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Outdoor portrait help

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Hey All,

I am doing a friend a favor this weekend and shooting his daughters prom pictures in the park. I haven't done any portraits outside so I am looking for any tips you guys might have. It's going down about 3:00 so it's not the greatest light. Will I need reflectors, flash or anything else?

Thanks in advance.

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I'd certainly bring a flash, off camera if possible. Try to bounce it off other objects if possible or dial down the flash exposure compensation so that you are only using it to fill in the shadows. I've typically dialed it down about a stop and it seems to work well. Also, pray for overcast skies - makes things much easier.

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Mike, Mike is right on.

If there are sunny skies, look for a shaded area so you get an even exposure and can fill with flash. If you can't find one, you can experiment with a brighter background by turning the camera's exposure compensation to -1 and the flash EC to +1, which, as a starting point, will tone down hot backgrounds and give you enough flash muscle to fill the shadowed faces/clothes without overpowering things. Backlit hair and dresses with the right amount of frontal flash can deliver some "wow" moments.

That's just for starters, however, and I'm not familiar with your system like I am with Canon, so it's a starting point only. If you can put them at their ease and not be at all tense, it's easy to laugh a bit and joke and tell them you'll be experimenting with flash settings for a minute or two, and sometimes if the clients are relaxed and easygoing, fun types, while you are taking experimental images to get settings right, the subjects will vamp and be silly and improvisational, and your experimental images end up being the best of the shoot.

Prom can be pretty stressful, depending on the couple, so it's the photographer's job to be low key, happy and completely stress free to make it a good experience for them.

Good luck, and have a blast! gringrin

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I just finished shooting 10 teams of softball and golf this week outdoors with NO flash at 3 pm on bright sunny days. I do a lot of these types of shoots all year around, never have a choice with the weather.

By all means use a flash but my advice if you only have one flash is to keep it on camera on a bracket. You want the fill light to come from the camera axis so it will illuminate everything the camera sees evenly and falls off front to back. This gives you a nice even lighting. The flash up on a bracket gives you the most flattering downward light and hides most of the shadows. I only go off camera with a flash when you can use a key light and fill light flash, single flash almost always on a bracket.

This is a good spot to use Av with HSS flash and FEC. You could also shoot through or reflect off an umbrella but again you need to try and keep that along the camera axis, not easy to hide. The dark dresses or tux will give you headaches with consistent results with your flash. Dark you need to dial down FEC and light you need more FEC.

A simpler solution is to use a reflector to push some fill back onto the subject, and use the sun as a hair light, no real flash setups and you only need to position the reflector to get the fill light you need on the subject.

This was a shot from the other day with sun at the back and just a white reflector just out of camera view back onto the subject. Simple, easy and effective. I have three more shoots this week with Team and Individual shots and my flashes most likely will not come out of the bag. I just returned from another team shoot and if I get a chance to go through them I will post another example with reflected light only.


Here is a shot from the other day with fill flash off camera just to my left almost down the camera axis. Manual mode and flash around 1/4 power with the flash head set to about 24mm shoot through umbrella. I used a flash here because I was next to a dugout and had no reflected light to help me.


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Thanks Guys,

I was messing around tonight with my son. I liked the backlighting shots the best although his ears were glowing red. That was about 5:30 so I'm hoping with the sun a little higher it won't be such an issue. I was using an umbrella at about a 45 deg but I'll try it again tomorrow with the suggestions from all of you.

Thanks again, I hope I didn't bite off more than I can chew. I did tell him I wasn't guaranteeing anything. crazy

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