The Great Outdoors Can Be Your Studio

by | May 27, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Living in Colorado, it gets cold during the winter and occasionally snows and sometimes there’s lots of snow. If I lived in my wife’s home state of Florida I’d have a different way of choosing locations for shooting ;portraits than I do working here. For much of the year I shoot most of my portraits and glamour images in either my home studio or an outdoor location that’s close by. So maybe I’m lazy too.

After all, portraits, no matter where you make them, are all about light, so I start by looking at the existing light falling on a subject and evaluating the range of shadows and highlights that appear within the scene.

Learning to see light is not too difficult but takes practice and using your DSLR’s or mirrorless camera’s LCD preview screen will help you analyze your outdoor portraits to see if your efforts are successful.

Backlighting is always a great technique to use for outdoor portraits but you’ll need to use flash to make sure that the subject is not underexposed. In this case a Canon EX580 speedlite was used to provide enough fill light so the model’s face is well illuminated. How much, you ask? Take a look at my post, Flash for Outdoor Portraits Makes a Difference, in my old blog to see a “before and after” example that perfectly explains the concept. My guess is that with a little experience your answer about when to use flash outdoors will be most of the time.

Last night, I was having an al fresco Mexican dinner with my wife on  park bench in front of my favorite tree in McCabe Meadows while watching a female photographer making portraits a young girl. The photographer had high end Canon gear and was clever in her posing, making the most of the backlighting potential at that time of day. But, and you knew there was a but didn’t you, there was no flash going off. Now I’m sure she could have given each photograph two stops or so overexposure to compensate for the backlighting but (there’s that word again) she was losing the richness of the background. Do me a favor, won’tcha? Next time you’re shooting outdoor portraits use the camera’s pop-up flash or stick a speedlight on the hot shoe and make one or two shots with flash. Let me know how you like it.


How I made this shot: I photographed Farrin in a friend’s backyard in Ft. Collins, Colorado. The camera used was my old Canon EOS 1D Mark II N with the versatile EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM lens (at 105mm) that I stupidly sold. It’s been discontinued by the manufacturer but you can pick up used versions of this lens from many sources, including Amazon. Exposure for this portrait was 1/250 sec at f/7.1 and ISO 200.  A Canon EX 580 speedlight was used with a Sto-Fen Omni Bounce diffuser to provide fill and soften the light.




If you’re interested in shooting portraits and learning how I use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio or on location, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere that’s available from with new copies selling for $17.93. As I write this, used copies are selling from $6.94, which is a heckuva deal for all the useful information that’s found in the book. The Kindle edition is $19.99 for those preferring a digital version.