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  • Tutorial OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

    The quality of lighting is paramount in outdoor natural light portraiture and here I hope to show how it can be achieved without reflectors or fill in flash even on the brightest sunny day.

    You can off course always correct bad lighting in post processing but getting it right makes it less work and always looks better.

    Now in my opinion when some one says a overcast sky or open shade is best for outdoor portraits I tend to disagree, true they will need less work then bright contrasty light but will still be prone to dark eyes (panda eyes).

    Bright midday sun


    Grey very overcast sky diffused light.


    As you can see even the diffused sky light produces the top lighting that causes panda eyes.

    All of these following examples were taken round midday on very bright summer days. I actually prefer these conditions as when you modify the light by looking for where the light is right you get a effect that is not unlike the large soft boxes used in a studio.

    The thing to do is to find natural or man made objects that prevent the light from coming directly overhead and filter the light onto the subject from a lower angle rather than coming from overhead and positioning your subject accordingly.

    Now for a few example, the first few are not taken in exotic settings but mundane places like you garden.


    Here I simply used a patterned bed sheet that was hanging on the clothes line in the garden to stop the bright overhead sunlight and use the open sky as a soft box.






    This one of chelsea was taken at my sons house on a hot summers day where there is no natural shade (new house and garden), in fact it was taken at the same time as the one of chelsea with panda eyes in the paddling pool.

    So I took her to the front of the house and positioned her just inside at the front of the narrow gully way between the new houses which acted as large directional soft box.





    Something as simple as a large garden umbrella works just as well and is portable.



    These next two were taken at Himmly Park a few good years ago and are of two female work colleagues who wanted some pics taken, again a bright summer mid day without a cloud in the sky.

    Here I used a tree canopy to filter the light where I wanted it.
    If it had been a overcast day I would have positioned her near the extreme edge of where the tree shade starts to intensify the lighting.





    This one is little more complicated and the diagram does not do it justice,it is Himmley Hall in the park grounds, There is a large stone overhang that runs along the side of the house and his held up by large stone pillars.

    Here I had directional light from the front and the side and using a long lens made the pillar behind her appear closer without seeing the bright daylight between the pillars.





    I hope this gives you some ideas and proves for good portraits you do not have to put the camera away on bright summer days.
    Regards Paul.
    One day I hope to be the person my dogs think I am.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_silk/

  • #2
    Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

    Thank you Paul, you are a genius. I think this is the best lighting tutorial I have ever read, not least because your technique does not rely upon expensive and complicated accessories, just natural daylight and an understanding of how to use it. Your descriptions are clear, easy to understand and greatly enhanced by the simple diagrams. I'm sure that many of our members will find it as helpful and enlightening as I do.
    John

    "A hundredth of a second here, a hundredth of a second there � even if you put them end to end, they still only add up to one, two, perhaps three seconds, snatched from eternity." ~ Robert Doisneau

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    • #3
      Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

      That is fascinating, and your results speak for themselves. Many thanks Paul.

      John

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      • #4
        Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

        Excellent tutorial Paul, great explanation of how to use light and how to get professional, studio quality results

        I will have a go this week and post my best and worse attempts

        Thanks for spending the time to do this Paul, much appreciated fella

        Greg
        My Flickr Home Page

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        • #5
          Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

          A great post, Paul - nice to see another who likes taking portraits. We're not yet a dying breed, but could be considered a rare species on this forum where birds and flowers seem to dominate!

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          • #6
            Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

            I'd love to take portraits if they came out like Pauls. They don't, so I'm reduced to flowers etc but now with these excellent tips just maybe I'll start to get something worthwhile oh hang on just the small matter of needing some patient models, everyone in our family hates their photo being taken
            http://www.flickr.com/photos/flip_photo_flickr/

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            • #7
              Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

              Thanks for a great tutorial...cant wait to go out and try these techniques!
              I'm also interested in portraiture....I'm going to shoot my daughter and granddaughter at the weekend....she wants a picture to promote her new franchise - 'Rhythm Time'....a toddler group based on making noise...sorry - music.
              (I'm experimenting with off camera flash too....held low and to the side of the model).

              It would be nice to have a portrait section on this forum I think?
              see my blog... http://www.rps.org/my-rps/portfolio
              and flickr page...http://www.flickr.com/photos/brianvickers/

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              • #8
                Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

                Good tutorial Paul showing how you can control the light to your advantage illustrated with excellent photos showing the final result. This will be very helpful to lots of people here. Great stuff, thanks for sharing your methods.
                "Who is watching the Watchers, watching the Watchers watching us"

                Its not what you see, it's the way that you see it"

                Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/photofxstudios

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                • #9
                  Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

                  I found this very useful Paul, thank you. Although my immediate family run a mile when I point the camera at them I will be seeing the grand kids at easter and I will try some of your tips on more willing subjects.
                  Iain

                  E-M1, E-M1 II, E-M5 II, 7.5, 8-18, 12-40, 25, 40-150, 45, 60, 300

                  Website
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                  • #10
                    Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

                    Hi there Paul!

                    Thanks for taking the time to post this excellant tutorial. I don't often get chance to take any portraits as the wife won't let me (or pulls a funny face then demands that I delete it!) and the kids instant response to a camera is to stick their tongues out. I will have to try these techniques when an oportunity arises though.

                    Cheers,

                    Ralph.

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                    • #11
                      Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

                      Thank you Paul for the excellent - so simple to understand tutorial.

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                      • #12
                        Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

                        Thank you for generously sharing your experience. So obvious when explained like this!
                        The beauty of not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise and is not preceded by periods of anxiety

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                        • #13
                          Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

                          thanks for the tips!

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                          • #14
                            Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

                            Thanks a lot, Paul. These are the kind of threads that a novice like me really needs. Easy to understand and very informative. The shot with the bed sheet is brilliant.

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                            • #15
                              Re: OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

                              Paul,

                              I know this is an old thread, but having recently joined the forum, I'm having a good look around. There's some very good advice in the thread.

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