Human beings are perhaps the best photography subject in the world. Nowhere else will you find such a rich diversity of faces, body shapes, colors, and intrigue. Shooting outdoors with your models can be a fantastic way to do your subject justice.
Trouble is, it doesn’t take long before the well of inspiration starts to run dry. On this page, we’ll explore some outdoor photo shoot ideas for models. They’re designed to spark your creativity and get you taking photos with impact!
We’ll discuss setting, ideas for props, and some general tips that will help elevate your results.
Many of these tips also apply to other areas of photography, but they’re especially salient for portrait work. If you nail the elements we discuss below, you’ll be well on your way to success.
Good lighting is the bedrock of practically all photography. When shooting outdoors with models, you’ll have to rely almost exclusively on natural light. Take advantage of reflectors that can help you direct sunlight to where you need it to be.
The time of day you choose for shooting is also pretty important. If you haven’t heard of the ‘golden hour’ in photography before, it’s worth looking into. It’s the time in the day that provides the most warm, soft sunlight for easy shooting.
Yes, it sounds obvious, but trust us – it’s easy to overlook. The last thing you want to do is invite your models to a shoot when it’s pouring it down! It’s a good idea to check the forecast for your chosen shoot a week in advance, then the night before, and then the morning of.
Better safe than sorry!
Once you’ve got an idea of the type of weather you’ll be working with, it’s time to plan accordingly. Are your models going to be comfortable? Will there be snow, crisp fall leaves, or other seasonal elements that you can incorporate into your shoot?
Working with your circumstances can yield much better results than working against them.
A bad worker blames their tools, but good photos need the right gear! Make sure you’ve got a decent tripod for outdoor shooting and a reasonable camera and lens kit too.
Enough talk – let’s get into it! The ideas in this section are all about the location you choose for your shoots. The people you’re working with should always pull focus in portraiture, but the surroundings you choose for them can make all the difference!
Are you near iconic landmarks in your city? Are you within driving distance of a skyline that’s instantly recognizable? Cityscapes can lend some much-needed flair to your shoots. Well-known landmarks also provide familiarity for your work.
It’s worth taking the time to consider your city’s shooting environments in detail. Try to identify shapes, spaces, and colors that inspire you. How can you frame your model using the landmarks in your city? Can you direct the viewer’s gaze by instructing your model to look at key focal point in your scene?
Pick outfits and poses for your models that fit the character of your chosen city.
Take your city backdrops to the next level – literally. If you have access to a rooftop for your shoots, it’s definitely worth using the views as a backdrop. This can be a great opportunity to experiment with bokeh and focusing tricks too.
Think about how much of your rooftop view you’d like to have in focus in your final pics. If you have an extending tripod and a wide enough lens, you can get really creative here. Images that include your model, your rooftop, and a glorious city skyline are tough to beat!
Looking for less hustle and bustle? An open field can provide a soothing, eye-catching canvas for portrait work. This is especially true through the spring and summer months when foliage and natural light will be abundant.
Make sure you have the land owner’s permission before accidentally trespassing where you shouldn’t be. Certain crops can be a great framing device for your models. Experiment with your available foliage and pay attention to what draws focus to the person you’re shooting.
If plant life and nature are more your style, botanical gardens can be a great option. Many locations even offer free admission at certain days of the week. As with any other shoot, take the time to find the right spots for your models to work in.
You may find that different areas work best for different people. It’s worth finding at least 2 or 3 spots in advance so you’ve got the option to switch things up on the day. Choose outfits for your models that fit the color palette of the gardens you’ve chosen.
Let’s hop back to cities for a moment. If you’re looking for a great portrait photography challenge that can really pay off if you get it right, try isolating your model against a sea of passers-by. If you’ve got a lens that can handle a blurred background like this, try it out next time you’re working in a busy city.
Remember that you’ll probably have to experiment with settings like shutter speed and ISO to get things just right. With a bit of patience, though, it’s worth it in our opinion.
When it comes to framing your models with harsh lines and imposing shapes, brutalist architecture is your best friend. Some well-known examples include the Barbican Centre in London or 33 Thomas Street in New York.
This kind of architecture is great for shoots where you want to lean into the urban, concrete aesthetic that some cities can force on you.
Speaking of embracing the city aesthetic, why not find some awesome graffiti to use for your next outdoor photo shoot? There’s a ton of variety on offer here if you know where to look. If you’re lucky, you can find color palettes and designs that really elevate your work.
Just make sure the artwork doesn’t outshine the people you’re shooting! Play around with the color temperature and framing of your photos to get things just right.
Your shooting environment is just half the story – the people you’re working with are just as important. This section is for those times where you’re feeling uninspired by your usual portrait routine. We’ve included a ton of tips and ideas for how to spice things up with your models.
We’re talking props, poses, and more. The more time you have to experiment with ideas like these, the better. Breaking from your usual routine can slow you down at first, but it can breathe creativity into your work in wonderful ways! Read on to learn more.
Struggling to fit your outdoor scene into frame? Looking to try something different for your portraits? A well-placed mirror might be exactly what you’re looking for. Remember that certain angles might put you in the shot!
Play around with mirror placement and you’ll find some incredible shots in no time.
A bike is an excellent prop to give your models for outdoor shoots. There’s a real sense of exploration and adventure that comes with a choice like this if you execute it well. A bike will be especially appropriate in fields and similar scenes with attractive, meandering paths.
If you want to go the extra mile, try to source a bike that matches or stands out from the rest of your scene. Think bright colors or complimentary paint styles.
A big part of good portrait photography is storytelling. Props like an iconic book can influence the way that viewers understand your final photos. If your chosen scene works with this kind of prop, try it out next time you’re shooting.
Experiment with different poses and actions for your models here too. Are they lying back and holding the book up to read? Quietly leaning against a tree? Think about the kind of story you’d like to tell and choose poses that match.
If your models have extra talents, don’t be afraid to use them! Some of the most memorable portraits involve models in spectacular poses. Ballerinas can be particularly valuable for this kind of shoot. While you’re outside, see if you can take advantage of what’s available?
Braver models could climb or hang from trees, for example.
This next one should be done with care and respect for the environment. If you’re in a space with plenty of flowers and pretty foliage, why not make use of it for your shoot? Plants can be carefully attached to existing headdresses or other pieces of clothing.
If you’re feeling extra cautious, your models could gently lie down in a sunny field to surround themselves with beautiful petals.
Shadows are a great way to add intrigue to an otherwise flat or uninspired shoot. While working outdoors, look for natural elements you can use to your advantage. The shadows of a tree branch across the face of your model, for example, could be exactly what your image needs.
Remember that every model is different and should be given equal attention when setting up your shoot. Some shadowy environments might be perfect for one person and too distracting for others. Approach the work on a case by case basis.
One of the amazing things about doing photo shoots outdoors is the number of gorgeous scene elements you’ll have at your disposal. The sweeping, natural sky is just one of these tools you’ll have available. Experiment with how much of the sky you include in your photos.
Don’t be afraid to try out crazy angles when working. This kind of approach can prove especially valuable during sunrises and sunsets. The rich, vibrant colors that come with this time of day can elevate your work from passable to stunning.
We hope you’ve found the suggestions above helpful. If you’re brand-new to taking photos of other people, you might find the tips below helpful. Working with models can be rewarding work, but it’s important to get things right.
One of the most amazing things about working with human faces is how much variety you’re likely to encounter. Keep in mind, however, that this diversity can be something of a double-edged sword.
Don’t assume that one lighting environment or framing that works for your first model will be just as effective with someone else. You’ll probably have to tweak your approach to best suit the specific person you’re working with each time.
This one will of course depend on your budget, but try to find wardrobe choices that work well with your shooting environments. This is where checking the weather and season before shooting can come in handy.
Think warm fall colors during November, bright pastels in summer, and so on. You’ll soon learn what works best for your approach as you gain more experience over time.
This is a big one that many newcomers overlook and is especially relevant when working outdoors. The comfort of your models is super important and can quickly impact your work if you’re not careful.
Make sure you’ve got a way for people to warm themselves up during colder months or get ready in between shoots. The happier your models are, the easier it will be to create incredible photos with them.
We hope you’ve found the suggestions on this page helpful. Remember that they’re designed as jumping-off points. Feel free to get creative and see what new approaches you can discover!