Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tips and tricks for shooting Portraits in the Woods

A walk in the woods offers plenty of opportunities for great portraits. The landscape of the forest throws up a pleasing array of colors, organic shapes and varying light that can be used to the portrait photographers advantage. With shots of people in woods, there’s always a danger that the frame can get too busy. A wide expanse of trees may be pleasing on the eye, but when it comes to portraits, an overload of detail can be to the detriment of the subject.

The key here is to find ways to simplify the scene and draw the eye in towards your subject. In this tutorial, I’ll explain a few ways in which this can be done.

You could, for example, use a wide aperture for a shallow depth of field so that the foreground and background branches are blurred. Or you could compose the frame so that the surroundings work in harmony with the subject. Useful compositional tricks, such as the ‘rule of thirds’ and ‘frames within frames’ are a big help, as they can help you to visualize a tangled mess of branches into an arrangement that works for your portraits. With a little practice, these skills soon become second nature.

Tips and tricks for shooting Woodland Portraits

1. Use natural frames

One great compositional trick is to create a frame within your frame by seeking out natural frames that surround your subject. Look for branches or boughs that create natural holes to shoot through.

An example of a natural frame around the subject

2. Create a sense of depth

Creating depth in your portraits is a great way to add to the atmosphere, and helps to lead the eye towards your subject. Find an angle that includes out-of-focus details in the foreground as well as the background.

3. Look for the light

Under a canopy of branches there is a lot of variation in the light, even on a flat cloudy day.  If the face is in shadow, look for another angle or ask them to turn towards the light for better illumination.

A monochrome shot can simplify your portrait.

4. Think color coordination

Choose outfits with blocks of color that contrast with the surroundings. Stay away from greens, browns or any other camouflage. Warm colors, like orange and red, are opposite to cool colors, like green and blue. White and black always works too.

5. Look for monochrome patterns

Trees and branches form wonderful web-like patterns, so look for parts of the scene to show this off. There’s a danger of the frame looking too busy, but you can simplify things with a conversion to sepia or black and white too.

6. Find a dramatic angle

Get down low and use a wide lens to find an angle that lets you include the canopy in the frame. Position your subject so they’re framed neatly with the scene, and watch for branches that stick out from the head.

When you find yourself in the woods next time, I hope these tips and tricks will be useful when you make portraits.


  1. Great portraits, Mersad!
    Thank you for another great article, full of good ideas and tips!

    Would you please share which tripod you use and would recommend for traveling? I am looking for one that's not as heavy as my studio tripods.

    1. I have two tripods, a big sturdy one from Sony, which I use when I'm with my car going somewhere, and a small weight one (also Sony) which I use for traveling. It's an old model not being sold anymore, and mine broke actually recently, so I'm in the middle of getting a new one as well. When I find something suitable I will let you know.

  2. Thanks for the tips - I think your main photo is fabulous.

    1. Thank you! I hope you'll find these tips inspirational.

  3. I think back lighting is important too. Keeps the focus on the portrait instead of the objects behind.

    Well done again.

  4. nice to see that you again, post an entry with explanations... for many of us to learn from... Thank you Mersad!

    Have a nice abc-day / - week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc-w-team)

  5. Great pointers! I love taking pictures and since we have a nice patch of woods I see many woods related photos in my future.

  6. Beautiful portraiture.
    Thank you for sharing at

  7. it also helps that you have the perfect models for your portraits and that includes yourself...

  8. Wonderful advise, but my point and shoot does not do as well as the big, nice cameras. I have a hard time even with it.

  9. FIne portrait tips. Will give them a try next time I'm shooting portraits.

  10. Great advice indeed, Mersad!! Thank you so much for sharing this!! I hope your week is going well!!

  11. I have trouble with the light because the branches cast awkward shadows across faces.

  12. Thanks for the tips! I don't do a lot of portraits but will remember next time I try and snap a shot of my hiking buddies.

  13. I must say I love the redhead's pose. Looks mysterious.


  14. perfect to portray a person with beautiful background on them

  15. Lovely! I'm ready for the greens to return this spring.

  16. If you looking for a really nice tripod give Induro a try. I have one of their carbon fiber models I travel with and an aluminum model for my gimbal head. They are very nice tripods, have a great warranty and aren't as expensive of some of the other big name tripods.

  17. HI, Thanks for sharing such wonderful tips. For a Gadsden Portrait photographer like me ..these are really helpful.

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