Natural Light, Outdoor Portrait Photography Expert Tips

outdoors natural light Gaithersburg, Md Headshot Photographer

Since I began oil painting and photographing portraits in 2000, I’m sure I have created a couple thousand portrait photographs of really nice people. To this day, it’s always a challenge that I enjoy. I strive to capture a variety of portraits of each person representing them at their best. I never get bored because each portrait photo session is unique.

I offer indoor portraits as well outdoor, natural light portraits for a more casual, candid look. Sometimes we can go just outside my studio for outdoors photos, other times a short distance away offers some very nice portrait environments. I love working with late afternoon, natural light, so I try and schedule photo sessions accordingly.

outdoors, natural light portrait of pretty-lady-white-dress, Mark Lovett Photography

Natural Light, Outdoor Portrait Photography Tip #1

We were going for a natural, candid, but sexy look in this portrait of a pretty, young lady. We set it up in a nearby field, with the sun at her back behind distant trees which provided a beautiful soft green background with warm sunlight filtering through and rim lighting her hair. A bit of lens flare, top right, adds ambiance and mood.

The soft main light in front was compliments the open sky above. The field provided some interesting tall grass in the foreground. Her white dress worked well with the other colors in the scene as the focal point of the image.

To capture a natural, gorgeous pose, I had her walking slowly toward me, guiding her to have one hand up with elbow bent, and the other hanging down, with weight predominantly on one foot, I had her twist her upper body a bit. I guided her expression from smile to a more introspective look. The net result is an image that does not look posed, but appears like she was captured in a candid moment.

To get the soft out-of-focus background and separation from foreground foliage, I placed her a fair distance away from the background and shot my Nikon 70-200mm lens wide open at 2.8. The off center crop places her in a more interesting position in the right 1/3 of the composition.

Natural Light Outdoor Portrait | Shawn

Natural Light, Outdoor Portrait Photography Tip #2

With the late afternoon background sun filtering through the trees and rim lighting Shawn’s hair, the wall provides an excellent prop to help her into a more engaging, diagonal pose.  The wall adds a beautiful line leading the eye through the composition.

This image would make a great portrait for a dating website! The soft, diffuse light from the sky in front, lights the face beautifully.

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Natural Light Outdoor Portrait | Sonal by Mark Lovett Photography

Natural Light, Outdoor Portrait Photography Tip #3

Looking at these portraits again brings back my memory of the photo session. This image would also make a great, slightly sexy, portrait for a dating website!

This image was created directly outside of my studio. It was likely fall and there was no greenery available, however, shooting the lens wide open at 2.8, and using a long lens focal length, such as 105mm or even greater, the distracting background turns into a gorgeous soft abstract background.

Guiding this pretty, young lady into a flattering, feminine pose, with a confident, natural expression, facing the light from the sky in front,  lights the face beautifully.

One hand on the hip, one hand hanging down, weight on the back foot, bent front knee provides a nice S curve pose with nice diagonal lines.

The background wall leads the eye through the composition.

Natural Light Outdoor Portrait | Mark Lovett Photography

Natural Light, Outdoor Portrait Photography Tip #4

Is this some gorgeous auburn hair or what? I had this pretty young lady squat down low with a hand on the hip and a hand under her chin, shoulders pointing camera right and face turned up toward the lens.

The sky in front lit the face beautifully with a soft light allowing her her eyes to open wide while at the same time smiling. This is not easy to do. When we smile our eyes squint!

I stood tall angeling my lens down at her face from a high vantage point which tends to make the eyes even appear larger. Placing her down low also allowed us to pickup the attractive foliage and flowers in the back.

Notice I positioned her in a flattering non-sexy pose which is perfect for a high school senior portrait for mom and dad.

I carefully positioned her hair away from her neck and shoulder so the viewer gets a nice clean eye lead-in from bottom left. The viewer’s eye moves along her arm, up along her shoulder and neck all the way to her eye, which is cropped as the focal point of the composition.

The result is that she looks very natural, comfortable and gorgeous!
Natural Light Outdoor Portrait | Braeden | by Mark Lovett Photography

Natural Light, Outdoor Portrait Photography Tip #5

An old fence runs diagonally through the composition, with my beautiful daughter, Braeden, who had just graduated from high school,  leaning back into the fence, with one arm up and one down, her face lit softly from the sky in front, with late afternoon sun filtering through the trees in back.

I positioned her so that the natural, outdoor light is very flattering, and all the diagonals created by her pose and the fence create quite an interesting, unique composition.

Natural Light Outdoor Portrait |Madelyn | by Mark Lovett Photography

Natural Light, Outdoor Portrait Photography Tip #6

Although this location is a half hour away from my studio, it has inspired some amazing portraits.  In addition to my beautiful niece, the other elements of the composition add much value.

We have the old, hard, vertical stone wall on the left, the stone walkway leading the eye through the composition, the back lit arch in the background, and the gorgeous soft sky light in the front.

We have a comfortable, natural pose with plenty of interesting lines, weight on one foot, bent front knee, one hand up, one hand down in a pocket, and an attractive, unforced expression.

I love the contrast of the hard, stone, vertical wall with the soft, pretty young lady. The crop has Madelyn positioned off center in the left 1/3 focal area of the composition.

The colors work well together …. her brown skin and hair, greens in the foliage and stone, golden back light, beige blouse and blue jeans.

Natural Light Outdoor Portrait | Mark Lovett Photography | Stone Ridge High School Senior

Natural Light, Outdoor Portrait Photography Tip #7

This image is an example of how to position your subject such that the backlit tree leaves provide an awesome background for a portrait.

She was lit with soft sky light in front, shoulders pointing away, face turned back toward lens, shooting up from a low lens vantage point.

I try to create a variety of looks in my portraits always searching for the most flattering poses, lighting, backgrounds and expressions.

Natural Light Outdoor Portrait | Children by Mark Lovett Photography

Natural Light, Children Portrait Photography Tip #8

Oh I love working with children!  Love the matching white outfits, the golden sunlight filtering through the trees in the back, and front sky, softly lighting them.

Getting these little cuties to stand close and hold hands facing the camera with natural expressions made it all come together. I remember there wasn’t much sky light in the front where we were so I had to raise the ISO up a bit to keep the shutter speed at around 1/125 using my 70-200mm VR. No flash or reflectors needed. It’s all good!

It’s getting late and I need to start wrapping this post up. I’ve been traveling down memory lane for a few hours tonight considering my thought process and the various elements that went into each portrait. I really enjoy what I do and I hope you got something out of this article. I could go on forever with many more portraits and memories. Maybe I’ll add more to this post later, or maybe I’ll just write a new post. Only time will tell.

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Feel free to leave any comments or questions below and I’ll try to respond.