Forums > Photography Talk > How the hell do you shoot outdoors?

Photographer

SitronStudio

Posts: 1064

Venice, Florida, US

My New Years resolution- figure out how to shoot outdoors. I've been strictly a studio photographer for a number of years, I love strobes, I love backdrops, I love everything about the studio. But it's time for a change. It's not for lack of trying, though. Since I moved to Florida a few years ago, I try to do some outdoor shots at every shoot for more variety. Even the models agree I should stay in the studio. I hate that I can't see my monitor in the sun, I hate relying on the weather, but I love a lot of shots done outside with natural light. I use an  Olympus FL-40 flash, with a bunch of different diffusers, but nothing leaves me satisfied. Give me some hints, please! Should I just set up my strobes outside?

Jan 02 13 03:44 pm Link

Photographer

Worlds in Digital

Posts: 92

Denver, Colorado, US

I'm the opposite.  I would much rather just get outside and shoot with nothing but a person and a camera and a good location.  I despise having to set up lights and backdrops and whatnot.  I guess it comes from being a landscape photographer, I dunno.  My advice to you is this:  Just do it.  If you've been in the studio for so long, you have certain habits and "ways of doing things" that give you a paradigm.  I think the only way to break free of that is to hit it head-on.  Get a model, grab your camera and no more than 2 lenses, and hit a beach.  Take NOTHING ELSE.  See what happens.

Jan 02 13 03:50 pm Link

Photographer

PhillipM

Posts: 6545

Martin, Tennessee, US

Learn how to meter, and you won't have to chimp...

smile

Jan 02 13 03:50 pm Link

Photographer

Shane Noir

Posts: 2332

Los Angeles, California, US

... Have you tried not using the flashes/etc and just rely on natural light (and maybe a reflector for fill)?

Jan 02 13 03:51 pm Link

Photographer

Marin Photography NYC

Posts: 7247

New York, New York, US

Well one thing I know I can do is shoot outdoors!...I started that way and have done that for years.  Get a polarizing filter, a reflector and a off camera flash with an umbrella.  I lived in Florida for 14yrs, and the best time to shoot is sunrise or sunset. You can shoot in the middle of the afternoon (raccoon eye time) but will need a fill flash or reflector to kill the shadows on the face.  Hope that helps!.....

Jan 02 13 03:52 pm Link

Photographer

SitronStudio

Posts: 1064

Venice, Florida, US

PhillipM wrote:
Learn how to meter, and you won't have to chimp...

smile

I remember light meters! I may still have one, somewhere.....

Jan 02 13 03:53 pm Link

Photographer

Leighthenubian

Posts: 2964

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

SitronStudio wrote:
My New Years resolution- figure out how to shoot outdoors. I've been strictly a studio photographer for a number of years, I love strobes, I love backdrops, I love everything about the studio. But it's time for a change. It's not for lack of trying, though. Since I moved to Florida a few years ago, I try to do some outdoor shots at every shoot for more variety. Even the models agree I should stay in the studio. I hate that I can't see my monitor in the sun, I hate relying on the weather, but I love a lot of shots done outside with natural light. I use an  Olympus FL-40 flash, with a bunch of different diffusers, but nothing leaves me satisfied. Give me some hints, please! Should I just set up my strobes outside?

but your profile says "very experienced"...

Jan 02 13 03:53 pm Link

Photographer

ThomasBlanchardFineArt

Posts: 222

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

Really depends on what look you are going for.   Are you using reflectors of any sort?  Large foamcore to put your subject in shade?   More flash power to over power the sun?

Check YouTube for great tutorials.

Jan 02 13 03:53 pm Link

Photographer

Solas

Posts: 9537

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

http://photo.tutsplus.com/articles/ligh … otography/

Illuminate wrote:
but your profile says "very experienced"...

so does mine! and so does yours! we're all...like...brothers!


OMG!

Jan 02 13 03:56 pm Link

Photographer

SitronStudio

Posts: 1064

Venice, Florida, US

Marin Photography wrote:
Well one thing I know I can do is shoot outdoors!...I started that way and have done that for years.  Get a polarizing filter, a reflector and a off camera flash with an umbrella.  I lived in Florida for 14yrs, and the best time to shoot is sunrise or sunset. You can shoot in the middle of the afternoon (raccoon eye time) but will need a fill flash or reflector to kill the shadows on the face.  Hope that helps!.....

Oooh, that sounds like it might work, an off camera flash w/ umbrella. Unfortunately most of my shoots are in the middle of the day (I have a hard enough time getting a model to show up, most have to drive a couple of hours, suggesting an inconvenient time isn't gonna work).

Jan 02 13 03:56 pm Link

Photographer

SitronStudio

Posts: 1064

Venice, Florida, US

but your profile says "very experienced"...

I'm "very experienced"... at shooting in the studio.

Jan 02 13 03:57 pm Link

Photographer

SitronStudio

Posts: 1064

Venice, Florida, US

BC Photo wrote:
Really depends on what look you are going for.   Are you using reflectors of any sort?  Large foamcore to put your subject in shade?   More flash power to over power the sun?

Check YouTube for great tutorials.

Great idea! Jeez, I use youTube to figure out how to fix my leaky faucet, you'd think I would have looked up lighting tutorials.

Jan 02 13 04:00 pm Link

Photographer

AVD AlphaDuctions

Posts: 10554

Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

SitronStudio wrote:
but your profile says "very experienced"...
I'm "very experienced"... at shooting in the studio.

ignore the trolls. its easier that way (part of being experienced on here).

Jan 02 13 04:01 pm Link

Photographer

KLBobbitt Photography

Posts: 3

Plainfield, Connecticut, US

I have a studio with strobes and backgrounds, etc, and I much prefer shooting outdoors using natural light.

Figure out what time of day gives the best light/direction , at this time of year, 2 -4 pm works good; as long as it isn't raining I don't worry about the weather.  I have a city shoot tomorrow with 8 inches of 3 day old snow on the ground.

Also, learn how to meter, and don't rely on chimping. 

practice, practice, practice

Jan 02 13 04:01 pm Link

Photographer

Kaouthia

Posts: 3152

Lancaster, England, United Kingdom

Worlds in Digital wrote:
I'm the opposite.  I would much rather just get outside and shoot with nothing but a person and a camera and a good location.

Same, although I love taking flash on location. smile

PhillipM wrote:
Learn how to meter, and you won't have to chimp...

SitronStudio wrote:
I remember light meters! I may still have one, somewhere.....

Since I started shooting film again last year, I've found myself using it more and more with digital on location too.

Jan 02 13 04:04 pm Link

Photographer

SitronStudio

Posts: 1064

Venice, Florida, US

KLBobbitt Photography wrote:
Also, learn how to meter, and don't rely on chimping. 

practice, practice, practice

I don't know what "chimping" means! Is that a photography term? smile

You're the second one that said it.

Jan 02 13 04:09 pm Link

Photographer

SB Glamour Photos

Posts: 712

Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia

Get an eye cup for the screen. hang it around your neck and use it when you want to view. I got one that i can attach magnetically to the camera for video

Jan 02 13 04:10 pm Link

Photographer

Jay White Photo

Posts: 9

Statesville, North Carolina, US

Get outside. The light is great, and it's warm. Models love it.

This is outside, natural light, with a black backdrop.

18+

http://www.modelmayhem.com/portfolio/pic/29011612

Jan 02 13 04:11 pm Link

Photographer

Jerry Nemeth

Posts: 27961

Dearborn, Michigan, US

I don't know.  I just do it!

Jan 02 13 04:11 pm Link

Photographer

R Michael Walker

Posts: 11986

Costa Mesa, California, US

Take your studio strobes you are comfortable with outside. I do. Start with one and figure you have a two light set up, the sun being the other light. To get your feet wet maybe keep the sun as a back light and the subject in shade for a few shots till you start to get the hang of it. As for chimping, I chimp now and I chimped (using Polaroids) back in the film day. A "proper" exposure may not give the effect you want. It would be stupid in my opinion not to look at your LCD till you are satisfied with the look. Then just concentrate on getting the shot you want..wait..models move and blink..more chimping huh? If you don't want to take you strobes out then try a reflector with the same idea, sun is the back light and the reflector the key. Off camera lighting outside is what most will tell you is the best. much of my portfolio was shot with a ring light or a Nikon SB800 in the hotshoe with a diffuser over it. BOTH direct on camera light. Hard to master but once you do it's quick and easy. Food for thought... Best of luck!

Jan 02 13 04:12 pm Link

Photographer

SitronStudio

Posts: 1064

Venice, Florida, US

SB Glamour Photos wrote:
Get an eye cup for the screen. hang it around your neck and use it when you want to view. I got one that i can attach magnetically to the camera for video

Great idea! I've got a nice yard and pool, so I've been trying to shoot there, and I have to keep running into the studio to see the monitor.

Jan 02 13 04:13 pm Link

Photographer

L A U B E N H E I M E R

Posts: 8789

Seattle, Washington, US

Illuminate wrote:

but your profile says "very experienced"...

he is very experienced in the studio. i see nothing wrong with that.

Jan 02 13 04:13 pm Link

Photographer

HungryEye

Posts: 2276

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Shooting in natural light has it's own special appeal, though you are subject to the variations of weather and cloud cover.
Reflectors are a big help, and I use an app that shows me the relative position of the sun at various times of the day, so I can plan ahead.

Portable flash rigs can be used, though I go old school. I have 2 Vivitar 285's with wireless triggers and small diffusers that can do a remarkable job in simulating studio light in the outdoors.
In this instance, a good light/flash meter is your friend.

Jan 02 13 04:14 pm Link

Photographer

Jerry Nemeth

Posts: 27961

Dearborn, Michigan, US

Jay White Photo wrote:
Get outside. The light is great, and it's warm. Models love it.

This is outside, natural light, with a black backdrop.

18+

http://www.modelmayhem.com/portfolio/pic/29011612

Here is a photo that I took of her in Arizona.

18+
http://www.modelmayhem.com/portfolio/pic/29040741

Jan 02 13 04:14 pm Link

guide forum

Photographer

-JAY-

Posts: 6694

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

1) Adjust your camera to give you an ambient light look that you enjoy (stay under sync speed.)

2) Turn on your flash.

3) Turn up your flash until your model is lit how you want.


http://jayleavitt.com/images/0005.jpg

http://jayleavitt.com/images/0011.jpg

http://jayleavitt.com/images/0013.jpg

http://jayleavitt.com/images/0001.jpg

Jan 02 13 04:18 pm Link

Photographer

SitronStudio

Posts: 1064

Venice, Florida, US

R Michael Walker wrote:
Take your studio strobes you are comfortable with outside. I do. Start with one and figure you have a two light set up, the sun being the other light. To get your feet wet maybe keep the sun as a back light and the subject in shade for a few shots till you start to get the hang of it. As for chimping, I chimp now and I chimped (using Polaroids) back in the film day. A "proper" exposure may not give the effect you want. It would be stupid in my opinion not to look at your LCD till you are satisfied with the look. Then just concentrate on getting the shot you want..wait..models move and blink..more chimping huh? If you don't want to take you strobes out then try a reflector with the same idea, sun is the back light and the reflector the key. Off camera lighting outside is what most will tell you is the best. much of my portfolio was shot with a ring light or a Nikon SB800 in the hotshoe with a diffuser over it. BOTH direct on camera light. Hard to master but once you do it's quick and easy. Food for thought... Best of luck!

Okay, you just sent me to wikipedia. I've never heard the term "chimping", and you guys keep using it. I figured it was british slang. Turns out it means checking the monitor after every shot. Wow.

Jan 02 13 04:20 pm Link

Photographer

SitronStudio

Posts: 1064

Venice, Florida, US

-JAY- wrote:
1) Adjust your camera to give you an ambient light look that you enjoy (stay under sync speed.)

2) Turn on your flash.

3) Turn up your flash until your model is lit how you want.


http://jayleavitt.com/images/0005.jpg

http://jayleavitt.com/images/0011.jpg

http://jayleavitt.com/images/0013.jpg

http://jayleavitt.com/images/0001.jpg

Okay, those are just beautiful.
You people are overloading me!

Jan 02 13 04:21 pm Link

Photographer

Kaouthia

Posts: 3152

Lancaster, England, United Kingdom

-JAY- wrote:
1) Adjust your camera to give you an ambient light look that you enjoy (stay under sync speed.)

2) Turn on your flash.

3) Turn up your flash until your model is lit how you want.

That's pretty much it.

With a Bowens Gemini 200
http://1.purplecdn.com/i/p/12/1219-275210623.jpg?1355680394

With an SB-900 in a 4ft octa (ambient as fill)
18+

Ambient light only.
http://1.purplecdn.com/i/p/12/1219-1737744767.jpg?1339059598

http://1.purplecdn.com/i/p/12/1219-295264639.jpg?1339059618

http://1.purplecdn.com/i/p/12/1219-825614719.jpg?1339059690

Jan 02 13 04:21 pm Link

Photographer

SitronStudio

Posts: 1064

Venice, Florida, US

You're all putting me to shame. I hate to admit, I just put the flash on Auto. I guess I'll have to figure out how it works. I'll be the first to admit I've gotten lazy in the studio. But I feel in control there. Outside is scary! My early career was as an abstract painter, so I'm used to spending long hours in the studio.

Jan 02 13 04:25 pm Link

Photographer

Image Works Photography

Posts: 2890

Orlando, Florida, US

You really dont need a flash if you got even light where you can better expose for the subject without sacrificing too much detail in the background.. My avatar is one example and somehow later I became paranoid with the whole fill light thing which in turn you have to worry about the deep shadows.

Jan 02 13 04:30 pm Link

Photographer

i c e c o l d

Posts: 8610

Fort Myers, Florida, US

Yes shooting studio for so long will definitely put you in a rut...

For outdoors...go back to the basics of lighting and photography 101. The sunny16 rule is a good place to start.

Jan 02 13 04:31 pm Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22605

Salem, Oregon, US

get one of these for the sunshine:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/control … &A=details

for a change of pace try to work with available light and maybe a reflector and/or diffuser. lindsay adler has a good course at kelbytraining about shooting in a big park at high noon. learn to hunt the light. cliff mautner has a course at kelby on just that.

beach photography has its own unique vibe. i think gold reflectors are sometimes used.

and consider shooting early or late to catch the golden hours.

my 5D MK II has a highlight priority mode which helps knock down the contrast a bit in bright scenes.

Jan 02 13 04:31 pm Link

Photographer

New Art Photo

Posts: 701

Los Angeles, California, US

All I do is shoot outdoors. I try not  to use a flash or reflector. Then again, I am not trying for a commercial look.   I like to find a plain, single color surface to shoot against. And you want indirect sunlight.

I know that's beginners 101, but been doing portraits for a year with just those elements and it just gets more interesting to me.

(Also, haven't done it much, but late afternoon light  really is Magical.)

Jan 02 13 04:33 pm Link

Photographer

Jerry Nemeth

Posts: 27961

Dearborn, Michigan, US

I took this last month in Arizona.

http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/121219/09/50d1f99befdaa.jpg

Jan 02 13 04:33 pm Link

Photographer

Modstudios

Posts: 1158

Beavercreek, Ohio, US

I do mostly outdoors shoots. I use natural and strobes.

Jan 02 13 04:40 pm Link

Photographer

Aaron Lewis Photography

Posts: 5083

Catskill, New York, US

If you're trying to fill against the sun you're going to need some decent strobes.

Think of the sunlight as a light weather it be a fill, highlight, kicker or key. Use it for something then use artificial light so fill in the voids for your shot.

If you can shoot well indoors you can work this out pretty quickly

Also remember that you can use scrims to diffuse the sun and use it for a giant high powered softbox. The possibilities are endless.

-JAY- wrote:
1) Adjust your camera to give you an ambient light look that you enjoy (stay under sync speed.)

2) Turn on your flash.

3) Turn up your flash until your model is lit how you want.

This really is the bottom line

Jan 02 13 04:48 pm Link

Photographer

Jay White Photo

Posts: 9

Statesville, North Carolina, US

Modstudios wrote:
I do mostly outdoors shoots. I use natural and strobes.

I like a combination as well. Natural for the feel. Strobe for the desired finished product.

Jan 02 13 04:59 pm Link

Photographer

Jay White Photo

Posts: 9

Statesville, North Carolina, US

Jerry Nemeth wrote:

Here is a photo that I took of her in Arizona.

18+
http://www.modelmayhem.com/portfolio/pic/29040741

She is, indeed, a great natural beauty!

Jan 02 13 05:02 pm Link

Photographer

RistPhoto

Posts: 391

Scottsdale, Arizona, US

For me, you have to learn to stop trusting your camera. I know that sounds odd, but I find that I'm best off shooting manually. Consequently, that means you have to really know your camera. 99% of my portfolio was shot with only available light. I never use reflectors, and there are maybe two photos where I used a flash. I like my method because I can easily move around. I have had models ask me a few times if I needed help carrying gear, only to sling my camera bag over a shoulder and to tell them I was all set.

You actually point out why I love shooting outside. You are fully dependent on the weather and it creates and artistic challenge to adapt to it. Good luck.

Jan 02 13 05:05 pm Link

Photographer

Bob Helm Photography

Posts: 18210

Cherry Hill, New Jersey, US

Indoors or out , composition is the same, same for exposure.

The things that are different are that:
You cannot move the main light
The backgrounds are 3D and real
You always have a foreground
You do not have to worry about the size of your studio.
Helps to check the weather report and sunrise/sunset/tide tables.
Light control is different, but still doable.
Pick your Background first and watch for distraction in the BG.

My recomendation is to get a couple of good models you have worked with and set up some time for outdoor shoots in different locations and apply what you know to the new settings. Take your time to think it out and have specific goals for what you want from each shoot, i.e. Exposure, lighting, use of the area etc.

Make your weakness your strength.

Jan 02 13 05:07 pm Link