Outdoor headshots — a combination of natural light and technical excellence.
In this guide, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know about outdoor headshots.
We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):
Table of Contents
What is an Outdoor Headshot Photo?
An outdoor headshot photo is a photo taken of someone against a natural background (e.g., sky, grass).
They can be captured with the subject facing the camera directly or they can be captured from a three-quarter view where you can see one of their eyes, nose, and mouth.
Are Outdoor Headshots Professional?
Professional headshots are photographed in a studio setting, but outdoor headshots can also be done professionally by following specific guidelines.
The main difference is that indoor headshots are usually taken in a studio setting with a plain backdrop.
Outdoor headshot photography set-ups can range from a simple look with natural light to something more complex, such as the use of multiple lights and reflectors.
Types of Outdoor Headshots
Headshot images can range from casual snapshots where you don’t see much of your outfit, to a formal portrait that includes a stylish suit or dress.
While it’s always best to have a professional take your outdoor headshots, you can still get a great picture without spending too much money.
If you are not afraid to get outside of your comfort zone, let the natural light work for you.
Where Outdoor Headshots are Taken
You can shoot an outdoor headshot almost anywhere outdoors.
Common places include parks or fields, but you can also take them on the beach or at a garden center to highlight the greenery surrounding the subject’s face.
What Makes a Great Outdoor Headshot?
Great outdoor headshots are made with the subject’s face front and center in the image.
The background should be mostly blurred out or white to make sure the focus is on the person, not what they’re looking at.
What Gear do I Need for Outdoor Headshot Photography?
The best tools for photographing an outdoor headshot are a DSLR camera that works best with the lighting you’ll find outdoors.
You don’t need to include a lot of gear, but you will want to bring along a tripod and an external flash for your camera just in case there isn’t enough natural light.
Who Should Take Outdoor Headshots?
Professional models are the most common subjects for outdoor headshots.
Businesses also use them to market their products and services. Celebrities also regularly have outdoor headshots done to promote themselves.
Outdoor headshots are a great way for anyone looking for high-quality photos of their face to look professional without breaking the bank on studio photography or because they want a different look from the classic studio setting.
When Should I Take Outdoor Headshots?
You can take outdoor headshots any time of the year.
A popular time for outdoor headshots is when the light is most flattering is when there’s still a bit of light left in the day during the period of golden hour:
How Do I Take Outdoor Headshots?
The best way to take outdoor headshots is to have a photographer guide you.
They can help you understand where the best places are in your community for taking headshot photos and how to pose for them, too.
If you want to take your own outdoor headshots but don’t know where to start, find someone with experience or a photography class you can take.
10 Outdoor Headshot Tips
1. Use Daylight To Your Advantage
Even if you use your camera’s flash, natural light always looks better in outdoor headshots.
2. Sun on Subject’s Back if Too Strong
If possible, have the sun at your subject’s back so they’re not squinting or covering their eyes while you take the photo.
This creates a beautiful backlighting effect that will create a rim light on the subject’s hair.
3. Use a Light Reflector
If there’s no natural light where you want to take your headshots, bring a large reflector to bounce light back onto your subject.
4. Keep Your Lens Clean
Make sure nothing is obscuring your lens so it can capture the best possible images of your subject.
5. Work With a Tripod
If possible, use a tripod to keep your shots steady and free of camera shake.
When you don’t have one, rest your camera on a solid object for the same benefit.
6. Lighting Gear
To capture outdoor headshots that look great even in low light without using flash, bring an external flash with some lighting gear to keep your subject well-lit and looking their best.
7. Take Lots of Photos
Shoot many outdoor headshots and choose the best ones after you’re done taking them. Don’t forget to take photos of multiple angles, too.
8. Watch Your Backgrounds
Make sure there’s nothing behind your subject so they stand out more than what’s around them. Don’t use wide shots that show too much of the surroundings, either.
9. Use Two-thirds Lighting
Two-thirds lighting is one of the most common outdoor portrait styles. This style provides more light on the side of your face that’s closest to your main light source (usually the sun), and less light on the opposite side of your face.
To do this, find a spot where there is open shade (no shadows) and stand with the sun directly over one shoulder.
This should provide you with an outdoor headshot that has beautiful light on the side of your face closest to the sun.
10. Use Sun Flare Creatively
To get a headshot with sun flare, you need to have another person take a photo of you while standing in front of bright light.
It doesn’t have to be the sun itself, but a light in your background should produce a nice effect.
Using sun flares has to be done sparingly and you don’t want to go overboard or it will detract from the subject.
To further explore outdoor headshot photo tips, we also recommend this video by Vrsatile Productions:
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best outdoor lighting for headshots?
In general, the best lighting can be seen during Golden Hour or during a cloudy day when the lighting is soft and diffused.
What do you wear for outdoor headshots?
Wear formal or business attire that is appropriate for your industry. Avoid wearing clothes with busy patterns or logos, as they can be distracting in a photo.
Is an outdoor headshot photo professional?
Outdoor headshots are often a popular choice for professionals, as they can provide a natural and relaxed look that is appropriate for many industries.
We hope you enjoyed this guide on outdoor headshots.
This guide is also a part of our Headshot Photography Hub, so be sure to check that out for further headshot photography tips and insights.
Nate Torres is a seasoned photographer and marketing consultant, providing educational photography content while also teaching photographers how to grow their business and brand through SEO. Beyond the lens, he’s an authoritative voice in the photography industry, serving as a speaker and photography author for renowned photography publications such as Photofocus, SLR Lounge, and Fstoppers. An entrepreneur and lifelong learner at heart, Nate is also the co-founder of Imaginated, an educational platform. Nate shares his insights on his YouTube channel, “Nate Torres,” and on his personal photography blog, Nate Torres Photography. But his expertise doesn’t stop at photography. Whether it’s elucidating the nuances of marketing within the realm of photography or sharing broader marketing insights, Nate Torres brings to the table a wealth of expertise, ensuring readers and audiences benefit from both his photographic acumen and marketing knowledge.