Top 3 Challenges and Benefits for Photographing Outdoors

Working outside has its challenges and benefits. Let’s talk about why you would choose to have your headshots done outside instead of inside at The Natural Light Studio.

1. The first challenge and benefit is the weather. 

Unlike working inside a temperature controlled studio, an outdoor photography session has to work with the weather. Sometimes that means in the winter months rescheduling for that clear day, warmer or cooler temperatures. However the benefit of the weather is it can give us a beautiful natural setting for our backgrounds.

2. The second challenge and benefit is light.

Working outside requires a bit of timing when it comes to the sunlight we all enjoy. Believe it or not but the best days to photograph are those cloudy days. Ideally this gives us softer sunlight with low contrast that compliments our skin so well. We also have to think about what time to photograph which is different for each area. The best time to photograph is 1-2 hours before sunset. Here in Portland the sunsets are around 8:30pm in the summer and 4:00pm in the winter. Keep this in mind when choosing which season to book your session.

One trick most photographers use outdoors are light modifiers to bounce in light or create shadow. Visit Using the Sky as Your Light Source.

3. The third challenge and benefit is location.

In some cases a location will be obstructed by construction, traffic, or unknown factors.

In others, being outdoors gives us a fantastic space to play around with backgrounds and other elements that can enhance our headshots.

Outside locations provide a space to move around and supportive natural elements we can include in our headshot sessions to amplify our personality, profession and brand.

Josie’s Session at Cathedral Park in Portland, Oregon

For Josie’s session we photographed at Cathedral Park (Map) in North Portland’s St. Johns District. It’s a wonderful park that has an overhead bridge connecting HWY 30 to St. Johns and N. Lombard Street.

The iconic gothic bridge seems like a prototype to the well known art deco style Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco but in fact, they were created by two different bridge designers.

The designer for the St. John’s bridge perched above Cathedral Park was David B. Steinman who is quoted saying, “If you asked me which of the bridges I love best, I believe I would say the St. Johns Bridge. I put more of myself into that bridge than any other bridge.”

He created a cathedral-like base to the bridge which can be seen from the most east point creating the cathedral view. It also houses several large parks that that make up Cathedral Park with paths that lead to the river front which is where our adventure began. 

To learn about locations for headshot sessions view our two types of sessions spaces Outdoor and On Location Sessions or The Natural Light Studio for more.

Using the Sky as Your Light Source

Springtime Portraits for the Portland Housing Development Center

Group photos for the NW HDC using the sky as the light source and bounce and flag cards as modifiers to get the desired look.


We started by scouting the area at the shooting time which was just after 10am. The sun is high in the sky during this time of year with the angle of the sun.

Believe it or not, but the best weather conditions are cloudy days. The clouds create the desired diffused lighting ideal for outdoor naturally lit photographs.


We placed each subject in the shadows of a large building about 4 stories high. The building created a barrier between us and the sun but allowed for us to use the bright sky to bounce back on the subject.

Another great option we used was the flag card, a large black form core board held just to the left or right of the subject to create shadows to help define the shape of the subjects face.


To learn about group headshot sessions view our Group Headshots Gallery and Services for more.


“Affordable homes and facilities designed, developed, and sustainably resourced to meet the needs of diverse communities.” Learn more at their website

How to Prepare for a Headshot Session


You’ve booked your new headshots session. Now it’s time to think about how to prepare.

I recommend getting a good night sleep before your shoot, drink water and allow for plenty of time to get ready. If you are not used to a makeup and hair routine, consider giving yourself a few minutes to apply foundation and a quick style. You’ll also want to pick out an outfit or two! Think comfort, and think layers. Once we are on set I’ll take it from there, I’ll guide you through some simple poses, postures and techniques that can get us ready for your new headshot.

One of my amazing assistants and clients on location for a headshot session.


  • When selecting outfits, focus on your clothes that you love to wear, that you feel comfortable in, and that align with your brand colors or professional style.
  • Layers are great! Feel free to bring an additional jacket, scarf or cardigan, and/or bring another top (it’s suggested to wear a tank top for easy changing if needed).
  • When choosing tops, focus on complimentary neck lines, colors and textures. For example, I prefer a black high V-neck line with a washed out denim jacket. I like the contrast between the top and jacket and the texture of the denim. Other clients will have a round neckline blouse in pale green with a black blazer. Bring along your top or jacket options if you are unsure which would work best.
  • Doing your own hair and makeup is great, make sure to give yourself enough time. A few things to think about: I’ve found that foundation and mascara are the most important when being photographed. When styling hair consider a setting spray or style for possible windy conditions.


  • We will use a posing stool for easy sitting shots.
  • Most shots are portraits only, above the waist unless requested.
  • I may have an assistant with me to use modifiers to control light and help carry personal items while we move around.
  • It is highly recommended to wear walking shoes.
  • Be ready to relax and have some fun 🙂

Let me know if you have any questions, I’d be happy to help provide any additional support for you to prepare!