ViewBug member and talented outdoor portrait photographer shelbyturner shares 3 tips on how to improve your outdoor portraits plus shares the magic behind her awarded photo.

3 tips on how to improve outdoor photography:

1. The biggest piece of advice is to hunt down the perfect light. It's tricky at first. Don't be shooting at noon in the bright sun, if you can help it. Start shooting an hour before sunset, and the closer you get to sundown, you'll start to notice the difference. Pay attention to where the light is coming from, how the trees filter it, and so forth. Find the pockets of light that are hiding amongst the trees, they may surprise you with their simple but effective beauty.

2. I feel that keeping your aperture down to f/2.8 or less is really key in creating dramatic photos. It helps separate your subject from your background, and eliminates distracting elements.  I'm talking about outdoor portraits in particular, here. Landscapes are much more forgiving and beautiful at the higher f-stops.

3. Pay attention to the little things. Does this angle make my subject look too small? Does the background look too bright for the mood I want to convey? Are there any stray hairs on my subject's face that I could move before I take the shot so I can eliminate more post-processing work? Paying close attention to the little details will save you time, and spare some headaches later on, trust me.

Learn the tricks behind this shot:

What are you trying to capture/say?

When I took this photo, I just felt that I caught a beautiful pocket of light. And that she looked so peaceful, in her own little world for the moment.

How do you know if it’s visually interesting?

I just tend to trust my gut. When I see gorgeous light, I hunt it down, put my subject there, and make some magic. I know when I get that huge goofy smile on my face, that I've caught what I wanted to catch.

Are you thinking about perspective?

A lot of my shooting is purely instinctual. I don't necessarily go through a conscious thought process in my head, I just perform minor positional adjustments if my eyes aren't quite happy yet.

Are you using tripod?

No, I never use a tripod for my outdoor portraits.

What time of the day was it shot? This was shot roughly around 4:30pm, which is almost sunset time. The golden hour, as it's called. The setting sun had just touched the tops of the trees, so I knew I had to get my last shots of the day in there.

What aperture settings are you utilizing?

This photo was shot at an aperture of f/2.8.

How do you compensate for the difference in light in the background and foreground?

Usually, I'm looking for a darker background for my subject. So that way, I can spot meter on the subject, have them properly exposed, and have the background look nice and deep, and not have blown out highlights.

How are you using the light flares as part of the composition?

I honestly wasn't thinking about the composition of the sun flare, I just thought it looked stunning. Me being an OCD freak, I was super happy that it happened to be mostly symmetrical. Haha!

How are you choosing to stay close or far from the subject?

I chose to use my 70-200 lens for this shot. I wanted the wonderful compression it offers at 200mm. More often than not, I'm using this lens for portraits. So I'm always a pretty good distance away from the subject.

What is your mindset when it comes to POV?

In most cases, I'm looking for a beautiful background to compliment my subject. I'm always experimenting with compression and what kind of colors it creates behind my subject. For this photo, I crouched a little, so I could capture the feeling of the field of flowers surrounding her and never-ending. In a good, calming way.

Why did you choose to use the depth of field?

I always shoot wide open when using my 70-200. The compression is just so dreamy. I can't get enough of it!

Are you thinking of rule of thirds/how?

You know, someone commented on this photo, saying that I broke the rules. I think they're probably referring to the subject being smack-dab in the center of the photo. *But*, if you look further, you'll see that the line of flowers is at the bottom third of the photo. So I think that's what maintains a healthy ratio here. If this photo was half background and half field of flowers, it wouldn't work. It would look strange.

Are you thinking of symmetry?

For this one, apparently I was over-thinking symmetry. Haha. Even spacing on both sides, not something that is easily pulled-off, I don't think. But somehow, it works.

Are you thinking of shadows?

Not particularly. I'm just wanting to make sure I exposed her properly.

Are you paying attention to the main subject only or also background and why?

I think about the background just as much as I do the subject. Almost MORE than the subject sometimes. Which can be my weakness at times. I'm almost obsessed with compressing the background, and making sure there aren't odd shapes back there. Or a weird combo of colors. I want to make sure my subject has the perfect background back there. Because if you don't have that, the photo is only half-decent. And I am never one to half-do something.

Are you thinking of the angle?

I'm not sure I was thinking about that, I just trusted what looked good to my eyes.

How did you choose color vs B&W?

Well, I am never one to rob the colors from the golden hour. This was just too dramatically colorful to take the colors away. I looooove deep reds and oranges.

Did you do any post-processing? If so, what?

Oh yes. I'm an obsessive editing freak. Haha! But really, I didn't do a whole lot to this photo. The most dramatic part was doing a levels adjustment layer. The original was quite yellow, and didn't have the desired contrast I was wanting. So I tweaked the levels to where I got my gorgeous reds. I also cropped it a bit, to make it more of a pano-type shot. I tend to like longer ratios. Elongated crops. Not sure why, they just appeal to me. I also whitened her dress a bit, because all of the surrounding colors sure did change the color of the dress. Some skin softening, photo sharpening, basic things here and there.