Portrait photography

9 Tips for Great Portrait Photography in the Mountains

When it comes to portrait photography, mountain locations and settings offer a wealth of possibilities. Dramatic landscapes provide stunning scenery and rugged terrain can add a sense of adventure to photos. Plus, the towering peaks and plunging valleys provide a sense of scale and perspective hard to achieve elsewhere. Of course, photographing in the mountains requires advance planning and preparation. However, the effort will reward you with great portraits that capture the personality of the subject and the majesty of the natural world.

Here we go over 9 tips for great mountain portraits:

  1. Search the blue sky
  2. Embrace the clouds and the mood
  3. Capture the adventure
  4. Plan Ahead: Bring the Party
  5. Isolate subjects
  6. Look at horizons and backgrounds
  7. Combine creative techniques
  8. sunset time
  9. Use a wide-angle lens to capture the beauty

[Read: 6 Top Tips for Taking Incredible Forest Portraits]

1. Look for blue skies

On a clear day, look to capture incredibly blue skies. In fact, according to weather.gov, “If you go to high altitude, the sky directly above you can be very dark blue or even blue-purple. This is because there are fewer molecules to scatter light at higher altitudes, so only the shorter wavelengths experience the most scattering as you climb further into the atmosphere.Here are some examples of mountain portrait photography captured under blue skies:

Photo © Studio 22 Photography (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) in Sunriver, Oregon.

    courtland@courtlandphotography.com Photo © Courtland Photography (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Lake Tahoe/Emerald Bay in California, Lake Tahoe.

    info@mandgweddingphotography.co.uk Photo © M and G Photography (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Inn On The Lake, Lake Ullswater.

    shane@shanetrotter.net Photo © Shane Trotter (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Logan Shoals Lookout in Lake Tahoe, NV.

2. Embrace the clouds and the mood

If the weather doesn’t turn out as expected, embrace the clouds and the general mood they create. Like a giant diffuser of natural light, clouds create soft, flattering light for your subjects and location. Plus, clouds bring with them an organic moody vibe, which adds layers of visual interest to photos. Check out the images below for inspiration from the cloudy session.

    bernadetakupiec@gmail.com Photo © Bernadeta Kupiec (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) in Glencoe, Scotland.

    info@jessieanddallin.com Photo © Jessie and Dallin (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Glacier National Park in Montana.

3. Capture the Adventure

Traveling to and from the mountains is often an adventure in itself. Instead of waiting for your couple to be perfectly in place for a series of posed photos, capture the journey to and from the location. Whether the couple ride high in a ski lift or simply follow each other along a trail, enjoy the action unfolding before you in this scenic environment. These can sometimes turn out to be some of the best, most organic photos of the set, even if you give the couple a little direction before you capture the moment.

    gretchen@gretchentreop.com Photo © Gretchen Troupe (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in Dillon, CO.

    hello@larsenphoto.co Photo © Larsen Photo Co (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) in Estes Park, CO.

    lazzat.v@gmail.com Photo © Lazzat Photography (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Breckenridge Lodge in Colorado.

    marlies@mhartphoto.com Photo © Marlies Hartmann (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at the Matterhorn.

4. Plan Ahead: Bring the Party

Mountain portrait photography can involve traveling to scenic and sometimes remote locations. Be sure to plan ahead and bring all the equipment, props, and clothing you might need for the shoot! In addition to a sturdy tripod, backup batteries and memory cards, remember to pack comfortable shoes and a jacket, especially during the cooler times of the year. Also, don’t forget water to stay hydrated on your hike, and you might want to bring some champagne for a toast to the top of the world!

    tismanphoto@gmail.com Photo © Jeff Tisman (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) in Killington, Vermont.

5. Isolate subjects

One of the biggest challenges in mountain portrait photography, especially for large, wide-angle environmental portraits, is getting your subject to stand out and stand out from the background. If you’re not careful, your subjects could blend into a messy background. Here are some ways to isolate your topics:

  • Negative space: Keep the area around the couple free of distracting elements.
  • Lighting: Make your subjects the brightest part of the scene.
  • Bokeh: Use a low aperture to send everything but the torque out of focus.
  • Color: Incorporate examples of color theory into your composition, using colors that go well together. A basic color wheel will put you on the right track to learning to recognize pleasing combinations.

Photo © Marlies Hartmann (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) in Yosemite, California.

    michael@michaelfreas.com

Photo © Michel Freas (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Wayah Bald @Nantahala Weddings and Events in Topton, NC.

    angela@angelanelsonphoto.com

Photo © Angie Nelson (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) in the mountains of West Maui, Maui, Hawaii.

    hello@josandtree.com

Photo © Jos and Tree (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at the Timberline Lodge Resort in Timberline, Oregon.

    info@4eyesphotography.ca

Photo © 4 Eyes Photography (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Moraine Lake in Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta.

    jaycassario@gmail.com

Photo © Jay Cassario (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Ho Chi Minh Trail, San Diego, CA.

    contact@salmada.com

Photo © Salmada Photography (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Hole in the Rock, Papago Park in Phoenix, AZ.

    elyssa@kivusandcamera.com

Photo © Kivus and Camera (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at The Ridge Asheville in Asheville, North Carolina.

6. Look at horizons and backgrounds

As with any background, do your best to find a composition that frames your subject and avoid having the horizon or mountain peaks peeking through the subject’s head or neck. If your pair crosses the horizon, which can happen more often for close-ups, try to keep the majority of your pair’s bodies clearly above the horizon line.

7. Combine creative techniques

Mountain portrait photography offers plenty of opportunities to use all of your creative techniques. This includes using silhouettes, reflections, negative space, panorama stitching, double exposures, and more! It should be noted that you need to practice these techniques beforehand so that you are ready to perform once you get there. The last thing you want to do is go on an epic hike for not using your techniques effectively. See some examples below for inspiration.

Below is an example of using silhouette photography in your mountain portrait photography:

Below is an example of using panorama stitching in your mountain portrait photography:

Try panorama stitching for amazing wide-angle imagesPhoto © Lin and Jirsa (Website | Wedding Cards Profile).

Below is an example of using double exposure photography in your mountain portrait photography:

    info@pollok-pictures.de

Photo © Andreas Pollok (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) in Füssen Allgäu in Bavaria.

8. Sunset time

Few sunsets are as magnificent as sunsets against a backdrop of mountains. Just be aware of the exact sunset time, as the sun might pass below the mountain’s horizon earlier than the listed sunset time. Use apps like Sun Seeker to track the sun’s location throughout the day, and be sure to start taking photos early to give yourself plenty of time to snap the perfect sunset shot. See some examples below:

    info@chancefreeze.com

Photo © Chance Freeze (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Beavers Bend State Park in Broken Bow, OK.

    kevin@holdingcophoto.com

Photo © Holding and Co (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Yosemite National Park in California.

    loc@loclefilms.com

Photo © Loc Le (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Mount Rainier National Park in Mount Rainier National Park.

    Sean ThurstonPhotos@gmail.com

Photo © Sean Thurston (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Raven’s Roost along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.

9. Use a wide-angle lens to capture beauty

When it comes to lens choice, a wide-angle lens is often the best choice for mountain portrait photography. This rings especially true for epic environmental portraits. Of course, using a variety of focal lengths will help you achieve different looks and tell the full story. And what’s more, photographers should always match the focal length with their lenses, style, and look. But often a nice wide shot of the couple and the scenery is a solid choice. See some examples below:

    Dan@dandalstra.com

Photo © Dan Dalstra (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Franklin Mts. State Park in El Paso, TX.

    kristin@cheatwoodphoto.com

Photo © Kristin Cheatwood (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at the Sun Valley Resort in Sun Valley, ID.

    contact@lessiebluephotography.com
Photo © Lessie Blue (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at The Griffin House in Hood River, OR.

    weshinn@gmail.com Photo © Wes Shinn (Website | Wedding Cards Profile) at Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to add drama to your portraits, let the location lend a hand. When it comes to spectacular locations, there’s no better place to shoot than in the mountains. Towering peaks and sweeping views provide a stunning backdrop for any photo, and the challenge of snapping photos over rugged terrain can help you develop your skills as a photographer. Additionally, mountain locations often offer a variety of lighting conditions, from bright sunshine to deep shadows, which can help add depth and interest to your photos. So if you’re looking to take your photography to new heights, don’t be afraid to head for the hills!

The mountain portrait photography featured in this article was provided by wedding cards, a collection of wedding venues and photographers based around the world. For more information, click here.