My Top 4 Simple Tips for Simply Beautiful Outdoor Portraits | Atlanta Family Photographer

Top Tips For Great Outdoor Portraits

I thought you all might enjoy a few tips that I have learned through trial and error to help your outdoor photos be the best they can be! :)  Of these first two, I am not sure which one should be first as they are both critical elements of good portraiture so, they are both #1. :)


Tip 1:  Light.  Light.  Light. 


Blond haired 12 year old girls outside with sunlight highlighting her hair as she grins at the camera. Michigan-July 16 16-168outdoor portrait and headshot photography, k boyer photography, duwnoody headshot photographer, atlanta children's photographer, brookhaven family photographer, Kristin Boyer, K. Boyer Photography, Atlanta Children's Photographer, As George Eastman, the founder of Kodak said, “Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography."


The most important consideration in portrait photography is the lighting.  The best and easiest light to work with is natural light.  However, avoid bright sunlight!  Overcast days are the BEST as the clouds are natures own softbox!    Natural light, softboxes, on camera flash or off camera flash... it is all critical to know as you move forward with photography. 


  • Early Morning or Late Afternoon.  So, on bright sunny, summer days, try to shoot early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the harsh noon glare.  Also, look for open or closed  shade within a few hours of sunrise or sunset. 
  •  Closed shade is normally found under an overhang or under a tree. Open shade is when a building or something large is blocking the sun. If you look up and see the sky, you are in open shade. If you can’t see the sky, you’re in closed shade. How does this help us? This will light our subject evenly without harsh shadows on their face
  • Direct sunlight is harsh, makes your subject squint, and creates hard directional shadows and unpredictable white balance conditions. When shooting in the shade, there are no more harsh shadows, only smooth milky shadows created by your subject’s natural features. With proper exposure and white balance, you can make these shots look amazing.

4 siblings posing for outdoor family photos on the 4th of July weekend in Lake Arrowhead GA under a picnic pavillion.  A set of twin boys, one oldest brother and the youngest little girl sitting on a brick wall outside. Kristin Boyer Hunter 07 16 22139-EditLake Arrowhead, GA photo shoot on 4th of July weekend. Three boys posing with their little sister for family portraits. Atlanta GA Family Photographer, North Atlanta Children's Photographer, Lake Arrowhead Photographer


This image was shot on July 3rd in the heat of the day... it was a very bright sunny day and not a cloud in the sky.  Great if you are on the lake or swimming at the beach but not great if you are shooting family portraits!!  I had to work hard to find closed shade in order to avoid harsh shadows and washing people out. 




 Tip 2: Focus on the EYES. 


strawberry blond, blue 6 month old baby girl on her tummy with a white blanket over her shoulders6 month old baby girl with big blue eyes6 month old baby girl lying on a white bed with big blue eyes and a perfect face. Dunwoody Children's Photographer, Brookhaven Family Photographer, Atlanta GA Children's Photographer, Kristin Boyer, K. Boyer Photography, Atlanta Children's Photographer,

Beautifully focused eyes grab your attention and keep it there.  They should be tack sharp.  They eyes are everything and you should always focus on the eyes.  We have all heard it... they are the windows to the soul and it is TRUE.    Eyes look best when they are well lit and you can see the beautiful catch lights. (The catch lights are the reflection of a light source in the eyes, for example, a flash or a reflection from the sun.) The size, shape, and brightness of your catch lights depend on the light source you use.







Tip 3:  Remove distracting backgrounds


When taking a portrait, look for distracting elements in the background. Sometimes you just need to move a few inches in either direction or use the subject to block it out.

  • Check to make sure there are not peoples or trees sticking out of peoples heads ... this never looks good!  
  • Check your frame for unsightly images such as trash cans, telephone poles or signage etc. 
  • Shoot wide open and focus on the subject and the background will be nice and blurry which will make your image pop. 

    Red haired 8 year old girl laughing during an out door portrait sessionChildren's Photogpher Kristin BoyerDunwoody GA Children's portrait photographer, Atlanta Family Photographer, Outdoor portraits, Atlanta GA, Kristin Boyer, K. Boyer Photography

  High School teenage boy sitting outside during portrait session in front of bushes and a lakeTeen boy outdoor portrait photographyDunwoody Portrait photographer, Atlanta Children's Photographer, Dunwoody Senior portraits, Atlanta Senior portrait photographer,


12 year old boy wearing a blue ball cap, blue eyese, blue shirt and a blurry background.  Shot wide open.Michigan-July 18 16-182Atlanta School Portrait Photographer, Dunwoody Children's Photography, Brookhaven Family Photography





In each of the above images, the subjects were outside with a wide variety of backgrounds,  a school, a busy marina, a park.  In each instance, if you shoot wide open, the background takes on a creamy, simple and clean background and removes distractions.   The young man on the upper left side was photographed at a busy marina with lots of bright light in the middle of the day.  We found open shade and a simple background to minimize distractions and help focus the attention on this good looking high school student!




 Tip 4: Fill the frame

Headshot of 12 year old girl with face filling the frame.  Outdoor photo in the winter with a hat on.Headshot Kristin Boyer K. Boyer Photographyfilling the frame with a persons face (12 year old girl) in a winter hat. Kristin Boyer Family and children's photographer, Atlanta children's photographer, Dunwoody Children's photographer,



When taking a portrait, zoom in tight on the subject – making them the sole focus of the photo. If you don’t have a zoom lens, move closer to your subject.   I LOVE taking close up photos of faces and filling the frame.  These are the people we love and you can see so much character in facial photos... Here are some ideas to help you "fill the frame". 

  • Most camera's have a zoom lens... use it!  Get in and capture the details, the expressions, the petals of a flower...


  • Use your legs!!  You have your own zoom!!  Position yourself to be up close and personal


  • Crop your Shots If you can't do either of the above, you can always crop your images on your computer HOWEVER... a word of caution because cropping shots later means if you want a large image that you’ll find that it becomes more pixelated. This is a good option if you’re just trimming shots but any major cropping will result in a loss of quality of your image.  Do you ever get a message from your printer that the quality is not ok for printing?  This is why! 




brown labradoodle puppy portrait close up with big brown eyes and pink tongue.Labra doodle puppyFilling the frame with a brown labra doodle puppy Animal portraits, Atlanta Animal photographer, Even Pet portraits should follow these guidelines so the images come out beautifully! 


I zoomed in on the dog's face and focused on the eyes


As always, if you ever want to talk shop, I'd love to chat!!  Call me at 770-722-9045 or email me at [email protected]





Thank you for stopping by my blog, I would love it if you left a comment and let me know you were here! You can see more of my family work by clicking on my Family Portfolio. Are you looking for a Atlanta GA Photographer? Brookhaven, Chamblee, Roswell or Sandy Springs?  I would love to meet your family and capture your memories. To book a session, contact me via e-mail at [email protected], or call me at 770-722-9045. I look forward to meeting you!

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Kristin Boyer
Atlanta Family & Children's Photographer





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