Environmental Portraits

Guidance notes written by Grahame Mellonby who will be judging this competition and also providing a training session for us before this on Environmental Portraits:

Portraiture is a type of photography aimed toward capturing the personality of a person or group of people by using effective lighting, backdrops, poses, timing and circumstance. Environmental portraiture typically illuminates the subject’s life and surroundings.

Visual clues to enhance a portrait include body language, hand gestures, facial movements, and direction of gaze. All these bring out the personality of the sitter. Any environment and/or props help tell the story of the sitter; but remember to keep in mind the main reason for creating the image.

Discover the correct surrounding, and background that suits the person or group to be captured. If you have limited choice through circumstance, keep it simple. Primarily manoeuvre the surroundings by way of camera position, or your location, to cascade towards the subject’s head without distractions. Concentrating on the background and surrounding environment, allowing them to focus on the sitter, will complement the image.

Permit nature to illuminate the portrait if possible. Natural light cannot be substituted by manufactured light. The manipulation of daylight with the help of reflectors can enhance the subtlety of gentle, incidental radiance.

Use the camera as a tool to record what you see. Having constructed the image use technical skill to allow the camera to capture your vision. Try not to rely on software to ‘rescue’ an image as it may look contrived, unless you wish to create a style. The key to any successful human portraiture, even if the subject occupies a small part of the image, is the eyes. Study them, and this will give you the soul of what you aim to capture.

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Youtube Guides


How to create environmental portraits (tips and examples) by Darren Rouse


10 Photography tips to improve your environmental portraits by Kevin Landwer-Johan


Environmental portraits
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