It doesn’t matter if your photo shoot subject is a high school senior, a fashion model, or a table setting; light is your most important element.
“Success of a location isn’t shooting in beautiful light, it’s making the light work at the time you need it,” said Michael Voltattorni, a fashion photographer based in Chicago. With over 20 years in the photography industry, Voltattorni has shot on location for many advertising clients and fashion companies.
“Early and late in the day is when I plan the big shots,” Voltattorni added. “I take advantage of bigger backgrounds in the morning when the light is my favorite and the models’ makeup is freshest. In the middle of the day, I try to shoot more controlled and tight shots because the light is highest and hard. Toward the end of the day, I shoot things that look best in the golden evening light. It’s all about how you maximize your time with the light.”
When scouting areas for an outdoor photo shoot, take the time to consider how the light will change throughout the day as the sun shifts.
Take photos to document how various areas are naturally lit while you’re scouting. Based on those, you can predict how the light will change during the day of your shoot. It’s good to know if the light will turn more harsh overhead or become blocked by tree coverage or tall buildings.
Later you can use these images as reference points to create the order of your shots for the day, using the changing light as a basis. Many photographers that I work with will use apps like Sun Seeker to plan the order of their shoot day down to the hour.
For more information on understanding how light influences outdoor shots, you should explore Barry O Carroll’s article ‘An Introduction to Light in Outdoor Photography’ published in June.
2. Plan Your Outdoor Photo Shoot Equipment Kit
Moving from your studio to the outdoors means that you have to be flexible. You’re leaving behind the ability to access all of your equipment, grip, and electricity. While you’re walking through the location, begin to plan the photo shoot equipment that you’ll need to bring for the specific location.
If there are tall buildings or dense trees, you will need to bring reflectors. If there are open spaces with cement, you’ll need scrims to flag. Let the location guide what specific tools and equipment you’ll need to bring to get the most out of your time shooting there.