We were on location doing an indoor session when we decided to mix it up and go outside. We were in an enclosed backyard and had a smaller area to work in. I took a quick look around and decided on a section of the exterior wall that had some simple landscaping that broke up the empty wall and added some texture to the background. From a slightly different angle the background also had a pop of color that was really great! I tried using the available light, then I decided to bring out my studio lights to create some separation between my subject and the environment.
This is one of my test shots that shows the area that we were working in.
Carly and I had talked about her wardrobe. It was already fall and the weather was changing, so a sweater shirt was a good choice. Carly had a great fedora hat that was playful and added a really cute look that fit Carly's personality, so of course, it was in.
We walked out onto the patio and I quickly scanned the environment and I picked out the exterior wall with some landscaping that I thought would look great as a background. The colors matched the tones of Carly's wardrobe and I was sure the overall image would look great. I set up the light, made some adjustments and started giving some basic posing instructions to Carly.
Carly's natural smile made it easy to get some great headshots, and the added colors in background were still in the frame to add some interest to the image.
I had Carly stand up and used the wall for her to lean against. The standing position gave some length to her body and added the open body language.
I asked Carly to move into the lawn chair for some variety. The chair gave some other options for posing and like before, the colors added some interest to the composition. The green added some separation from the background and created some nice color balance to the overall image. Again Carly had great presence in front of the camera.
We had 1 location, and Carly moved a total of about 5 feet. Our location didn't have a waterfall or an orchard of flowering trees, or some other somewhat predictable background. Not that having those things in a portrait is a bad thing, but it isn't necessary. The portrait is, first and foremost, about the person in front of the camera. The rest of the scene can be simple: a bit of color, some contrast, or it can even be a completely blurred background.
I like to keep things simple and usually use a studio background or some type of wall for portraits. When I shoot outdoors, the little details from the environment are a great added touch and can add visual interest to the portrait. It's a simple but important element that can tie everything together for great results. Even if you're just using your smartphone, move your subject away from the background, keep the background simple and uncomplicated, and use a shallow depth of field. You'll love the results!