As an amateur photography I had always viewed outdoor photography as a blessing, due to the fact that I didn’t have to worry about setting up complex lighting arrangements, background selections, or any other complicated procedure involved in studio photography. Now as a professional photographer, I have started to loath outdoor photo shoots. I do not necessarily hate doing outdoor photography, but I do not prefer it to a control studio or indoor shoot. What created this disdain for me was as I grew into my own unique style of photography and I learned how I want to set up lights, models, and the like, but in an outdoor shoot you cannot fully control every variable. Granted you can carry reflectors, or bring portable lighting setups (which are not as portable as they sound), but overall you are at the mercy of natural and artificial light, not to mention seasonal changes, in the area you are shooting.
Because of this loathing I gained for outdoor shoots, I had to actually sit down and create a list of considerations, rules, and guidelines to broadly consider when doing an outdoor shoot. Here is the basics of the list I had complied for my own shoots.
If you’ve ever had to deal with clients, especially as a freelancer, you know or quickly learn that you do not work on your schedule, you work on the clients. This means that you have to create a windowed time frame that works for both you and the client. When considering an outdoor shoot this can be a real nuisance. Say you have a client who works 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, and they ask you to do some outdoor portraits. The only free time this client has is during the morning and afternoon, meaning either you try to finish the shoot before they go to work or before the sun sets. You need to consider the needs of the client and your own abilities. One way to work around this schedule, is to do a shoot in the morning before your client goes to work, review the shoot throughout the day, and then do a second shoot in the afternoon when they are off work.
Just like the time consideration, you need to keep in mind the amount of daylight you have to complete an outdoor shoot. In addition to the amount you need to consider the direction and intensity of the natural light at the time of the shoot. For example if you did a shoot in the morning you will typically have a waxing light source that provides a cooler white balance and a direction source, in the evening it is just the opposite with a waning directional light source and a warmer white balance, but a mid day shoot will typically provide a nearly neutral white balance and a more omnipresent light source as well as a much higher exposure. Again determine what would work best for your particular shoot and aim for that lighting time frame. I personally find an afternoon shoot to work best when no really consideration is needed.
Interesting locations are a crucial aid to an outdoor photographer, but an overly interesting location can be a bane. This is because if the location becomes more interesting than the model, you will potentially loose your subject in the background. This is particularly true for vibrant backgrounds. While you shouldn’t avoid these locations for this reason, you should take steps to prevent losing your subject. You can do this by cropping in on your subject tighter or even by allowing the background to be blurred to a degree.
These are the three most basic things to consider when doing outdoor photography.