It isn’t easy to take a formal photograph outdoors because the best laid plans can go awry. Rain, snow, wind etc can ruin the sitting. Your plans to shoot at a park can be disappointing if the area is either full of people or full of trash. But outdoor formal portraits are well worth the trouble.
I like to make sure when doing multiples, their clothing is not clashing. Not only in colors but in styles. Frilly dresses on one child against casual clothing on another can make the portrait look wrong. Too many prints in one picture is distracting. So if there are multiple children or families, preplan the wardrobe.
Choose a background that isn’t too busy. If there is a lot going on in the back, your subjects are lost. Those great smiles shouldn’t have to compete with a carnival behind them or a crowd of people. The simpler the better. You want a lovely setting and flowers are great as long as they don’t overwhelm with too many different colors.
Always check the clothing to make sure the tags are removed. They are free of spots, upturned collars, etc. Bring brushes or combs to freshen hair. Children have a natural tendency to run about outdoors in-between shots.
Always take lots and lots of pictures because when doing your shoot you can only be looking at one set of eyes when the shutter snaps. When talking to the group and telling your jokes and kidding with them you are watching carefully to see natural expressions. You don’t have to go for huge smiles on everyone, but when they are all interested in your relaxed chatter, natural smiles appear. That’s when you snap! Usually I find later that I have one or more distracted subjects. With a lot of pictures, I can easily eliminate those. I am happiest when everyone looks their best. I know you can photoshop these days, but I prefer a natural image and it is possible if you take the time.
I group the subjects so their chin levels are not too far apart. Or look at head levels. You have all seen photographs where one person is way taller or shorter than the group and they stand out awkwardly. Watch out not to place the subject so closely together that faces are partially obscured. Outdoors you do not have stools and blocks to get everyone at a perfect level, but you can group successfully if you are careful by using benches, rock walls play equipment. I prefer a triangle shaped photograph but even a line up can look OK if the seating or background has levels. Paying attention to the composition as a whole is the key.
I like to wear jeans so that kneeling isn’t uncomfortable or lying in the grass or sitting in a rocky pathway can be done. I wear comfortable shoes and clothing because an uncomfortable photographer tends to hurry the sitting.
So grouping in a triangle, compatible clothing on your subjects and keeping the background somewhat simple are all major items to watch. A relaxed chatter and funny stories for natural expression are some of the main keys to a good outdoor portrait.
Remember that perfection isn’t the goal, a pleasing portrait is the goal.
Source: Life experience as a professional photographer