6 Top Tips for Taking Amazing Forest Portraits
Woods and forests can make wonderful backdrops for wedding and engagement photography. The deep greens of the trees, the sunlight filtering through the leaves and the fresh air create an unforgettable setting with seemingly endless creative possibilities. Forest portraits, however, are not without challenges such as low light, a green color cast, and other factors. To help you overcome the challenges, here are 6 tips for creating amazing forest wedding and engagement photos. Here’s what we’ll cover for taking great forest portraits:
- Your best lighting is often at the edge of the forest
- Look for streaks of light
- Consider staying in a bad mood
- Find foregrounds and frames
- Consider adding your own flash for separation
- Consider staying above the trees
(The following images are provided by Wedding Maps with permission from each of their photographers.)
1. Your best lighting is often at the edge of the forest
One of the main challenges of photographing portraits in the forest is that when you enter a lush forest with tall trees and vegetation, a lot of your light is cut off. Although you can increase your ISO and decrease your shutter speed to overcome the low light factor, you often end up with flat light with a strong green tint. So before you go deep into the forest, consider taking at least a few of the portraits at the edge where you might get better lighting. See some examples below:
2. Look for light streaks and light direction
The next tip for amazing woodland and forest portraits is to look for streaks of light that come through the trees. Dappled sunlight creates a soft, romantic glow that can make your photos look truly radiant. It can come from above if you are shooting during the day or from an angle if you are shooting closer to golden hour. See two examples below:
In the next set of images below, note that although the light trails were not visible, the photographers found excellent directional light and used right angles and compositions to emphasize the subjects.
3. Consider saving Moody for forest portraits
Woods and forests naturally have a magical, moody vibe, so consider moving away from the idea of “perfect lighting” and taking a creative, dark, moody approach. With the right vision and creativity, the results can be dreamy and beautiful, as you can see in the images below:
4. Finding Foregrounds and Frames in Forest Portraits
Woods and forests create seemingly endless opportunities for interesting compositions, including foregrounds and frames.
In the image below, notice how photographer Jason Vinson found holes in the leaves to photograph, combining the compositional concepts of negative space and foreground elements.
In the following image, notice how the bent trees create a natural setting for the couple. Photographers found the angle and distance to be perfect so there were no distracting elements directly behind the subjects.
Here are some additional examples of interesting compositions, foregrounds and frames for portraits taken in the forest.
5. Consider adding your own flash for separation
Adding a back flash helps make subjects stand out from the background. If the natural light is flat in your forest portraits, dark hair or clothing can easily blend into a dark background. This is when adding your own flash can help create separation. Here are some examples:
The image below is a particularly interesting example of using a rear flash for separation. Imagine the image without the rear flash. The couple would be far too dark and blend into the forest vegetation behind them.
6. Consider staying above the trees
Of course, another option for capturing beautiful forest portraits is to find a view that overlooks the trees. Up there, you don’t have to worry so much about the green color cast or lack of light direction. Yet you can still capture the magic and beauty of trees and nature.
Here are some of our favorite examples below:
The natural beauty of woods and forests creates many opportunities for photographers, and with the right preparation, forest portraits can be truly magical. The richness of interesting textures, colors and shapes, with light filtering through the trees, can produce stunning effects. For all of these reasons, forest portraits can be an incredibly rewarding type of photography to pursue. We hope the tips above will help you on your next nature photography adventure.
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