Portraits try to evoke an understanding between the viewer and the person being photographed. Or at least that’s what the photographer is trying to do most of the time. Other times, he’s just trying to make the subject pretty, but that’s a different kind of portraiture…
When you look at a portrait (taken in the first school of thought,) you wonder what the person in the photograph is like in character… are they serious, jovial, nutty or geeky? Apart from their usual outlook, what other emotions are they likely to face on a daily basis? These are the questions that a strong portrait makes people think about; and hopefully find answers to.
Now, Environmental Portraits introduce an exciting factor into portrait photography. You guessed it, you dawg, it introduces the viewer to the subject’s (sitter) environment. Big words? Ok. Its a picture of a person in a place that has some connection with whom they are and what they do… So, instead of just the person being the subject of the photograph, elements of the surrounding area become part of that subject too.
Why is this sooo interesting? Because it helps the viewer understand a bit more about the sitter. If the sitter is an engineer who works on houses, posing the them at their work location helps… or maybe posing the sitter at a table with blueprints would work…
Making it work
Environmental portraiture has a number of challenges, and sometimes, interesting payoffs…
One of the challenging parts of environmental photography is making the sitter and the environment say something about each other – making them look and feel like they fit hand in glove. Another challenge is finding interesting and appropriate lighting in these environments because you don’t usually have total control over the lighting situation at the location.
An easy way to reduce the unknown factors on both of these challenges is to work out some promising locations and accompany the sitter to survey them. Sometimes there may not be all that much of a choice, but it helps to go to the location in advance. Putting your subject at ease in your presence is a very important part of portrait photography and this chance to chat with your subject (especially if it is someone you don’t know) in their own environment is important in this process.
Now that you know more about the variable factors in your shoot, you’re more prepared to take on the challenges. You’ll know whether you need a tripod, a flash, reflectors, or any other gear, be it a different lens or a filter that will add punch to your photographs.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can make these choices, you can follow us on our RSS feed and explore your photography along with us or you could bookmark our page and visit later.