Female headshot in sunny courtyard

How to take an outdoor headshot

I’m writing this as the sun is shining here in Bromley! And you may think what better time to get a nice new headshot outside, right?

Hold on before rushing out to the nearest park. Sunny days can be challenging for portrait photography, so here are some do’s and don’ts!

#1 Tip for outdoor headshots… don’t stand in the sun!

Tempting as it may be to stand in a nice sunny spot, direct sunlight on the face causes harsh shadows (and will no doubt make you squint too). If you stand in the shade, the light falling on your face will be softer. On the edge of a shady spot is best, where it’s still nice and bright but out of those harsh rays.

#2 Tip for outdoor headshots… don’t blend in

Take a minute to think about the background. 
Make sure it’s not too busy with contrasting colours etc. otherwise it may be distracting in your photo. The headshot should be all about you, so make sure what you wear contrasts (not clashes!) with the background and you don’t blend in.
Try not to stand too close to the background. Leaving some distance will help you to stand out against a slightly out of focus background. Either use a wide aperture on your camera to reduce depth of field, or try portrait mode on a phone camera (be careful with this though as it can sometimes look unnaturally blurry).

#3 Tip for outdoor headshots… use a reflector

Don’t worry, I’m not planning to get all techy on you – this is a simple thing that will make a lot of difference. A reflector basically does what it says on the tin – it reflects light. 
When you’re outdoors all of the light is coming from above, so it’s useful to be able to bounce some of that back up onto your face. And all you need is a piece of white card.
Hold it in front of you at waist height or higher (as long as it’s out of shot of course) at about 45 degrees from your body. This will redirect some of the light coming from above onto your face and help reduce dark areas under the chin, nose and eyes.  If you don’t have any white card, tin foil wrapped around something flat will do the job.

And finally, for a creative headshot…

Try early morning or just before sunset when the sun is lower in the sky. This is known as the golden hour because the light is softer and redder than when the sun is high in the sky and can create a nice warm feel to a headshot.
And of course you can apply all of the above to any outdoor portraits not just headshots!

If you’d rather leave your headshots to a professional, you can check out how I can help here.

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