Portrait Tips for Proms, Grads, and Weddings

If you have a special event on the horizon, such as a prom, graduation ceremony, or wedding, you may want to brush up on your outdoor portrait technique. Here are a few tips to help you capture the beauty of the moment.

outdoor-couples-shot-2.jpg "Ready for the Prom" by Derrick Story. Olympus OM-D E-M10, 14-42mm lens, fill flash.

  • Use fill flash. Whether you're shooting with a compact camera, mirrorless, or DSLR, fill flash adds a twinkle to the eyes and smooths out contours on the face.
  • Learn flash exposure compensation. Every camera has it, and by accessing this control, you can dial down the intensity of the flash for more natural looking portraits.
  • Position the camera even, or slightly below, the eye level of your subjects. This becomes easier when your camera has a tilting LCD screen. Tripods are also excellent aids in maintaining a good camera position.
  • Practice before the event. Chances are that you will only have a minute or two to get the shot at the event. People like photographers who work quickly. Practicing ahead of time facilitates speed during the actual shoot.
  • Remind the subjects to look directly at the camera lens, not at you. For these types of portraits, eye contact with the camera often produces the most engaging results.
  • Watch your background. Choose an area free of distracting elements such as power lines, white fences, and reflecting cars.
  • Add a fun shot to the mix. Yes, you need to capture the straight portrait. But once you have that, add a fun shot too. This is the bonus picture that's often used for Facebook and Instagram. And the subjects just love having it.
  • fun-group-shot-2.jpg

  • Warm up the white balance. Overcast days and shady locations can lead to cool skin tones, which aren't very flattering - not to mention that the flash itself is a cool light. You can offset these effects by changing your white balance setting to cloudy. It will help warm up those skin tones.
  • Fine tune the best shots in post production. Simple adjustments such as white balance, fill light, and vignette, make a big improvement with the final image.

If possible, get the images to the subjects the next day. That way they can enjoy them while in the afterglow of the event.

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