Checklist for portrait photography on location
There’s that algorithm that I most often use when shooting on-location portraits – find an interesting or complementary background, that also has good light on my subject. If there isn’t good ambient light, then I add light. Then, my subject’s positioning and pose is adjusted so that the photograph comes together.
- Find an interesting or complementary background, that also has good light on my subject.
- If there isn’t good ambient light, then I add light.
- Then, my subject’s positioning and pose is adjusted so that the photograph comes together.
This straight-forward algorithm, step-by-step keeps me on track when things get frantic, or I need inspiration. It’s a consistent topic here – effective on-location portraits – because I often see photographers who attend a workshop or a photo shoot-out, feel overwhelmed. They don’t quite know where to start. There’s New York that is bustling. There might be a model …. and now what? This algorithm helps kick things into gear from the start.
With wedding portraits for example, where time is limited and the pressure is on – this is what I rely on: a known method that gets me results. And from there on, I can improvise and use anything interesting that comes up in terms of the light or location.
With the examples here of our model, Anastasiya, the pull-back shot will show where we were shooting. The location looked more unassuming than the results.
Camera settings, and photo gear used in this setup
- 1/160 @ f/2.8 @ 100 ISO
- Canon 6D
- Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II (B&H / Amazon)
- Profoto B1 battery powered flash
- Westcott Rapid Box 36 XL
- 75″ tall Gitzo monopod to hold up the light
That’s the background! Just a few out of focus lights in window displays. Other than that, the surroundings were fairly drab in the late afternoon on a cloudy day. Of course, using off-camera flash really gave the photographs that extra pop.
If you came to this article looking for an equipment checklist, well, you have options in terms of which lenses you can use. My default though is the versatile 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms. I would put that at the top of my checklist for photo gear for portrait photography. With that lens I can shoot towards the longer focal lengths, and use the lens (nearly) wide open, and with that isolate my subject. It’s an easy way to really accentuate your subject in whatever surroundings you have. Here is more on that topic: Making your images pop through lens choice – Compressed perspective.
Working with a consistent method like this at the start of a shoot, helps me keep the momentum of the photo session going, while still allowing enough variety in the images.
- Review: Canon 135mm f/2L vs. Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
- Posing technique – Adjusting a pose with incremental changes (model: Irene B.)
- One thing you can do to improve your portrait photography
- Wedding photography: posing and lighting – a consistent style
- Posing people: Tips for improving your portrait photos (model: Adrienne)
- Becoming more confident in posing people
- Effective on-location portraits (model: Anelisa)
Video tutorials to help you with flash photography
If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding flash photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check out these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.