Alien Bee Outdoor Session Baseline Setup

Published on July 4, 2020

Outdoor Portrait Location Selection

When selecting an outdoor location look for the following in order of importance.

  1.  SHADE! 
    • You must have shade.  Even if it’s overcast, the sun may come out- and then you are in trouble. 
    • An overhang is the best kind of shade because it creates the best directional lighting!
  2. Uncluttered Background. 
    • Many times you can change your angle to get uncluttered, but the less contrasty and less busy background, the more your subjects will be the focus of the portrait.
  3. Sun behind your subject. 
    • This will give you separation from the background.  You can also add a strobe to create separation.



  1. Flat Lighting –  Your Light is positioned incorrectly (usually directly in front of subject).  (Remember to photograph into the shadow side for short light.)
  2. Light not firing when you use remote strobe transmitter– Transmitter/Receiver on different channels. Transmitter could need new battery.
  3. Hair or fill light not firing. Slave sensor not sensing the flash.  Re-position lights,  cord them, or use additional receiver.  
    • If you are using a 2nd light for a hair light and it is not firing- the strobe sensor on the back of the hair light might not be receiving the signal from the main light.  Especially, if you are outside (there is nothing for the strobe to bounce off of)… turn the light around where the sensor faces the strobe (and use a bounce umbrella) or add an extra receiver to the 2nd light.
  4. Black band on your images.  Shutter speed too fast.  Canon 6D syncs at 1/160th of a second, if any faster, a black band will occur on your images.
  5. Does your image look too “flash-y”… you need more ambient light, increase your ISO and decrease your strobe power.
  6. Background too dark –  to let in more ambient light you can decrease the shutter speed and “Drag the Shutter” set shutter speed no slower than 1/60th.  The strobe will expose your subject- if the shutter speed is slower than the flash, the aperture will let in more light in the background.  Careful that your subject does not show movement with this technique.
  7. Eyes not in focus – make sure you are using single point AF mode.  Focus on eye closest to camera, then re-compose in camera.  Make sure shutter speed 1/160.  Make sure not to jerk camera from your face quickly when exposing (follow through).