Environmental Portraits

This week I wanted to post about a shooting style that I enjoy, Environmental Portraits. For many professional photographers, portraits are their bread and butter, or how they make most of their money.

For myself, I don’t really care for shooting conventional portraits, I like to shoot what I like to shoot and as far as portraits go, I’d rather shoot Environmental instead of traditional portraits. An Environmental Portrait is where you photograph a person doing their job or a hobby that is interesting. This first image is of my girlfriend’s son C.J playing his guitar.

It doesn’t matter what their job is, you can create an interesting shot and tell a story at the same time. I have shot food stand workers at fairs, chefs in restaurants, musicians playing their music, even firefighters as they are battling a house fire. Environmental Portraits are my second favorite style for shooting people, after my all time favorite, which is Street Photography.

One of the big things in creating a great Environmental Portraits is proper lighting. Sometimes, you can bring your studio strobes if you have the ones with battery packs or even regular powered ones if their is easy access to electricity. Often, depending on the actual environment, you might have to settle for your Speedlites or only be able to use natural light from interior lighting and sunlight. This second image is of my neighbor Mike drilling some steel for a bracket system for a Jeep he is modding.

In my humble opinion the other way to get your best results is to treat it like any other portrait and use only your prime lenses. That 50mm, 35mm or 85mm with the wide aperture and tack sharp focus are your best bet to get amazing results. You want to be able to capture every possible detail and also generally want a nice, shallow depth of field for fantastic bokeh. Bokeh is that creamy out of focus blur in the background of a shot and is especially nice with a high quality lens that gives you the small circles of light.

So next time you want to shoot something new, give shooting Environmental Portraits a try!