outdoor headshot tips | Portland, Oregon

outdoor headshot tips for professionals and wellness advocates, men in natural setting. Sellwood Riverfront Park, Portland Oregon and Lake Oswego

Outdoor Headshot Tips | Portland Oregon Photographer

As a Portland photographer, working with so many health and wellness specialists and other professionals, I get a lot of requests for outdoor headshots. Professionals who request outdoor sessions choose so for many reasons… they often want to have a softer, more natural look, to speak more of what they do as a profession, or they simply connect with outdoor environments.

Here are some outdoor headshot tips and helpful things to know about an environmental session.

1. Shade and clouds are good. Contrary to what many people believe, direct sunlight is not optimal for your professional portraits. It creates harsh shadows and highlights facial oils and often blows out whites and light colors. In addition, it may cause squinting, sweating and uncomfortable warmth. It’s important to choose a location that can provide shade if it’s a sunny day. A cloudy day or shady spot are perfect to create soft diffused light and to keep you from overheating during your outdoor portrait session.

2. Avoid lush green areas on bright sunny days. Although you may love the look so indicative of the Pacific Northwest, areas with lots of green can cause what’s called color contamination. For instance, if you’re on a green grassy lawn, the sun can bounce off the lawn and reflect green up onto your face, causing unpleasant coloring in your portrait. This goes for any strong color on a bright day. Again, it’s best to stick to shady areas and cloudy days to avoid unwanted color reflections.

3. Create a feel. Although headshot images typically show very little of the background, it’s still important that you take your setting into consideration. The specific background location is relatively irrelevant, as anything in the background will be mostly blurred, but the general feel will make a difference. For instance, you may be able to tell through color and texture as to weather you are in an urban setting versus a natural setting. Choosing a specific natural or urban setting should be unimportant, however, the overall feel will be effected. For instance, you may be a realtor in the city, specializing in urban residential condos. Consider a location in a condo courtyard. You may be able to make the blur of a concrete walkway and some greenery of shrubs. If you’re into upper city corporate real estate, you may want to have a modern city building in the backdrop. You won’t be able to tell which building it is, but you’ll have the slate color of the building, perhaps with some blurred window patterns. The background will be a tiny fraction of the building, but it will still create a feel. If you are a natural health practitioner, you may want to choose a more natural setting with a plant background. Again, the specific location is irrelevant, but you will get blurred colors and textures of greenery, water, or neutral grasses.

beautiful girl natural light headshot with red lipstick and wind blown hair from saint marks academy Portland, Oregon

4. Color. When choosing your setting, keep color as a major factor of consideration. Backgrounds for headshots are typically blurred out and you won’t necessarily be able to tell what’s there… but you will definitely be able to see color. I recommend sticking with minimal color so as not to distract from your face. I also recommend sticking with subtle neutrals that won’t clash with branding colors and potential colors in marketing materials. Greys and tans are nice and soft. Keep your branding in consideration and discuss these things with your photographer to give him/her insight into what will work best for you.

5. Choose a wall. Some of the best outdoor headshots are created by using a simple wall as a backdrop. Walls are great because they provided colors and shades, often with color variants and textures, while not distracting from your face.

6. Trust your photographer. Although keeping these things in consideration when updating your headshots, it’s important to relay these ideas to your photographer, and then let him/her do their job. There are unlimited options for location, but ultimately, your photographer is a professional and, if you’ve chosen your photographer wisely, they will do a great job to create a good look to suit your business. It’s important not to get too picky when choosing an outdoor headshot location, as the background is (should be) a very small aspect of your image. The main focus should be on your face and background should be secondary. I get clients requesting to have their headshots in a special meaningful location to them, but in the headshots, the background is a small patch of blurr and viewers can’t tell where they are. In the end, we went to a whole lot of trouble to make the session happen in a specific location, and resulted in an image that could have been taken in the tiniest patch of any city corner or park. Once you choose the basic setting feel… urban or natural… and color scheme… the most important factors are lighting and avoiding distraction from your face… session location matters very little.

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