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Outdoor portraits

Image of the February 2019 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
February 2019 Issue

How to photograph people doing what they love

People are as important as amazing landscapes when it comes to capturing the tale of your adventure. The following tips will help you engage your subjects and tell their tale.

Get up close and personal
A successful outdoor portrait puts the focus on people. Make sure to get close enough to your subject to see their expression. It’s all about capturing the sparkle in their eye, whether they are looking at the camera or not.

Aim for the shot after
Most of us feel a little forlorn in front of a camera. Engage your subject in conversation and distract them with self-deprecating humour. Take advantage of the fact that people go back to being themselves when they think you are finished. It’s often this shot-after-the-shot that is a keeper.

A is for ‘activity’
While a portrait can be just about the person, a bit of context never hurts. Relevant action like cooking or pitching a tent furthers your story’s narrative.

Shoot wide open
Open up your lens aperture as much as possible (small f-numbers like f1.2 or f2.0). This will throw the background out of focus and create a dreamy look that draws attention from environment to subject.

The Breakdown
My subject was pitching her tent on a sunny day in the mountains. After capturing a few shots of the wider environment, I went in for the kill. I opened up my aperture to throw the background out of focus, then made sure to focus on her face. Making jokes about her tent pitching skills, I snapped away until she looked right at me with a smile on her face. Having a corner of the tent in the frame helps to tell the story of camping in the mountains.

– Dennis is a commercial photographer and teaches photography at here.