How to capture shallow depth-of-field portraits in bright sun

Studio portraits are great and all, but shooting outdoor portraits offers so much more potential for interesting locations, backgrounds, and moments. The one downside, as we all know, is that shooting photos in bright sunlight can be a big pain if you are hoping to get those creamy shallow depth-of-field portraits that are so popular these days.

Luckily, as is almost always true in photography, where there is a will there is a way. Legendary photographer Joel Grimes is here today with this timely video on shooting portraits outdoors in full sun and still getting that shallow depth of field and creamy out-of-focus background. How does he do it? Pairing an ND filter with his strobe/lighting.

An ND filter is most commonly a threaded filter that you screw onto the front of your lens, and what the filter does is cut down, or limit, the amount of light that is allowed to enter the lens. This allows for you to open the aperture on your lens wider, and possibly wide open depending on the ND level you choose, to make those creamy backgrounds a reality.

In order to keep the light looking good on your subject’s face, you can introduce a flash or strobe as Grimes does here. This will prevent odd shadows or underexposure of the face — which is pretty key, as you are shooting a portrait after all and having your subject look their best is important.

So there you have it, a quick and easy way to shoot shallow depth-of-field portraits outdoors in bright sun.

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