Home Photography Lighting Outdoor Portrait Photography Lighting Tips

Outdoor Portrait Photography Lighting Tips

8 min read

Some new photographers think that you have to be a lighting expert photography to take great photos outdoors.

By using natural light and a few small photography aids you too can capture great outdoor portraits. In this tutorial we’re going to share with you some outdoor portrait photography lighting tips.

So let’s get started!

Lighting Tips for Outdoor Portrait Photography

Nicole Pierce Outdoor Portrait Photography Lighting

Photos by nicole.pierce.photography

Utilize the natural light

Natural light surrounds us, but sometimes it’s not enough to get a good portrait.

If you know exactly when and where you’re going to be shooting you’ll have a better idea of calculating what type of lighting you’ll need for your photos. As is the case with most outdoor photography, shooting at midday is generally considered to be the worst option because the light from the sun is so harsh – creating ugly shadows on your subjects.

Taking your photos earlier or later in the day is often recommended because the light is warmer in tone and softer.

Overcast conditions are also typically suitable because it spreads the light out evenly among your subjects.

Warm light and low contrast works well, especially when the subject is lit from the back and you don’t really need a flash or reflector in these circumstances.

Lilnassau Natural Light and Reflected Light Outdoors

Photo by Lilnassau Hubpages and  Videomaker.com

Combine natural light with reflected light

When lighting for photograph outside, you’ll find that a disc reflector like the  5-in-1 Collapsible Multi-Disc Light Reflector can be a great help.

The reflector is ideal if you want to add a little brightness to the subject or to fill a shadow in.

However, the reflector needs to be positioned relatively close to the person since their range is somewhat limited. If the reflector doesn’t do the trick you may need to use a strobe.

There are options when it comes to reflectors such as silver/white combination surfaces, as well as gold, silver, and diffusion etc.

Many people prefer the silver/white option, but it’s a personal preference and the outdoor lighting conditions may also affect your choice.

For example, a reflector can work well when your subject is in the shade with the sun directly in front of him or her. The person can be positioned in the shade or shadow as the sunlight is then reflected onto him/her. Just be careful not to reflect the light in the subject’s eyes, causing them to squint.

Try a light panel

A device similar to a reflector, but larger, is a light panel.

These are ideal for full length shots or when you can’t position the reflector close enough to the subject.

Commercial panels typically come with bungee-style cords which open up, enabling you to attach the preferred material, which could be diffusion material, or colored in black, gold, silver, or white etc.

The process is similar to a reflector. This means the subject can be placed in the shade while the light panel is in the sun and it bounces the light onto the subject, creating textured lighting along with shadows and highlights.

Using Flash for Outdoor Portrait Lighting

Photo by Chasing Picture Perfection

Strobe and flash lighting can be the solution

On some occasions you’ll find there’s still not enough light with a reflector or light panel or the light is bright, but there’s too much contrast.

In this instance, a strobe light or flash could be the answer to lighting a photography outside.

Flash is often good enough, but a portable strobe is ideal for shorter shoots when you have enough battery power.

If you’re shooting a static setup, a mono light strobe works well outdoors with lighting umbrellas and it can be done quite quickly. Deciding whether to use flash or a strobe will generally depend on what effect you’re aiming for. A strobe and umbrella can make the subject stand out from the background as they can be made slightly brighter. A strobe can brighten specific areas in the scene when needed.

Making the best of it

Unfortunately, natural light isn’t always the best option for outdoor portraits. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to consider using flash and/or reflectors to make the best out of your situation.


  1. Ramdinsanga

    June 19, 2012 at 7:46 am

    I,m very thankful for this text, very inmprove to try…….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *