Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Planning and preparation are important in any portrait session, but when we do an outdoor session the most important aspect is Not compromising on lighting. I want perfect natural light with backlighting to bring out the colors-especially in the fall.

Part of the planning was scouting a new location (Eagle Island State Park here in Eagle, ID) where we could take people with their horses and have parking nearby. We have had avid horse enthusiasts suggest these “great locations” only to find that you could only access them with a horse miles into the back country! Since we don’t have horses we need our location to be accessible at least by 4x4 to bring in our camera gear (and back-ups), gobos, scrims, tripod and at least one ladder. 

We had already cancelled this gals photo session TWICE because of fully overcast sky (remember NO compromise!). I will not do an outdoor portrait session under an overcast sky as that kind of gray day just mutes all the colors—you have NO backlight—so you get no separation between the subject and the background. In addition the overcast sky creates a top light that promotes “raccoon eyes” giving people dark eye sockets. I want my backgrounds to be ALIVE with color—overcast sky creates DEAD backgrounds.

This session was going to be challenging since this gal was bringing TWO horses and wanted to do three or four clothes changes. She needed some official images done in her FFA (Future Farmers of America) clothes, showing the logos followed by casual clothes and then individuals without her horses.

This first image shows why I don’t compromise on the lighting…
f5.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400 Lens @ 200mm
Here we have terrific directional rim lighting on both horses while we have soft sky light on her face, because the horse behind her is acting as my gobo—blocking the direct sunlight that was hitting her face on one side.

I must add that the reason these horses look so good (aside from the lighting) is that their ears are perfectly erect—a must have in equine portraits—due to the experienced assistance of this young lady’s mother and sister who were always behind me with their noise makers (like the effective rocks in a box) when I needed the horses at attention!

Close in photos are great, but I always want a master pictorial or scenic image that is more appropriate as a large wall portrait when we do horse sessions. Our goal is to put photographic prints on people’s walls that can be viewed as art.

f8.0 @ 1/1000 sec., ISO 400; lens @ 125mm
Directional light, fall colors, that old leaning out building and all the subjects looking in the same direction—it’s a miracle! No, mom and sister were doing their thing with those noise makers! 

I always try for some images of people walking their steeds as well…

f5.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400; lens @ 200mm
In Part 2 I’ll show her closer-up individual portraits with clothes changes…

’Til next week…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

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