Nikon School

Shooting Environmental Portraits

By : Nikon School Blog   |  16 Aug, 2018  |  61

You can hardly find a photographer who doesn't like shooting portraits. Portraits allow us to capture the beauty and emotions of our fellow human beings. Within portraiture, environmental portraits are a genre in themselves. Environmental portraits show a person in his or her environment and how he or she relates to that environment. Whether it's their workplace or home, people usually are most comfortable in their own environment. This is why shooting environmental portraits often brings out their most natural reactions.

f/5.3 ; 1/80s; ISO 200 ; DX Format 66mm

Confusing environmental portraits with candid portraits is natural as they are often very similar. The subtle difference is in the way the subjects are photographed.

While a candid shot captures the moment, it may or may not highlight the human subject. An environmental portrait always highlights the human subject, whether or not there's a candid moment involved.

f/5.6; 1/125s, ISO 400; DX format 34mm

While shooting environmental portraits, keeping a wide angle is the most obvious requirement to adequately show the background. However, you should know the threshold, as going too wide can create unacceptable distortion. For full frame, 35mm to 50mm is a good focal length range to achieve this. Keep in mind that for DX format lenses, this would be around 24mm to 35mm as the 1.5X crop factor comes in. A wider frame is also effective, but beware of any distortion affecting the subject.

f/5.6 ; 1/40s; ISO 200 ; FX Format 52mm

The environment is as important as the subject in environmental portraits. Hence, using a medium aperture like f/5.6 or f/8 is most effective. Wider apertures may blur the background and fail to convey the environment effectively. Too small apertures can cause the background to become too prominent, which may reduce the subject's prominence.

Aperture priority is the recommended mode as it allows you to use your preferred aperture. However, you can also use other modes as per your convenience.

f/7.1; 1/20s, ISO 400; DX format 24mm

As with any kind of portraits, attractive light can take your environmental portraits to another level. So, always look for attractive light and interplay of light and shadow. As artificial lights cannot be used in most cases, try to make use of available light. Window light often works best as a light source. However, with adequate knowledge of flashes, you can use them effectively. Low ley lighting can also be very effective in some cases.

f/5.6; 1/20s, ISO 3200; FX format 24mm

Keeping a low angle often adds a dramatic perspective to the personality of the subject. Similarly, higher angles can also add a touch of uniqueness. So, be ready to experiment with different angles.

f/5.6; 1/25s, ISO 400; DX format 18mm

Placement of the subject is often an important aspect of shooting environmental portraits. While keeping them at centre works well and is a natural tendency of most photographers, it may not render the background effective. Placing the subject as per the rule of 3rds is a more effective way to balance the frame and renders the subject and the environment equally effective.

f/8; 1/80s, ISO 200; DX format 24mm

As with all images, shooting RAW helps, especially in low light conditions. You can underexpose to maintain the highlights and recover the shadows to balance the exposure.

f/5.6; 1/250s, ISO 400; FX format 34mm

With these tips with you, you can go out for your next environmental portrait shoot with confidence.

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