Summer tends to be the least busy season for outdoor portraits, and I’ll give you one guess why… Well, duh- it’s so stinkin’ hot outside! I remember a few outdoor sessions that actually had to be rescheduled due to the excessive heat! I’m totally ok with having a slow summer season as I prefer to keep cool as well-but I’m not the one in front of the camera! It’s hard to look your best when your make-up is sweating off and you have to worry about sweat stains in your pits!
That being said, I figured that my slow time is a good chance to take you on a little behind the scenes tour of what I bring to an on-location photo shoot & why! Why would I tell you all about my secret weapons? Pffft-because there’s really no secret to it!
I do have an in-home studio available, but that is mostly for newborns and babies up to a year old. I also have room to do a few family photos as part of these sessions, but for my family, maternity and children’s portraits I really prefer to get creative outdoors. It depends on what the client wants (rustic, water, greenery, field, etc) but I typically choose a location that is convenient for you and me.
When shooting on location I typically have my assistant with me (AKA my husband Arlo). He helps with lighting and loading equipment and occasionally engages the husband about football (he even occasionally finds another Dolphins fan!). Sometimes he can be my secret weapon-as dad is typically the person who wants nothing to do with family portraits. No joke! It’s usually on his day off, and dressing up and posing out in a public place does not sound like fun to most guys. If he likes football, I’m pretty sure my husband can get him to smile long enough for a few pictures.
So, besides me, my husband & my camera (that’s a given), let’s get in to my bag of photography tricks. In my camera backpack I tend to bring 2-3 different size lenses to each session, although I may only use one of the lenses the entire time. It really depends on several factors:
- How many people I am photographing.
- The surroundings/location.
- What type of a feel do we want for the session.
I may want my zoom lens so that I can be quite a distance from the subjects so they can interact and I can capture some candids. Or, I may want to be closer to them in order to give directions or for safety reasons. It all depends. I also bring everything I need to clean & care for my camera & lenses all within the backpack. You will also see me using a funny contraption that I use each time we move around the location. I use this to adjust the white balance in camera in order to keep your white shirt looking white & not blue or green. The reason I may do this multiple times during a session is because the lighting can change due to the sun or any number of circumstances. I also keep plenty of extra memory cards & batteries in my backpack just in case.
Most shoots where I have an assistant, we will also bring my off camera flash/lighting set up. Some may wonder why I would bring lighting for an outdoor session where the sun is bright-it would appear that there is plenty of light. Well, for your eyes, that is true. But for the camera, your face could be the darkest part of the picture because sun creates shadows. Even your hair or your nose can create a very unflattering shadow on your face. So I bring lighting (with a diffuser) to give my subjects what is called fill light. This fills the darkness that shadows can bring and the diffuser helps to soften that light so that it also doesn’t create more harsh shadows. Depending on the size of the group, I may bring 1-2 light stands with lighting. The larger the group, the more fill light we need.
In addition I would also bring any props that we might use during the session. This could be a chair, step stool, apple box, blanket, toys, or any number of creative items to enhance your images. I also encourage clients to bring anything special that they may want to include in their photos. Occasionally we may also bring things like an umbrella if the weather is questionable.
I know-so much stuff just to take a few pictures! Well, that’s why you hired me-so you wouldn’t have to worry about all of this. This is also one of the many reasons why professional portraits are more expensive then just paying someone with a camera to take your pictures. We want your experience to be fun and your memories to be preserved in an amazing way. It takes a lot of time, equipment, love & care to accomplish this. I hope that you enjoyed this little sneak peek behind the scenes view of what goes into the production of an outdoor photo session. Now it’s time to come out and see it for yourself!