How to Take Amazing Portraits in Sun Every Time
Do you want to take perfectly illuminated portraits of outdoor subjects in bright sunlight? How about in situations where they’re standing in front of a bright background? Do you hate dark shadowed “raccoon eyes?” The answer to make your outdoor portraits pop, is to expose for the sky. Use this tip to make the shot every time!
Using a SLR 35mm autofocus camera and flash, you can create flattering and dramatic outdoor portraits with ease.
With the flash turned off and your camera set in manual mode, use the camera’s internal exposure metering system. Looking through the viewfinder, press the shutter button halfway to illuminate the internal panel. The exposure meter is generally in the center on the bottom as you look through the viewfinder. (-2…1…0…1…+2)
To make the adjustments, start by selecting either your f stop or shutter speed. Aim the camera towards the brightest part of the picture, in this case the sky. Using the meter as a guide, adjust your shutter speed and f stop until reading is centered at 0. With the exposure set, turn on your camera’s flash, stand within a normal flash exposure range (6 – 10 ft.), focus on your subject and shoot.
Your flash will fill in and illuminate your subject nicely. If you desire more or less exposure on your subject, step forward or backwards accordingly. Some flash units can also be adjusted manually to allow shorter or longer bursts. This is also an option.
Very important, — always pay attention to the changing light. The sun going behind a cloud while you are shooting can affect the results of your image. The sky is no longer as bright as when the full sun was exposed so you will need to check your exposure meter again for the change in light.
Last, but certainly not least, be kind to your subject, don’t have them facing so they are looking directly into the bright sunlight. They will appreciate it and it will help to avoid squinty, closed looking eyes.
The image examples below were shot using a Canon 5D Mark II and Speedlight 580 EXII mounted on camera. The lens – 28-135 3.5-5.6 IS.
Photograph 1, was shot using the camera’s internal exposure meter as a guide. ISO was set at 100, f/13 the aperture with a focal length of 135mm. The meter centered at 0 at 1/125 of a second for the shutter speed. Here’s the result:
Photograph 2, shows the camera aimed toward the bright sky behind my subject, adjusting the shutter speed and f stop until the camera’s internal meter was perfectly centered at 0 . This recorded at 1/400 sec, f/13, ISO 100, 135mm. Here’s the result:
Photograph 3, the exposure meter was set for the sky, flash turned on, aim, focus and fire. Here’s the result:
Sum it up: 1/400 sec, f/13, ISO 100, 135mm with on camera flash. Pretty Blue sky, white billowy clouds, nicely illuminated subject…that’s a wrap!