5 Tips for Unique Outdoor Portraits from a Nat Geo Pro (VIDEO)

Here's a great tutorial for those of you who shy away from people pictures due to the misconception that a studio, expensive lighting equipment, or advanced skills are required to capture impressive portraits.

Photojournalist Sean Gallagher begins with a question, followed by an insightful answer. What you'll learn will provide enough confidence for you to capture impressive portrait photos of loved ones, family and friends, and interesting strangers you meet throughout your travels.

So here's the question: What makes a compelling portrait? According to Gallagher, "A good portrait reveals what a person looks like, but a great portrait reveals who they really are." Gallagher is a photojournalist and documentary photographer/filmmaker who has produced fine work for National Geographic, The Guardian, and the Pulitzer Center among others. So he knows of which he speaks.

Gallagher refers to his style as "environmental portraiture"—unencumbered by all the gear that you may have found intimidating. A camera, lens, and natural outdoor light is all you really need—apart from the five important tips that Gallagher reveals. He's a very adept visual storyteller as you'll quickly discern.

What's the key to creating an excellent environmental portrait? According to Gallagher, "it's not just to focus on the person within the frame, but to also take into consideration the background and surroundings of the subject." He explains that these additional elements can reveal things about who the person really is, where they live, and where they work." In others. In essence, this is what storytelling is all about.

A common technique is to move in close and set a wide aperture to isolate a subject against an out-of-focus background.  This method can certainly be effective, but Gallagher's approach is pretty much the opposite. Hence one tip is to "give your subject breathing room and more space." He provides a few compelling examples of how this style enables you to reveal more about a subject.

Gallagher illustrates why it's also critical to "pay attention to the details," whether or not you're familiar with a subject. In this regard, it's often the "little things" that faithfully depict the true essence of someone's character. He demonstrates why this suggestion is particularly important when shooting his style of portraits with a wider perspective.

The foregoing tips all contribute to telling a story which is what makes Gallagher's imagery to captivating, and he has more advice to impart on this essential topic. He also provides several helpful ideas for getting creative during the process. He puts it like this: "You don't always have to use the same lens, camera position or angle when you're making portraits."

So think about the position of your subject within the context of their surrounding so that they reveal something about themselves that's unique. Sometimes that may be a simple as framing the person with a natural element within the frame.

There's a lot more to see and learn on Gallagher's interesting YouTube channel. And on a related note, be sure to check out the tutorial we posted with another pro who describes several ways to pose female subjects for alluring portrait photographs.