MAY 2024

“Finding The Perfect Location For Your Photo Session”

Hello Ladies & Gentlemen:

Over a period of time, you are most likely going to frequent several areas in your city or community that you may find interesting for photo sessions. I always ask myself what made me want to stop here and create imagery and analyze this before anything else. Initially, areas that looked promising may have concerns when you take the necessary time to evaluate them to a further degree. I would like to share with you some advice on what to look for when electing to photograph people in outdoor environments particularly.

A good habit of getting into would be to bring your camera with the lens you will be using to the actual area you are considering making pictures in. This gives you the opportunity of previewing the scene prior to your photo event and will provide you with information as to perhaps changing lenses if need be to create a different effect which you may have overlooked initially. For imagery of individuals or couples, I always place a telephoto lens on my camera of approximately 150-250mm and set the aperture to a very wide opening….say F4 or F5.6 for example. These aperture settings will create an out of focus background directing attention to your subjects. Should you feel that the background is an important addition to your imagery, then altering the lens aperture to F16, F22 or small-(F32) will help clarify the background so both your subjects and background will appear in focus. I should mention here that there is a term in photography called “acceptable sharpness”. Using the before mentioned example of you wanting the background to be in better focus, this term means that closing down your camera aperture to F22, F32 will help to enhance the overall clarity of your image, particularly behind your subject, but it will not create the same level of sharpness as that of your subjects. If you have a depth of field preview button on your camera “which I highly recommend”, I would encourage you to depress it while looking through your viewfinder to see how the background will become clearer when stopping down your lens to F16, F22, F32 as opposed to F5.6 for example.

The first and I believe to be the most important item to address when on location is the quality of light and it’s direction. Particularly, it’s direction. When photographing outdoors on a clear day, the suns brightness and angle must be taken into consideration. In my photography, I always place people so their backs are facing the sun. This way, their faces will appear much more natural when facing the camera without squinting eyes or frowns to deal with. I use a supplemental fill flash to add light to their faces which opens up any shadowed areas around eyes that may be present.

Your background must be selected to compliment your image with as few distractions as possible. I frequently select pieces of background areas as opposed to wide vistas and look for medium toned areas which will add contrast to the image. Using medium toned backgrounds such as green leaves/trees, brown tree trunks, will assure you that your subjects will stand out well. Light toned backgrounds will often become quite a distraction to viewers  because their eyes will be directed to the background itself more than your actual subject if your not careful. Our eyes are always following the brightest areas in your imagery so design your photographs with care.

Circles of confusion is another topic in visual design I will address briefly here, and basically what this means is this: when using wide aperture settings, circular, specular highlights in the background will become larger when your camera is set with a wide aperture say F4 for instance. These bright areas can become “annoying hot spots” in the background and do not compliment your overall image unless careful attention to them is dealt with initially. A student of mine was photographing family members near a lake at his cottage and was very surprised to see how large the suns reflection on the water in behind his subjects appeared when using an aperture of F5.6.  The answer to this situation is to either close down your lens to a very small aperture such as F32 or find an alternate background with less distractions. 

Always let your eyes travel to all sides of your viewfinder when composing to ensure clean, well orchestrated non distracting imagery.

“Good Luck”  with this and it will be my pleasure to meet up with you next month!  🙂

Jeff Ryan Photography/Ryan Studio Ottawa






Next post: