Group Headshots | On Location Headshots

3 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT OUTDOOR HEADSHOT SESSIONS

Occasionally clients request outdoor headshot sessions, and we are happy to do them, however there are a few things to consider when shooting outdoors that are a non issue in an indoor environment.  We go over a few of those below. 

Example headshot of a woman in yellow posing for an outdoor headshot with trees in the background.
Example of an outdoor headshot

1: Weather 

Weather is a factor but not a dealbreaker. Although it would seem that bad weather would put an end to plans for a days outdoor headshot session, this is not necessarily the case. In some cases this is true, for example, if you’re on a limited budget and you’d like dappled sun light in the trees behind you, and it’s an overcast day, we may have a problem. However if your goal is simply to capture nature in the background, an overcast day may work just fine — as the sun is in fact not always the photographers best friend. In fact, with exception to particular looks that call for visible sun, overcast days are what natural light photographers hope for. The sun creates very harsh shadows when shining directly on an object. The diffused light of an overcast day falls on an object in a much more pleasing way. In one of our typical outdoor headshot shoots this matters mostly for the background, not so much the subject, as we shoot almost all of our outdoor headshots using a combination of artificial and natural light. This typically means using controlled artificial light directly on the subject while allowing the natural ambience to fill the background. This gives us maximum control over how our subject is lit, while also allowing for a natural outdoor look. If the sun is out we will typically place the subject in a shaded area where the light is easier to control. So in essence we are actively working to stay out of the sun. There are two weather related factors that are much harder to deal with than sun.

Wind and Temperature: the two outdoor headshot killers. 

Wind is in fact a bigger issue for outdoor headshots than almost anything else. It’s the wind that blows hair out of place and likes to turn over light stands that are not well stabilized. Temperature issues are kind of self explanatory. Although extreme hot and cold can make a session unpleasant, unlike wind there are ways to control the effects to some degree. Although more of a factor than sunlight, wind and temperature can also be managed with proper planning. The ideal situation, but not a necessary one, is to have a covered area, sheltered from the effects of wind, that’s open to the outdoor ambience in back. 

2. Location

It’s been said that a location photograph is only as good as the location it’s been taken in. Although this can be debated there is a definite point to be taken . A few practical and creative things to take into consideration when thinking about locations for outdoor shoots are:

The Practical:

  • Is it logistically possible: A typical shoot on location includes supplemental artificial light, a place to hang your hat, and somewhere to place unused equipment. This is hard to do on a regular budget in the middle of midtown Atlanta. It’s not that it can’t be done. There are ways to travel and work light but this type of shoot takes some forethought and usually comes with an additional expense.  
  • Parking: Yes, parking.
  • Will the location be safe: I suppose it goes with out saying that the last thing you want to worry about when having your photo taken is safety.
  • Will there be regular disruptions: Unexpected interruptions  are always a possibly when shooting on location. These could come in the form of an unplanned event or by a member of the public that has little else to do that day. Proper planning can remove most if not all of these problems. 
  • Do we have proper permission:  There are some locations that you’ll need permission to access. Others are accessible but frown on impromptu photo shoots. In locations like these a good rule of thumb is if you place something on the ground you need permission. That means no setting up of lights or reflectors. Everything must be handheld and discreet as not to draw attention. 

The Creative:

  • What look are you going for: Are you inspired by the Terrence Malick-esqe soft glow of the golden hour? (early morning or early evening light) or a gritty urban overcast feel? Maybe you’d like a skyline or a busy city street in the background. Your choice of ambience is going to help create the overall feel of your image. Considering these things before the shoot helps us to plan around some of the above practical consideration to achieve the end goal. 
  • Wardrobe: Wardrobe and what’s referred to as production design are both factors that play heavily into determining the final look and feel of your final images. If you plan on several changes or hope to create an image with a particular color harmony, is your location going to provide for that?  

3. Flexibility 

Although flexibility may fall under one of the above categorizes we highlight it here because it’s typically one of the most important factors for our clients. This is especially true when dealing with large numbers. An outdoor headshot session is typically not going to allow for the same flexibility of an indoor session. An indoor session is more controlled in a lost every way. An indoor session can happen at almost any time of the day in any location that’s large enough. Obviously the weather is not a factor. And if shooting on site we can typically set up right in office or in very close proximity to the subjects’ work space. This means individuals in a hurry can get in and out faster. Because individuals are close by we can usually schedule them closer together allowing for an increase in subjects per hour if we are shooting large numbers. 

Conclusion: 

Although outdoor headshot sessions are definitely doable, make sure to take in to consideration some of the factors specific to this kind of headshot session. Weather is a factor but not always a reason to shy away from an outdoor shoot. Make sure to think about your location and if it helps convey the message you hope to convey in your image. Also make sure the location is practical for photography and using said location is possible within your budget. And remember that an outdoor headshot session is typically not as flexible as an indoor session. There are a lot of variables that come in to play shooting outdoors that are a non issue indoors. If you’re shooting in large numbers on site this is even more true. Please contact us with any questions.

Similar Posts