Planning a fun outdoor photo session is a fabulous way to celebrate the arrival of summer! Here are some tips to get great shots for your blog and social media.
Think about Location
Pre-visualize what you’re going for. Location is a critical element in capturing the feel of the shots. A fun flirty beach environment captures a different summer feel than a sultry urban environment. Do some “geo-scouting” using Google Maps/Google Earth to search for potential locations. These tools have several powerful features to help narrow down your options. You can review whole regions from altitude, zoom down to street level in many cases to scope out the general look at eye level, and see sample photos others have taken to see even more detail of interesting details and features.
Things I like to consider in my shoots are:
- Accessibility - Can you reasonably get to the location without trespassing? Personally I always try to keep the on-foot travel distance to a minimal exertion level for the clients’ and my comfort alike.
- Aesthetics - In at least some direction, is the location free from outside distractions like telephone poles and wires, cars, buildings, etc. Is there something beautiful to work with -- a pasture, beach, mountains, sand dunes, bricked alleys with cobblestones, cityscape vista, etc.
- Privacy - For experienced models, even urban settings won’t faze them but less experienced ones, or paying clients will usually feel more comfortable and less distracted with some level of seclusion in a given location.
Plan an Itinerary
One of the things about shooting on location is that the sun waits for no man. Many photographers like to schedule around the “golden hour”, about an hour before sunset when the light is low and flattering. Arriving late to the location will leave you with little time to shoot before you lose all your natural light. So planning an itinerary on a spreadsheet is a VERY good idea to help you stay on schedule. Account for sunset time, travel time including potential rush hour traffic. Overlooking heavy traffic once narrowed my session down to ONE usable shot before the sun dipped behind the mountains. Which is worth mentioning in its own right -- sunset times listed online is “horizon” time, not “mountain” sunset time. The mountains will block your light earlier than if you were at the beach. Not surprisingly, wooded areas will also drastically cut your available light much earlier than open horizon sunsets, so plan accordingly.
Do you need a makeup artist/hairstylist for your session? Family sessions generally don’t, fashion/editorial or boudoir generally do. If so, account for at least 90 minutes of their time as well. Also put in your schedule on-site scouting and set up time. You may have to walk around and consider your best shooting angles once you arrive to avoid any objectionable obstructions and distractions.
Remember Your Props
When pre-visualizing your session, consider what you saw in your vision. Do you need to bring flowers or flower petals to throw? Fabric to flow? Colorful umbrella as a playful accessory or as a functional piece for a rainy day session? Beach ball or towel? Consider all your options; bring as many as you are able to for maximum flexibility. Carry what you can fit into a beach bag to take with you.
Consider Your Lighting
Middle of day sessions can be challenging because overhead sun can leave harsh shadows across faces. You’ll either need suitable shade or bring in compensating light sources like reflectors or strobes. Similarly if you’re shooting after sunset you’ll need some form of lighting to light up your subject. This then becomes a larger question of what kind of light modifiers do you have at your disposal that would be appropriate to use with your subject -- umbrellas, portable beauty dishes, softboxes, and the attendant weights to keep them from blowing over and self destructing in the slightest breeze.
Golden hour sessions have the distinction of not expressly requiring additional lighting. The sun can be used to illuminate frontally for beautiful gold toned portraiture, or as a gauzy soft back-lit wash.
Plan an Alternative Rain Date
Some locations are more prone to inclement weather than others (here in the Seattle region it’s a perennial consideration). It’s a good idea to have your resources (models, clients, stylists, assistants, etc) aligned if at all possible for two different days 2-3 days apart so that you can shoot on your primary date if everything is a go, or fall back to your alternate date if rain moves in. This helps save all the prep work and effort that went into planning your session from going to waste.
Using these tips will go a long way towards maximizing the results of your summer sessions. Pre-visualizing your session and planning are your best assets for successful outdoor shoots by minimizing potential oversights. This leaves you free to maximize your creative potential during the shoot! Now get out there, enjoy the sunshine, and get great shots!
About the Writer
Dario Impini, Professional Photographer
Dario Impini of INFINI Boudoir is an award winning professional photographer specializing in boudoir and fine art photography. Servicing clients from all corners of the US for over 10 years, he creates a compelling blend of feminine beauty in a variety of natural landscapes as well as in his Seattle studio. You can see more of his work on his website and art page.