Stepping into the great outdoors with your camera in hand can be an exciting adventure. But it can also be a daunting challenge if you’re not sure how to take the best photos in natural light. The outdoors, whether in nature or in an urban landscape, holds so much potential for photographers who want to take portraits, engagement photos, wildlife images, and the like, and there are a myriad of ways to use the surroundings to capture stunning pictures.

If you’re looking for some tips on how to take outdoor photos that wow, you’ve come to the right place. Following are some simple tips on how you can use natural light and the objects around you to capture a photoshoot that you and your clients will love.

1. Use simple backdrops for less distraction.

If your subject is wearing colorful or patterned clothes, place them in front of a clean background so as not to overwhelm and distract from the subject. On the other hand, if your subject is wearing neutral colors, feel free to play around with colorful backdrops and areas.

A couple sitting on steps outside in Austin in the shade, Photographed by Austin, Texas wedding photographer NIkk Nguyen

2. Step into the shade.

The sun provides gorgeous natural light, but it can also throw harsh light and shadows onto your subject, especially when shooting in the mid afternoon. All you need to do to avoid this is to place your subject into a shaded area that is still close to a light source. This might include having your subject stand in front of a painted wall with a white wall adjacent so that light bounces off and shines on your subject. Using a wall, sidewalk, or building as a reflector will produce the kind of flattering images that are hard to get when shooting in direct sunlight or shade.

A couple in front of a lake in Texas, Photographed by Austin, Texas wedding photographer NIkk Nguyen

3. Take advantage of the golden hour.

Using the “magic” or golden hour is a great way to capture subjects in soft, glowing light. This can be achieved one hour after sunrise or one hour before sunset. During these hours the sun is low in the sky and produces light that is more flattering than the midday sun. Just remember that you only have about an hour to play with, so make sure your equipment is set up and ready to go before the golden hour approaches.

Related: 5 Tips to Improve Your Golden Hour Photography

A bride and groom on top of a mountain, Photographed by Austin, Texas wedding photographer NIkk Nguyen

4. Use the wind.

Want to create a perfect hair-blowing-in-the-wind moment? To avoid hair blowing in your subject’s face during a harsh windy day, position the person against a wall. On a light breeze kind of day, you can have your subject stand behind the direction of the wind so that it blows through her hair and creates that voluminous hair, fashion portrait look.

A couple standing next to a mural that reads "I love you so much", Photographed by Austin, Texas wedding photographer NIkk Nguyen

5. Look for your environment’s potential.

Your area is probably full of must-have photo spots, but if you look a little deeper you’ll find interesting and unique areas to capture images. Maybe you pass by a certain building all the time, but never thought about its artistic potential. Take a peek around it and see if it has a nice wall, window, sign, or doorway to offer. Place your subject there or just use the beauty of the area as your subject.

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