Creating Beautiful Outdoor Winter Portraits | Ideas For Those Short, Cold Days! | Paul Wilkinson | Skillshare

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Creating Beautiful Outdoor Winter Portraits | Ideas For Those Short, Cold Days!

teacher avatar Paul Wilkinson, Portrait Photographer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (17m)
    • 1. The challenges of winter portraits

    • 2. Using a doorframe to control the light

    • 3. Getting festive with fairy lights

    • 4. Using a tunnel of light

    • 5. Finding great patches of light under a tree canopy

    • 6. Using winter sun to backlight your subject

    • 7. Now it's your turn!

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About This Class

No sign of the sun? Flat, overhead lighting? In this video, multi-award winning international portrait photographer and judge Paul Wilkinson (from shows you a quick trick to instantly improve the light on your subject.

Then, things take a festive turn as we deck the halls with… well, fairy lights. Learn how to turn them into beautifully defocused orbs of glowing gold behind your subject.

Next Paul shows how you can use an outdoor structure like an arch to protect your subject from the elements, and create beautiful light on their face, too.

Then we head into a residential street to find a tunnel of light under that most commonplace of environmental objects - the humble tree. You'll see how placing your subject between two open areas in the tree canopy above gives beautiful catchlights in their eyes and soft light on their hair, as well as highlighting some subtle textures in the background, too.

Lastly, we'll show you how you can work with the last wisps of winter sun for a backlit portrait, too.

We’re using a minimum of kit, so there’s no excuse not to put these ideas into practice. You just need one model, one camera, one reflector… oh, and a string of fairy lights!

For each portrait you’ll see Paul’s images straight-out-of-the-camera, with exposure settings and the final edit, too.


Paul and the team

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Paul Wilkinson

Portrait Photographer


Paul is one of the UK's most sought-after portrait and wedding photographers - not just for his eye for an image but for the manner in which they are created (mostly laughing, always relaxed!)

His images have adorned numerous publications from the BBC to the Times and have won countless awards as well as giving him the accolade of Fellowship of the Master Photographers Association.

He and his team are based near Oxford in the UK though often you'll find him clutching his passport and his cameras as he creates images for people across the globe!

This class is brought to you by the Mastering Portrait Photography team!

See full profile

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1. The challenges of winter portraits: it's getting really cold. And to signify that they've had me stand here in a scarf to try and look chilly, failing to notice. I'm inside my studio and we have the heating full on. I am sweating. So anyway, if it is really cold, lock all the doors hideaway inside until spring. No, actually, don't do that. It may be wet in happy gold, and it may well be miserable outside, but you can still if actually shoot. Still be. Creating beautiful portrait on this video will show you how so, even though the sun is diffused to really thick clouds. On a day like today, it's going blue. It's got that really toppy like What do I mean by that? I just mean the lights coming straight down. And that's our biggest challenge during winter, as overhead lighting causes really unflattering shadows in the eye sockets on beneath the nose. So the best technique, or one of the best techniques to overcome this is to place a subject just inside the doorway or under a structure, so the light starts to come from above and in front of them. And that is just actually where I position my main life was on the students. So much of this all ties together your studio light your outdoor light. You're trying to do the same thing, which is like a face in a flattering way. On top of that, we're gonna be getting just a little bit festive. Mince pies, sherry carols, those kind of things. Well, okay, maybe not that, but we are gonna be experimenting with some fairy heights on. I'm gonna explain how to get this really beautiful out of focus orbs of light glowing behind your subject. You know, that kind of thing. It just instantly makes a shot. Look, Christmassy. And towards the end of our shoot, today we get to see just a little glimpse of the sun coming through some wispy clouds as it starts to clear, which is great, because not only to get wonderful light, it starts to warm up a little bit as well. And again, this is the type of lighting you can expect to see during winter. So I'm going to show you how to use it to backlight your subjects. Okay, Lots to learn, but almost no kit needed. Just war model. Just one camera. Just one reflector on a string of Christmas lights. I'm Paul Wilkinson, and this is a very festive edition of mastering portrait photography. 2. Using a doorframe to control the light: one of the things off. Seven of the factors you have with a winter's day. You have temperature and you have humidity or just plain wet on today, it's actually quite warm, which is a shame because we're trying to show you what it's like to photograph in the cold . However, what we do have is the lighting it expect on a winter's day. If you look at the lighting on May now, it's pretty awful. We're working in a courtyard and the light is coming straight down at the sky. It's one of those dull, white cloud days where the whole of the sky is the same color. It's all the same lightness. The problem with that is all of this, like she's coming straight down the side of this wall, and I know the lighting on May. And if I brought Emily out into it, the lighting beyond Emily would be terrible. However, if you just push inside a doorway or inside a patio door, whatever is all of that light now is being controlled. I have less off it. That's true, but it's all coming in at this angle, and if you look at the angle that broadly speaking is what you'd like toe have lighting a face. A beautiful face like Emily's. It puts cat sites in her eyes. It's the right shape. She has a beautiful features anyway, so this isn't a particular challenge. But what I'm doing is using the boundaries between indoors and outdoors to control my light source. If it was raining and so often it's raining. When I get people come for a family portrait shoot or for headshots, whatever. They still want that sense of daylight. But it's pouring it down well, what we're gonna do, I can put them under umbrella. I can get them wet, or I can keep them inside in the dry and doing that just by pushing Emily inside. I don't mind me get and where the cameras. The reason. The resilient. If it's pouring it down, I might put a rain cover on or just get someone holding on Brother over me. I don't mind if my hair is, you know, like this. What I really object to is if Emily's is one of the things about a portrait shoot like this , if you're going to shoot on a wet day, always, always, always check with a client first. Did you straighten your hair? She did. So do not bring them out into the water at the beginning of the shoot to all of your dry work first, because if someone's hair is nice, its pristine and the feeling a $1,000,000 then they come out like my normally does, you are not going to sell any of those shots, and that's really important. So I'm doing all of my dry work first, and then we'll step out into the moisture at the end of the shoot. So I've positioned Emily on the boundary, right on the edge so she would be dry. I would be wet. That's fine. The light now is governed by all of the shading across the top of this being, so there's no light coming straight down. On the further I push Emily back, the more directional that light will become. And you just use that I've turned all of the lights off inside for a moment because I don't want that clash of the orange tungsten lighting from inside on the blue. A really is quite blue today at lighting from outside. If I could bring a lot together. Get a nice shape, get a nice expression that actually, I think I can take a pretty big picture or a pretty good picture even. No, I said big. Now one of the things with a winter's day is typically they're darker now. Yes, you get those amazing, crystal clear, blue sunny days. But if, like, today, everything's just that little bit darker, then you're gonna have to rely on higher ISOS to be able to get the exposure you need. Don't be afraid of them. Test them. So get your camera. Go outside, whack the ice, owes up and take lots of different shots. Put them onto a screen and print them on. You'd be surprised how little effect? The high, I suppose. Have to appoint. Go find that point. So, you know your camera, this camera I can shoot about I So 6400 with negligible noise in the finished image. Assuming I'm not gonna blow it up to the size of a bus from blowing up the side of a bus, you're going to see that grain. You're certainly not going to see it on anything at about a four, probably 30 inches actually get away with. So go test your camera with a high, I suppose now seconding having a dark room is great if Emily was blonde, because then her hair would stand out against the background. Now you know, May I like it when all of those tones melt together? I really like it. But in this instance, Emmys has just a little bit dark, and she's just disappearing into the shadows where perhaps I'd like just a little bit off separation. If you look at the hair, the front, she's got this incredible shine to her hair. That's Loreal, if ever I saw it because she's worth it and it's all shiny and lovely. But where it dips, wanes the shadows, it disappears against my background. What I've tried to do, what I've opened all of the blinds in the room behind, but still not much light is getting in. I can see it on the camera, and I can see it here on. I'm hoping isn't just enough separation to be or to bring her forwards in the final edit, however, to give myself a hand, I'm also using a reflective going to use a silver side because that's the most efficient. And we're just trying to find a pact where we can reflect a little bit of light around Emily's hair to create that little bit of separation that will just add that sophistication . Of course, I could decide just being reflected on the front of maker ice pop. If I've only got one assistant, I could only do one or the other. Rely on making the ice pop in Post On will separate in camera here, using a reflective 3. Getting festive with fairy lights: following Allah, Allah, Allah, it's Christmas, or at least it's getting there. And so one of the things about Christmas is the amazing lighting you get now. Clearly, today is a grey, blue, horrible kind of light. However Christmas you get fairy lights, you get happy people, you get stolen, you get minced pies, you get Sherry. You get yet another tie from a relative. What's not to love about Christmas? So what we tried to do here is create a little scene where we can create that sort of beautiful golden light you get in the background of Christmas shots. It's simple enough to do as long as you think. Now we spent 20 minutes thinking about it, and it took us a while to get there, because what I need is separation. I need Emily in nice lights, because if she doesn't like the light she's in, well, that's a failure in the photo on, then I need a decent distance behind to get the fairy lights. Why? Because I need the fairy lights after focus. If you look at this picture off Emily close to those lights, you can see the wires that's all in focus. It's no particular romantic. On the other hand, if I've got a shallow depth of field and to do that, I've opened the lens up to F 2.8 wide open on this. But you can try. Therefore 5.6. You get a very similar effect on dive using a zoom lens, which means I'm coming away on bringing Emily with me and then I'm zooming back in. So it's a tight crop. It contains the lights on. That means they'll turn into little orbs of golden juiciness in the background. It's just lovely one thing to be careful of. These are led lights Now, in the old days, with tungsten, you don't have to worry about any of this. But with led is what you don't see is that in fact, flickering a long time. So if you take a picture and you noticed some or all of the ladies are not showing is because your shutter speed is too fast. That said, in this kind of light, you'd be surprised if you get a shutter speed that quick. I'm shooting around about 125th of a second or something. I so 1600 around about there at 2.8, zooming in on. It's just gorgeous, and all I have to do is to get Emily to put on her hat. We're going to Chuck some light in on a reflector because this life is so toppy, you can see she's just in the shadows. She's going to smile. She's gonna look amazing. Only line it all up, so nobody leaves in the background and I've got my beautiful shot. You look amazing. Happy Christmas. 4. Using a tunnel of light: so that one of the things about winter weather is so often the trick is simply to find a little bit of cover. So I sat Emily down here on the bottom step, not because she's been naughty, but because the light down here is great because up there behind the cameras, you're looking at it. There's tons of light coming in from the sky. It's not a bright day. And yet, still, if you look at the cats lights in Emily's eyes, if she looks at you, beautiful now she has beautiful eyes anyway. But the trick is to light them. And that's a great big light source. Exactly Wade expected to be if I was doing in a studio. So all of Emily's features were incredible. Her hair is shining. The hat. Oh so cool how eyes glistening and better than you think she's dry. Also, there's a windy day. We kind of boxed in with its shelter. On top of that, these side cheeks absorb a lot of light there brick, and so you get this lovely shape and texture to Emily's face. It's great, and if that wasn't enough and that is plenty behind us, we have light coming from the sky. Hitting the pavement behind on that adds that just a little bit of character. Now. Some days it's really strong, like coming from back there some days is very little today, sort of in the middle. So some of the families hair is really shiny, and it just has that washing that wrap around and all I got to do is get Emily to look fantastic. That's up to you. Look at the camera. You look fantastic and then take a picture. If you want to add that little touch off juiciness of quality, then we're going to just pop the eyes a little. And we're gonna do is we're gonna bring in a reflector, catch a little bit like from the sky. My owes go like deep, icy pools of blue. Emily's go like, Ah, the most gorgeous. You get this lovely dishing in the bottom of the marvel of the eye, and that's what it reflected. Also, if you have your wits about you, grab a piece of cardboard or reflector and then assistance and just bring them in. Now, if you don't have an assistant, what can you do? You grab the reflector yourself, you bring in, you smile, smile. You look amazing. 5. Finding great patches of light under a tree canopy: So here we are. Ah, of course, there's many variants of shelter if you just come under some leaf canopy. Now, as you get into the depths of winter, you're not gonna get so much of this. But this time of year is the leaves are turning. We can just come in under the trees. And actually, if you have inclement weather, that will help you. However, what appealed to me here is not that you got a hood anyway. And who cares about your hair? What I cared about is the lighting. And here I have a tunnel of light coming from above and she's coming in through the leaves . Beautiful light. And if you look at the cats, lights in Emily's eyes Oh, my goodness, beautiful catch likes. But also we have light coming in from behind, which is coming in and just washing through. And if Emily takes her hood off, you can see the shine that gives to the head. All of these things come together to create a really beautiful pool of light in which to work that that is organ vented by the fact in the background. I still have some of that autumn color. So if I pick my angles well, I get a beautiful smile from Emily and in the background. It's all organs and golds and greens, which is what we associate with autumn, a really simple way of getting a beautiful or terminal picture. 6. Using winter sun to backlight your subject: If you look at this scene, essentially, it's a normal street scene. This is an everyday street in an everyday village. Admittedly have them is beautiful that haven't picked a particularly picturesque bit. Know if you see all of the cars that here why I picked this, but well, primarily because it was close we're still doing It's gonna win two theme And if you look at that sky, we've got Hayes in it, but it's backlit. The sun is just setting and other clouds of cleared to a degree. We've got that kind of miss that you only get in the autumn in the winter on just in the beginning of spring time at this time of day and it's kind of cold. It's got that really lovely light and iridescence. Now I have a choice here. I could use that as a light source photograph that way. But where's the fun in that? You've watched me do that 1000 times. Why not do it the other way round? What we're going to do is go for quite a high key, very airy lit picture using back lights. Now, if you look at Emily's eyes, you can see I've still got cats lights in the eyes. I found a spot on the street where there's clear sky up here and that provides the cats lights. The only thing is, the backlighting is just taking over. So I'm gonna grab a reflector, and as you see me do 1000 times before you use the white side with this day today rather we're going to use the silver sight. Remember, do not hold it like this. Do not hold it anyway. Like this night last. All of these things, you need to keep it nice and flat. It doesn't matter whether this is a frame reflector or whether it's a pop up reflector. It must stay flat if you're using the shiny side. Because if you buy trying to showing that the camera should be there, you should see that Sierra testing. If I'd break that up, you'll see that it's broken up, okay? And all I'm trying to do is capture a little bit like and all I'm doing is making sure I feel in a few of the shadows. So I captured just if you watch on Emily's face, you look that way, just bringing it in and just filling out some of the shadows, using whatever I can chlorine from the side. It's not perfect, but it's very effective. And it's a really beautiful, very wintery, very high key. Happy shot as long as Emily smiling as long as I'm happy. Because if I'm miserable, Emily's not smiling. If Emily's not smiling, it's a miserable, wintry kind of proper dorje kind of picture. You want laughter? What laughter you want laughter. 7. Now it's your turn!: Hopefully you've enjoyed this video on. We've given you some ideas, tips, techniques for dealing with that. Oh so blue and chilly month or two that lies ahead. You should be out there. You should be grabbing someone. You should be Craig some pictures because in fact, some of the next few months or some of the best to take pictures if you can get your head around the cold on the light. And, of course, you have the opportunity of doing something festive, which is, I don't know, drink sherry while you're doing it anyway. When you've taken your pictures, please load them to your projects top down below because we love to see them. We always have a look and whenever possible, whenever we asked, will give you feedback on on that note. If you head across the mastering portrait photography dot com, not only other tons of videos like this there's my favorite part of it, which are the forums where there's lots of questions and answers. But there are image critiques there, and you could if you remember, you can upload your images and have them critiqued by me on that video. And of course we spend a little bit more time exploring each and every image. Sometimes it's little tiny pointers. Sometimes it's had a Photoshopped them sometimes it's simply Oh, my goodness. This picture is adorable. I wish I had taken it myself. All of it. Positive. All of energetic on all of it. Great for portrait photography. So please do join us at mastering portrait photography dot com Until next time. Take care. I just wanna tool in this one now, Health, Do you think if I did it in the right way? Come on. Like morse code? I could send a secret message in the bleeps. All right, then. Somebody broke them, right, Matt? No. Somebody broke these. I know that. Scott Brooks on the brakes on the Try it. Try it. I guarantee so. There were working. I don't guarantee I stopped guaranteeing two minutes ago. Should be like that one. So the girls were apologizing because they're a nuisance.