Environmental Portraiture

A personal way to capture meaningful images of people.

What is Environmental Portraiture?

Environmental portraiture is portraiture that emphasizes not just the subject, but also the environment around him.

When you shoot an environmental portrait, you're not just shooting your subject in a random place such as the street corner he happens to be standing on or the monument that he’s visiting, instead, you're choosing the environment or setting for your photograph based on what you want to say about that particular person. You're telling your viewer something about the person that transcends just what they look like.


You can immediately tell from this image that the subject is a barman who loves his work and takes great care in properly presenting his craft. That's what Environmental Portraiture is all about.

For example a scenic mountaintop may be the perfect setting for someone who has devoted his life to conquering wild places and exploring the natural world. That same scene would not be good a choice for a businessman who's been talked in to going camping by his much more outdoorsy-oriented wife and kids.

The setting needs to say something about the person; it's not meant to be just a pretty backdrop. That's what I aim to teach you this month.

Environmental Portraiture Course Content

  • Day 1: Intro to Environmental Portraiture
  • Day 2: Portrait Basics
  • Day 3: Where to go
  • Day 4: Revealing Character
  • Day 5: Posed Portraits
  • Day 6: Candids
  • Day 7: Challenges
  • Day 8: Storytelling

In Detail

Which environment is your subject most at home? At home, work or play?

Environmental Portraiture doesn't need to be posed. Sometimes a candid photo of your subject in an environment they love tells much more than a posed photo ever will.

The essence of a great Environmental Portraiture is your viewer being able to tell a lot about your subject from one glance at your photo.

Day 1: Intro to Environmental Portraiture: We'll start with an overview of Environmental Portraiture. I'll explain what it is; why you should strive to create this kind of photograph; and what gear you'll need

Day 2: Portrait Basics: We can't really have a discussion about environmental portrait photography without going over some of the basic things about taking portraits in general. I'll tell you what camera settings to use; the best kinds of poses; and how to find the best light.

Day 3: Where to go: By this, I mean which setting does your subject feel most comfortable? Usually you'll be choosing from one of three categories: home, work and play. Who we are and how we interact with others varies a lot depending on which one of these three environments we happen to be in. For example, some people are work-a-holics, so associate themselves mostly with their work.

Day 4: Revealing Character: The wonderful thing about environmental portraits is that we're not relying on someone's smile to tell us about themselves. A little bit of extra information about a person can make for a much more compelling photograph. Today, I'll show you how the setting reveals character.

Day 5: Posed Portraits: Environmental portraiture lends itself to posing because your subject is always going to be more comfortable in her natural environment then she would be if you brought her indoors into a studio. Today, I'll show you how to make sure your subject is comfortable in front of the camera.

Day 6: Candids: Candid portrait photography is a great opportunity to capture meaningful images of your subject - images that help communicate to your viewer who that person is and what his life is like. I personally find them a lot easier to shoot than posed portraits, but you do have to have some tricks under your belt in order to do them well.

Day 7: Challenges: There are always more challenges when photographing in the environment. I'll discuss common problems like busy background, balancing the subject and the environment, and working with the light - and provide easy remedies for each.

Day 8: Storytelling: One of the most powerful things you can do as a photographer is tell a story with your camera. It's not the photograph itself that tells the story - it's the viewer’s imagination. Today, I'll show you how to capture a single moment in time that also provides the opening scene for a story, which your viewer will continue to tell in his own mind.

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