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Six outdoor portrait tips from six photographers: The Photography Show Q&A

Six outdoor portrait tips from six photographers
(Image credit: Photo by Behzad Soleimanian on Unsplash)

A panel of six photographers answered your questions about outdoor portraits on the final day of The Photography Show: Spring Shoots. If you photograph outdoor people pictures and are looking for advice – but missed today’s live stream – here are six top tips from our panel of portrait pros. 

Of course, there's far more going on than what's on offer here. There's still time to register FREE for The Photography Show (opens in new tab) and check out the full programme (opens in new tab) of talks, demonstrations, conferences and the star-studded Super Stage speakers (opens in new tab). If you've missed out, you can catch up with plenty of talks on demand (opens in new tab).

• Read more: Watch LIVE demos from The Photography Show right here (opens in new tab)

Angela Nicholson hosted this livestream’s expert panel consisting of Mark Baber, Alexander Crane, Gavin Hoey, Jerry Martin, Chris Ord and Joe Swift. 

Six outdoor portrait tips

1. Safety first

Chris Ord: I think first and foremost one of the biggest factors in this is safety. It’s something I try and implore photographers to be careful with. We're carrying around thousands of pounds worth of gear most of the time, even if you’re shooting self-portraits, have someone with you if you can. 

2. Don’t discount the superzoom

Jerry Martin: I used to do wedding photography quite a bit and I tended to use a superzoom, partly because I didn’t have the budget at the time [to buy more lenses] but also because it gave me a range of options. It gives you the flexibility to move a little bit within [different] situations.

3. A single focal length can boost your creativity

Mark Baber: I try to take one lens with me and push myself to be creative with that. So for example, a 35mm f/1.8. It’s very, very small and I don’t need to take a bag [even] if it’s wet – I can probably just put the camera and lens in my coat pocket. 

4. 85mm is a good middle ground

Alexander Crane: I love having a lens that’s quite telephoto, so I use the 85mm, because I find it’s very versatile. Outdoors you have the ability to move back, so you don’t have to worry about getting right in someone’s face and I think that makes people more comfortable when you’re shooting them. But the 85mm is wide enough that if you do go back you can get a whole portrait of someone. I’m able to get those wider portraits and the ones that are close up with just one lens.

5. Go wide!

Gavin Hoey: I’ve paid good money or I’ve spent time and effort getting to a location. Why do I want to blur it out? I want to show the location, I want to have it in the frame. I actually love using wider lenses (Micro Four Thirds the Olympus system) the 7-14mm would be the equivalent of a 14-28mm on a full-frame. I love that lens for location portraits. It’s really wide, I can take in all of the location that I’ve paid good money for and create a portrait that’s environmental, that’s actually showing where I am.

6. Know your lights

Joe Swift: I think having the ability to use lights is key really. What happens if you have bad weather or you go recce a location on a Monday morning at 10:30, but you’re not using it until Friday afternoon at 6:30? Being able to pull [lighting equipment] out the bag and be able to make it look like it’s 8:30 in the morning, but it is 6:30 in the evening, you’ve got the capability to do that. 

Read more
The best lens for portraits (opens in new tab)
Watch Tim Flach’s Spring Shoots talk (opens in new tab)
10 portrait photographers you should follow (opens in new tab)

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Mike Harris
Technique Editor

Mike is Technique Editor for N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab), and brings with him over 10 years experience writing both freelance and for some of the biggest specialist publications. Prior to joining N-Photo Mike was the production editor for the content marketing team of Wex Photo Video, the UK’s largest online specialist photographic retailer, where he sharpened his skills in both the stills and videography spheres.  


While he’s an avid motorsport photographer, his skills extend to every genre of photography – making him one of Digital Camera World’s top tutors for techniques on cameras, lenses, tripods, filters and other imaging equipment, as well as sharing his expertise on shooting everything from portraits and landscapes to astracts and architecture to wildlife and, yes, fast things going around race tracks.