In general, lighting for outdoor family portraits should offer soft, even illumination without casting harsh shadows. It also needs to eliminate the shadows under the eyes of subjects. It can be created using natural light, artificial light, or a mix of the two, as well as light modifiers such as diffusers and reflectors. In this article, we will talk about how to light a family portrait outdoor, including the following steps:
- Determine the type of lighting used in outdoor family portraits
- Use modifiers to shape and direct the lighting
- Choose a suitable outdoor family portrait lighting setup
- Choose the background carefully
Step 1: Determine the type of lighting used in outdoor family portraits
Outdoor illumination will change throughout the day. It will also be determined by the weather and location. When it comes to lighting a family portrait outside, there are three types of lighting that you can choose from.
Only during certain times of the day can you rely entirely on natural light for your photographs. You may completely rely on the Sun for your shot in the early morning and late evening. You will get nice soft light at certain times of day. This natural soft light will aid in capturing excellent portraits free of harsh shadows.
The golden hour is another time of day when natural light helps to improve photos, particularly portraiture. The warm and gentle light that falls on the people will serve to accentuate the image's attractiveness and feel, as well as their characteristics.
In certain circumstances, like as a late-night shooting, you will have to rely entirely on artificial light. There are several options for you to get outdoor group photography lighting.
If you're taking family photos while on vacation, you can even utilize on-camera flash as lighting for outdoor family portraits. The on-camera flash, however, will not be as strong as an external flash. As a result, you should keep the camera as close to the subjects as feasible. Otherwise, it will not be able to fully illuminate the scene.
An external flash is quite useful for lighting up family photographs. It fits conveniently into your camera bag. If the subject is in the shade, you can utilize the external flash to provide adequate lighting. It also aids in shooting at low ISOs with a fast enough shutter speed to avoid fuzzy shots.
Another technique for lighting family pictures is continuous lighting. When employing continuous lights, however, you must additionally bring the light stand and the battery pack with you. You may now obtain tiny portable continuous lights that fit nicely into your camera bag. However, the power output of such lights will be reduced, which is why many pros prefer the larger portable ones. Or you can use COLBOR lights to illuminate the outdoor family portraits. Some of them have high power output and are portable to be carried about. You can check the video by YouTuber Leigh & Raymond Photography to see how she used COLBOR CL220 LED constant light for photography.
Video by Leigh & Raymond Photography
Use both natural and artificial lights
When doing outdoor portrait shots, most professional portrait photographers employ both artificial and natural light. The use of artificial light will guarantee that the subjects in the scene are well illuminated. Furthermore, the artificial light will aid in the removal of all shadows cast on the subject.
Step 2: Use modifiers to shape and direct the outdoor family portrait lighting
When shooting family pictures outside, you will need to deal with hard lighting most of the time, which might come from the sun, which is a natural light source. It can also be caused by artificial lights such as flashing or continuous lighting. If you let such light directly fall on the subjects, you will wind up with severe shadows in the shot. It will make the images appear dull.
As a photographer, you must guarantee that the lighting for outdoor family portraits falling on the subjects is soft and attractive to the eye in the shot. You'll need to employ light modifiers. Here are some modifiers that you can use in outdoor family portraits.
Light diffusers: Light diffusers aid in the conversion of harsh light to soft light. It is a transparent substance held in front of the light. It is either composed of linen or silicone. Softboxes are available for external flashes, in-camera flashes, and continuous lighting. The front of these boxes will feature a layer of diffuser material to assist in softening the hard illumination.
Light Reflectors: For their outdoor photography, most photographers will employ the famous 5 in 1 foldable reflector kit. The biggest benefit is that you can fold it and simply transport it with your photographic equipment. It will contain five different types of light modifiers.
Honeycomb grid: A honeycomb grid aids in the creation of a narrow beam of light. It can prevent light spillage. This grid is essentially a honeycomb-shaped device that is installed in front of the artificial light source. Honeycomb grids are available for both flashes and continuous lighting. You may use it to direct light to the subjects.
Step 3: Choose suitable outdoor family portrait lighting setup
When setting up lighting for outdoor family portraits, there are various lighting techniques you can use. You can choose the proper one according to the light source and the target effect. And here are two recommended methods.
If you use natural light, backlight is an ideal choice
When doing photography, you would normally like to have the Sun in front of your subject. However, the Sun can cast harsh, unfavorable shadows on the subject at times. These shadows have the potential to destroy outdoor family portraits. The easiest method to cope with this scenario is to place your subjects so that the Sun is behind them. The subject will be backlit in this case. As a result, you must use artificial lights to give fill light to the subject.
If you have artificial illumination, a two-light setup is good
When shooting family photographs outside, you might employ a two-point lighting method. It might be two independent artificial light sources at 45 degrees on either side of the subject. Alternatively, you may use a single light source plus a reflector. When one of them is replaced with a reflector, you lose the ability to control the brightness of the fill light. Instead, the light that strikes the reflector (both key and ambient light) will be reflected on the subject.
Step 4: Choose the background carefully
Pre-scout the shooting location if at all feasible. Try to accomplish this a day or two ahead of time. If that is not possible, attempt to come WELL before the event to perform some last-minute site checks. Here are some common backgrounds that you can make use of:
- Open shade
- Simple and uncluttered backgrounds
- Softly reflective surfaces
Read on to learn more details.
This might be any location that is uniformly covered by trees, an awning, a pavilion, a huge structure, or anything else. You're seeking for areas with pleasant, even illumination. In other words, AVOID dappled lighting since it increases the likelihood of hot spots and deep shadows.
A background that is simple, clean, and uncluttered is always preferable. Look for backdrops with consistent color and no high-contrast patterns, stripes, or motifs.
For example, if natural greenery is going to be your background, go for a more monochrome portion. It is preferable to look for plants that are all green while without bright/tall/spiky flower heads that can appear to grow out of people's heads. You can also use brick, granite, sand dunes, wood, etc. as backgrounds.
This one is not as crucial as the first two. However, if you can find a ground surface that can bounce a bit of lighting for outdoor family portraits, it will make your job easier and your final image just that much more compelling. The most awesome natural reflector of all time is the BEACH! All that white and light-colored sand makes a perfect bounce card. If you’re not shooting on the beach, you can seek out ground surfaces that are light enough to serve as a giant reflector.