Environmental portrait photography can be difficult to master, but once you do master it, the results can be amazing.
What Is It
Environmental portrait photography has nothing to to with global warming or looking after the planet. It is all about photographing your subject in their natural environment. This can be anywhere from where they work, where they live, or anywhere where they like to spend their time. It is all about portraying something of the character of your subject through where they are in the photo.
Find A Location
It can be difficult to set up a shot properly with environmental photography. But persevere until you find the perfect location for your subject, and you will be rewarded. So how is the perfect destination for a shot found? Firstly, you have to get to know your subject. You need to find out what they like to do in their spare time, what their hobbies are, where they enjoy going etc. When you know this, you can then add together what you have found out to place them in their own perfect photographic location, which also portrays who they are as a person. Think of it as a candid shoot with a studio approach when it comes to some of your shooting and the setting up of the scene.
There should be some background detail, to add character to a picture, but not so much that it overpowers the presence of the person in the shot. The idea behind this method of photography is that the background subtly adds to the feel of the portrait yet does not become the main feature. If you find the background to be too distracting, try using a wider aperture to blur the background so you can still make out what’s there but the eye is immediately drawn to the person instead. You could also try cropping the shot when you’re back at your computer or simply move your subject to a place where the background isn’t so distracting. Remember, you want your location to relate to your subject and add interest to the shot without actually pulling attention away from your main point of focus.
Photo by Joshua Waller
What To Wear
You want your subject to be relaxed and comfortable so don’t dress them in something that will make them uncomfortable. Keeping their hands busy is a good way to distract them so bring along some props, so long as they fit the theme and don’t distract the viewer’s attention too much.
How To Pose
Posing your subject but still getting them to look natural so it looks almost candid takes some work but with directions and guidance from you, your subject should find a pose that works in no time. Try to make them as relaxed as possible as any tension will be visible on their face. A simple chat will help ease their worries so you’re then free to ask them to create whatever expression suits the scene you’re working with.
This technique can be challenging at times, but once you get used to the methods of taking environmental photos, you will love the results it gives you. A lot of photographers love it because it is more than a picture, it’s an insight into someone’s personality and life. Why not have a go yourself, and see what amazing and expressive results you can achieve?
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