Outdoor photography can bring many challenges that photographers don’t face indoors. Indoors in dimly lit rooms have their own techniques, see below. So too does an outdoor full sun shoot.
More and more weddings are held outdoors. Music festivals, your local street fairs are obviously outdoors and have their own quirks. If you shoot sports, many of them will be brightly lit full sun. Sports photography is another genre of event photography that requires specialist skills, methods and equipment. We won’t cover that in any detail in this article.
Here’s a short list to keep in mind. Some are relating to camera equipment while others are techniques.
Outdoor portraits or headshot sessions, smaller groups can be easier to move to a shady spot. In our experience for large groups of people you just have to make the best of not having that option sometimes.
How to shoot in bright sunlight?
Use fill flash whenever possible. We’ve used fill flash outdoors at music festival, local council events and at outdoor workshops. Fill flash outdoors is so helpful we use it on most shoots where there is likely to be a high contrast of light or deep shadows on people’ faces.
What can you do if you can’t use fill flash outdoors?
Sometimes it is just not practical to use fill flash or there are better options for that particular event. Say when medal winners are holding their medals and trophies. Can you have an assistant hold a diffusor to shield direct light from hitting their face? Will the event coordinator move the location of the winners photos? Not always possible but good to keep in mind.
Can you place your flash on a stand closer to the people. Although off camera flash is a more advanced technique it is worth a mentioning here.
Sometimes none of these ideas will work and you just have to capture the best photos on the day your can when you can’t control the light.
What are extra tips on outdoor photography?
For fast moving action events, use a shutter speed to freeze the action 500 – 2000. Balance the high contrast area of light and do what you can in post.
Look out for people wearing sunglasses and hats, doesn’t always look good in photos. Ask them to take them off when you can.
Protect your equipment from rain, dust and high temperatures.
Look after yourself, heatstroke is serious, even mild heat exhaustion can affect your thinking and photography performance. Always wear sturdy shoes and long sleeves, carry a water bottle when you are working as an event photographer outdoors.
Move the people into a shaded area, use fill flash or try to screen their faces. Make the most of the photo opportunities at the time, stay healthy and enjoy.
Camera equipment for outdoor photography
If you are looking to create a soft out of focus depth of field (blurry background) in bright outdoor light, try using a 3+ stop ND filter on your lens and take the aperture to it’s largest opening, ie, 3.5, 2.8 or lower to f1.8 if you have that option.
Lens selection is another bit of camera gear to study. If it is raining you will need a professional grade water resistant lens. Otherwise most F2.8 to F4 zoom lenses work well outdoors.
It is good to have in your kit a wide angle and a tele photo lens (long lens) if you are going to be far away from the main subject. Most shots will be great with modern kit zoom lens if you are just starting out.
We use all pro level Nikon lenses but for beginners in bright light you should be ok. Master your event photography with what you have.
Good composition can be achieved with any lens.