Some photographers dread doing outdoor fashion shoots. The typical studio is a controlled environment, where the photographer and his crew can control the details such as lighting, v mount batteries and minutia of a shoot to get everything just right. It minimizes the factors outside their control. In the outdoors, the variables are harder to predict. The wind and the lighting alone can make or break the quality of a shoot if the crew isn’t as good as it should be.
Still, while it can be difficult, it’s not impossible. There are some clear benefits to an outdoor shoot, not the least of which is giving a sense of authenticity to the shots that come out. So here are a few techniques you need to keep in mind when you do fashion shoots in the great outdoors.
Master Your Camera
Every digital camera has a number of options, accessories, and features. Learn these, get to know them, and understand what they’re for. Is this lens for wide angle shots or for portraits? Do you know how to adjust the histogram to get the right exposure? Knowing these details helps you master what your camera can do, making you a better photographer.
This advice is true for any sort of shoot, not just outdoor fashion shoots. Get the right lenses, use the right settings, and pack the right equipment. The better you know the camera and it’s capabilities, the better your final output will be.
Pick Your Time of Day
The right time of day is of incredible importance. It determines the lighting of the situation, which in turn will affect things like angle and composition. It also limits your time outdoors, as daylight is a limited resource. You can compensate a little using light panels, but it’s still better if you can use natural light over artificial sources.
In general, you want to avoid the sun’s zenith, because this makes shadows over the model’s face. Just after sunrise or shortly before sunset gives you a limited window, but also the best lighting conditions available. A cloudy day might also be good, but you risk having less contrast. Though if your shots rely on diffuse light, shooting while cloudy could be your best move.
Check Ahead of Time
Scout out the venue ahead of time. Know the layout well, along with where the light sources are best for your purposes. At the same time, you might want to take a few test shots to see how the background looks before you commit to an actual photoshoot. It is imperative that you know the area as well as possible before you start shooting, to minimize wasted time.
Scouting ahead also lets you pre-visualize your shots, making it easier to plan on where to capture things. You can also pre-frame things, giving you an idea of what poses work best in which areas.
The Right Background
Choosing a background is important in a photo. It is even more important for fashion photography, because you want to highlight the dress, not where the model is located. Make the effort to have the background be present and interesting, but also ensure it draws attention to the dress and model, rather than detract from them.
Another detail is to make sure the colors of the background don’t merge into those of the fashion model or outfit. That causes all sorts of problems. While you could theoretically fix this post-processing, that just adds more time and can risk the loss of important details. Better to just get it right first, rather than bash things out.
Mix Flash and Ambient Light
In terms of lighting, consider mixing ambient light and the flash. If done right, this can add depth to the photo that makes it feel more “real.” This can do wonders for highlighting features of the dress or downplaying details you don’t want to be focused on, in favor of something you do want to draw the eye.
Keep the Model Comfortable
When undertaking any photoshoot, fashion or otherwise, it is important to make the model comfortable. Bring a stylist on set to make sure that the model maintains the perfect hairstyle for the photoshoot. Talk to them, compliment them when they do the jobs right or when they have a good idea. Instruct them but don’t be overly harsh. Get the best out of them without being mean or overly demanding, because a nervous model is one that won’t make for great shots.
RAW Format Is Your Friend
Shoot in RAW format, taking multiple photos of the same pose over and over. Yes, we know this eats up a lot more space on your storage and will likely force you to have spare cards handy. However, it comes with a host of benefits to make up for the digital bulk. These become apparent after the shoot when you’re starting to process the shots.
RAW format captures more details compared to other digital formats. That’s where the bulk of the data comes from. This allows you to have more room and leeway when editing the image for post-processing, making it much easier because you have more “material” to work with. The result is a crisper, cleaner final result.
Get Proper Exposure
Master the art of proper exposure. Yes, you can touch up that part in the post-processing stage, but you’re doing so at the cost of crucial details that could have been captured. You’ll want to master the exposure and get it right with every shot, or at least come close to getting it right. This is something that is crucial in outdoor shoots.
If you adjust a shot that’s underexposed, you are risking adding noise and grain to the visuals. On the other hand, if the photo is overexposed, you miss out on small details and highlights that could be important. It is therefore crucial that you get the exposure right, even if that means adjusting the lighting and taking multiple shots of the same pose.
Fashion photography is a demanding discipline, often one of the hardest things a photographer has to do in his career. When taken outdoors, it can become more difficult due to the variables this introduces. Fortunately, there are techniques you can use to make the process smoother and easier, resulting in a photo shoot worthy of the cover of Vogue.