Environmental Portrait Photography Tips


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As we travel we meet everyday people doing amazing things. It may be in their work, undertaking a hobby or simply at home: that is in their own environment. Here are my environmental portrait photography tips.

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This is Kathy, a scientist based at the Heron Island Research Station that we met recently on a visit to the island undertaking a couple of her daily tasks.

environmental portrait heron queensland 02

Environmental Portraits

Images of these people are called environmental portraits.

You will often see contributors in magazines and media using them to showcase a person they have met and that you may well meet one day too.

They enlighten the viewer into the subject’s life and form a delightful addition to any personal travel album, especially when capturing a loved one doing something they are passionate about.

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Experiences for teenagers need to be captured in the moment.

Tips to capture memorable photographs of the people:

1. If the work they are engaged in is very intricate, get in close without being in the way.

environmental portrait annabel artist

2. If you have to use flash, diffuse, bounce whatever you can to soften the light. If you only have the flash on your camera, a top tip is to use a tissue. Hold the tissue over the flash and this will soften the direct frontal lighting of the on-camera flash.

3. Watch the background and foreground: all should complement your subject and none
distract. Most importantly, it should provide an insight into the character.

environmental portrait ferrett outbackqld character

4. A prop can be good but it needs to be appropriate to the subject. Not only does this help your subject relax, it also provides a link to the story and an extra visual element to the image.

5. Look for colour, line, curves, form and most importantly light.

portrait photography tips

6. Try using a wide-angle lens with a relatively small aperture. Be careful of perspective and objects close to the lens are not distorted.

portrait photography tips

portrait photography tips

7. Be prepared for the unexpected. These images may be serious or humorous.

Consider creating mood, drama, space and scale in your composition. And don’t forget to have fun capturing the many characters we meet along our journeys.

environmental portrait eddie camel
Photos: Danielle Lancaster

8. Which Angle?

Should you shoot from above, below or direct on? Each subject will vary. What is the feeling you wish to obtain from your image?

A camera angle from below your subject can give the feeling of power while an angle from above can give a feeling of suppression.

9. When photographing strangers politeness is the key! Always ask with a smile.

Don’t be timid. Asking someone to be photographed at work or doing something they love is really not that hard.

They are already in an environment they know. Take the time to get to know your subject and what they do before you pull the camera out. You will find this a two-way rewarding process.

10. Break down the barriers: make your subject feel comfortable. If you know them this should not be difficult. If you don’t, a warm personality, big smile and generous handshake goes along way.

Danielle Lancaster teaches photography at Blue Dog Photography



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