Post & Photo by Joe Farace – Follow Joe on Twitter

The classic definition of environmental portraiture is making a portrait that’s executed in the subject’s living, working, or playing environment and illuminates their life and surroundings. By photographing a person in their natural surroundings, instead of in an impersonal studio, the theory is that you can more effectively capture the essence of a subject’s personality, rather than just a mere likeness. The upside is that it is more than likely (although ‘ya never really know) that the subject will be more at relaxed in a familiar environment and more likely to being themselves, as opposed to being in a camera room, which no matter how nice it may be, can become a rather intimidating experience for some people.

Like all rules of thumb, there is some truth to what I just said but out here in the real world truth some people are never going to be comfortable in front of a camera no matter where you photograph them. The upside is that you have a better chance of capturing as much of a subject’s true personality as they will let you see in an environmental portrait than in the studio. The downside for the working photographer is that it is more expensive to pack your gear and head out to a location to make a portrait than to walk a few step into a camera room. More time on the job means more money so you need to charge more for this kind of portrait. UNLESS you don’t have a studio and shooting on location is the only way you can do it. Nevertheless, you should to be compensated for the additional time these kinds of portraits take and adjust your rate accordingly.

Here’s Mary at the track (above) in her fire suit with her beloved Miata track day car. The helmet serves as prop and the “classic hand on hip” pose serves as a counterbalance as she more leans than sits on the car’s fender. And the whole riff on capturing a subject’s essence is especially true here. This portrait was made while she was in the middle of a six-week daily radiation therapy for breast cancer and that smile is real not canned. Shot at the now-closed Second Creek Raceway with a Canon EOS 1D Mark II N and EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens with an available light exposure of 1/500 sec at f/8 and ISO 400.

Joe Farace is the author of a new book called “Studio Lighting Anywhere” that’d available in all the best bookstores as well as Amazon.com.

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