What Studio Photography Taught Me About Shooting On Location :: Digital Photo Secrets

What Studio Photography Taught Me About Shooting On Location

by David Peterson 2 comments

Studio photography and on-location photography. You would think the two have barely anything to do with one another. In the studio, everything is finely tuned and precisely controlled. Out there in the real world, all kinds of random events can turn a great photo shoot into a not-so-great one. With that said, my experience in the studio has done a lot to improve my on-location photography. Here are a few things you can learn.

The sun is one big studio lamp that moves

If you want to mess with your own mind, think of the Earth as if it’s one giant room, and the sun is a big light bulb illuminating it. The thought won’t come naturally to you on a stormy day, but it will make a strange sort of sense on a calm morning just after sunrise.

If the Earth were your studio, the sun would be your main lamp. It provides the majority of the light, but it also needs support from your other lighting equipment. You still need to illuminate the shaded areas of your subjects when you are taking portraits. Wherever the sun is shining, it needs a fill light on the other side.

Clouds are like gigantic diffusers and reflectors

Whenever its overcast, you’ve got yourself a prime setup for portrait photography. Why is that? The light from the sun gets bounced all over the clouds, and it practically surrounds your subject. It’s just like setting up a soft box with a bunch of diffusers and reflectors.

A lot of people get discouraged when the clouds come out, but the clouds actually inspire me. Overcast days are ideal for portrait photography, macro photography, or anything that requires soft light and zero shadows. If you’ve always wanted a studio quality photo taken outdoors, consider doing it on an overcast day.

Use overcast days to your advantage.
You usually don’t need to bring a fill light.

Create more light by making better use of what you have

You don’t need to have the most expensive equipment to get more light out of a shooting situation. Foldable reflectors and other things can give you a leg up when you need to eliminate shadows and illuminate your subject more completely. When your subject stands in front snow or water, you also get a little extra light. The more reflective, the more useful.

There are all kinds of natural reflectors out there. Keep your eye out for them, and you won’t need to bring as much studio equipment with you.

Everything is studio photography

It all depends on how much equipment you bring.

I like my studio because I have access to all of my tools. If I want to throw some extra light on one side of my subject, it’s as easy as getting out the beauty dish and turning on a light. You can get this level of control in the field, but it’s going to take a lot more preparation. You have to bring generators, light stands, and a whole host of other things. How much control you have depends on how much you’re willing to carry.

Whenever you do studio photography outdoors, there’s a tradeoff between control and mobility. The more you understand how nature affects a photo, the more you will be able to make the right decisions when it comes to carrying gear. It’s nice to keep a light pack while knowing you’ll still the same high quality images.

The outdoors are one big studio if you know how to get nature to play into your hands. I encourage you to make some observations the next time you’re out. Watch how the light changes throughout the course of the day, and think about what you’ll need to bring with you to compensate for it. That’s how you get good at shooting on location.

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  1. Ndiwalana khasim says:

    the best tip for beginners......i wish i started on it but my question is do Filters n polarizes work on portaiture photography and what types does best on them........thanks David fir this blog...i cant stop reading its articles n jst wish you share them on your facebook page

  2. Greg says:

    Hi David, You have really gave me new confidence in my freelance photography with all your free info. I will be ordering your book soon in hopes to try to make additional income from all your help you offer anyone with photography interest. I look so forward to reading your e-mails each night. I have the opportunity to set up a studio in the animal clinic where I work and if you have any info. on how-to books, please send me info. Thanx so much again for your support and interest in helping others.


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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.