Tips for Outdoor Portrait Photography


I love being a photographer because I get to see so many cool places and get to meet a lot of new interesting people too. Just recently I travelled to France to take some outdoor portraits of some people for their wedding photos. The photo shoot took place in this beautiful garden that was filled with arbors, carports, and pergolas. Sure, taking outdoor portraits in front of these things did pose some challenges but it wasn’t impossible.

I like challenges and I especially like taking pictures of people in front or around pergolas because they are really beautiful and provide for a great backdrop. On a side note if you aren’t quite sure what a pergola, arbor, or carport is then you should take a quick glance the article “The Ultimate Guide on Pergolas” from The Garden Issue, they will explain it all perfectly.

All of that being said there are a few challenges that come along with outdoor portrait photography, but they aren’t anything that can’t be solved using a few simple tricks. Keep reading and find out how to take the perfect portraits of people when you’re outside and surrounded by a beautiful garden full of pergolas and arbors.

Never use Auto-Focus

Using the auto-focus feature on your camera is not recommended because the camera will actually choose a number of random points to focus on. Those random points could be good points or bad and maybe the camera will focus on the people you’re taking a picture of or maybe it will focus on something in the back ground. Seeing as having a photo shoot in a garden means being surrounded by plants and flowers, the camera might choose to focus on that instead of the people. The simple way to solve this is to choose the focus points yourself.

Try to Shoot in The Shade

Sunlight is nice for some things, but not really for taking portrait shots outdoors. First of all, direct sunlight will shine brightly into the camera lens and will probably end up distorting the color and focus of the picture. Also, direct sunlight will make the subject squint and no one ever looks good in a picture when they are squinting. Moreover, direct sunlight will cause unwanted shadows to appear resulting in light and dark spots which will also make the portrait look odd. You don’t want the pergolas or arbors casting shadows on the people that you’re trying to capture.

Don’t Shoot a Portrait Under 50 mm

Using anything under a 50 mm lens is not recommended because it can greatly distort the person you are shooting and doing so can actually make someone’s face look swollen and bloated, something that I really try to avoid when taking wedding photos! It should also be noted that you shouldn’t use a telephoto lens because it has a compression effect that may make the face look weird and narrow. Always try to use any lens above 70 mm and if possible try to stick between 120 mm and 200 mm.

Cloud Cover is Actually Good

Shooting on an overcast day is actually a good idea because it has the ability to make the colors stand out a lot more. Also, the smooth shadows provided by the cloud cover is much desirable than shadows made by the sun. This is especially the case when shooting in a garden because you don’t want the arbors or any other feature in the garden to cast heavy shadows on your desired subject matter.

Focus on the Eyes

A person’s eyes are by far the most beautiful feature on a person’s face and they are the things that stand out the most, so you should always try and focus on the eyes. That being said, you don’t want any distractions in the picture either. Things like street signs, light posts, weirdly situated plants, or even garbage will all cause the viewer to be distracted from the people in the picture. Always make sure that the person you are shooting is the center of attention. If you are shooting in a garden setting like I was then be sure that the arbors or pergolas are in the background and don’t have any features that will cause them to stand out over the desired subjects.

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