
6. Always selecting the minimum aperture value might not be the right choice
We all love to see photos with shallow depth of field, photos in which the model is in focus and the background is completely blown out. To achieve the similar effect you might use the minimum aperture value available on your lens, such as f/1,8 if you are using the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. What’s wrong with that?
If you are aware of the term Sweet Spot (if not, click here) you might want to use an aperture value which is at least 2 stops more in order to capture best possible sharpness. For example, if you are using the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens, using aperture value of f/3.5 would get you sharp results as compared to f/1.8.
But closing the aperture will also reduce the bokeh effect in your photos, which you might not want to go ahead with. So it is completely your call, whether to prefer sharpness over depth of field.
7. Use reference photos for outdoor fashion photography poses
From my personal experience, I always prefer to carry some reference photos during an outdoor fashion photo shoot to make sure the model does not get restricted with cliche poses and it helps me come up with something new and interesting.
Always make sure you do your homework and get some reference photos of noted photographers, you can always improvise. There is nothing wrong in it, trust me it will save you a lot of time and will get you some excellent results.
8. Experiment with camera angle
Clicking photos at the eye level is not a thumb rule for outdoor fashion photography. It is always fun to try and position your camera at a high or low angle to get some out-of-the-box frames and perspective while keeping the focus on the eyes.
To get a low-angle shot, either make your model stand or climb up a ladder or you can bend a little to go below the waist level of the model and click some frames. The other way could be that you climb up to a certain level to achieve a higher angle view and give your shot a different perspective.
9. Focus on the eye
As Shakespeare said “The eyes are the window to your soul”, that is the reason why you should always set your focus on your model’s eye, the one closer to the camera.
As a good fashion photographer, it is your job to bring our the emotions of the model and make its presence felt in your photos. Adding a catch light in the eyes would be like a cherry on top of the cake.
10. Always shoot in RAW
RAW vs JPEG: Let’s put this in simple words, while shooting in JPEG format your image gets compressed and loses all the details and data and leave you with a file which has very less editing capabilities. You are restricted and can not re-edit your image by going back to the original data. The RAW format is just the opposite, it retains all the data that your camera captures and does not lose any information or details from the image.