Environmental Portraits: Why Adding More Substance Is Relevant

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Studio shoots might seem overtly simplified, but in theory, most photographers will prefer an environmental photo-shoot to a studio shoot for several reasons. The least of which being the subjects more comfortable in an environment that is familiar, and possibly has a more relaxed atmosphere as well.

In this case "environmental" portraits, also known as "on location" portraits are portraits taken of people in the setting that they live, work, rest or play in. Additionally, such portraiture can also be shot in a place that holds special meaning for the subjects and says something about who they are.

Environmental Portraits - When Context Is Important

The environmental portraits give context to the subject being photographed, telling the viewer of the photograph something about the subject. It enables the shots to contain points of interest with distracting too greatly from the subject of the photograph.

In addition, as previously mentioned, it helps the subject relax so their personality can come through to the viewer of the captured image. These environmental portraits are somewhat of a midpoint in the gamut that runs between obvious studio portraits and candid shots of people captured "incidentally" during the routine of daily life.

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Consistent Tips

The photographer must take the time to get to know their subjects, as this will not only for a good rapport between them, but it gives the photographer a chance to observe where the subjects spend their days, what they enjoy doing, and more insight into their personality.

All of the aforementioned tips will make the photography shoot more productive and the resulting images will contain more points of interest that will help the viewer of the photographs connect with the subjects through the messages conveyed in the images captured.

Picking The Right Location

Once in a blue moon the location will choose the photographer, but generally speaking, it takes a bit of research and luck to find the perfect location that can convey the many messages that make for a successful environment portrait shoot.

The location must say something about the subject, as well as add interest to the shot without overwhelming the image and creating a confused image in which the subject is not immediately obvious. On way to avoid a confusing image is to keep the background and the foreground as uncluttered as possible, without taking away from the subject's appeal.

If, post-processing, the image seems too cluttered, all is not lost. Much can be edited via computer and cropped to direct attention back to the subject.

Using Props

Props can make or break an environmental portrait. Subtle props can enhance a portrait by naturally fitting into the enironment. Distracting items should be avoided if at all possible. Also, the photographer must make sure the clothing worn by the subject compliments the portrait and helps it stay true to the context of the image without distracting items that are outlandish or too brash.

Finding The Right Pose

The environmental portrait differs from the candid photographs because the portraits are posed. Of course, there might be a bit of posing in candid potraits at one point or another. Direct the subject to pose certain ways, even if they might feel unnaturaol or overly dramatic.

Shots where the subjects are posed more dramatically tend to have more depth to them. The subject's expression is just as important as any other part of the image, and should be taken into consideration before deciding on which expression best suits the situation at hand. The photographer will usually try a variety of different poses and expressions to be able to conclude what will and what won't work in the given situation.

Working With Your Camera - What Settings Should You Consider

There is no right or wrong way to set up a camera for an environmental portrait shoot. Occasionally the photographer might want to shoot at a smaller aperture to keep both foreground and background in focus. Additionally, the photographer might find that a longer focal length gives more prominence to the environment that is pivotal to the message of the portrait. In the end, anything goes, and it is best to mix it up and see what the images convey.

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