Outdoor vs Studio Fashion Photography: That’s a tough one.

I recently did my first outdoor fashion shoot in years. Mind you, that’s how I started out. Simply because I was broke and studio time cost money. Sometimes a lot of money. Second, I like the backgrounds I get. Usually, they lend weight to the image I’m trying to create. Third, I thought lighting in the studio was more difficult. Mostly, I just wasn’t used to setting it up.

And these ‘professionals’ that teach studio lighting techniques on YouTube and such…. They make it sound so technical and mysterious. It isn’t. It requires practice and experimentation. Heck, even my first photo shoot, I didn’t even use flash lighting. I rented old-school fresnel lights. Which sort of voids what I learned about flash photography online. But I managed. Below is the result. Not too shabby eh? I just wish I used an accent light for her hair. This image would’ve been perfect if I did... Not perfect but I still love it.

Untitled photo

As I would be reminded during this outdoor shoot, the technical skills and experience you need for lighting outdoors. Let me give you a short list of what I’m talking about:

• Ambient light. If it’s a bright and sunny day, you may need lots of power. A big light.

• High-Speed Sync. This is a technology that help you deal with bright and sunny days.

• Positioning your subject in relationship to the sun. It works if you know how.

• Overcast skies aren’t necessarily a bad thing. The lighting can be gorgeous.

• Temperature. Too cold or hot, and you can have serious issues. Especially with batteries.

It’s really a completely different technical-skillset when shooting outdoors vs in the studio.

Untitled photo

Simple shot you say? Well, it was in the 90s that day. A bit humid. It had been raining, sometimes fiercely, over the last few days. My gear was overheating. Fast. Anastasia V of EMG Models was regularly powdering her face to keep from perspiration from building up. Asked her to pull her hair back for a different look, but it also helped her to stay a little cooler. Luckily, we found this nice spot in the shade and I used just enough external lighting to lighten things up without making it look artificial. Angled light to make the lighting a little more interesting. A lovely shot.

Probably the biggest issue with shooting outside is: the weather.

This recent shoot of mine was re-scheduled TWICE. Which is a record for me. New York City is just so schizophrenic when it comes to weather. You have to be in the dead of winter or summer to help guarantee the weather for the day. If you’re in Spring or Fall, anything can happen in NYC. Hell, there have been vicious thunderstorms lasting 2 – 3 hours in the middle of a summer heatwave.

In San Francisco, where I’m from, weather is quite predictable. It might be a little chilly or windy, but largely doable. The light at certain times during the day is just so beautiful. Pretty much anytime in the Financial District and Union Square. Late night on Broadway and Chinatown.

Untitled photo

This shot was done totally on a whim. I did a much more conservative shoot in a friend's apartment in San Francisco with Fallon S. We thought "Let's shoot on the roof and see how it looks?". The sun was out in full force that day (a rarity in San Francisco) and was concerned. But I shot her with the sun behind her and the brutality of the sunlight really makes this image work. Super contrasty and edgy.

If you’re just starting out and want to keep it cheap, there is so much you can do outside. I saw a fashion ad that was done in the desert. Really, it’s all about your imagination.

Untitled photo

Super simple shoot. Just a woman standing against the wall staring into early-morning sunlight. No external lighting or reflectors. Because Brooke has such fantastic angles in her face. The strong shadows create great drama. I love the fierce-girl look. And Brooke couldn't have been a woman!

New York City, and really, the State, is such an amazing place to do a photo shoot outdoors. You see it in many of the ads by Bloomingdales, Macy’s and others. I can tell you which streets they did the photography on.

Can’t wait for my next outdoor photography shoot. Hope the weather behaves!

Ricardo Gomez Photography

Originally from San Francisco, Ricardo is now a New York-based photographer specializing in editorial and commercial photography.
Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In