Environmental portraiture means different things to different people. To me, an environmental portrait can be designated as such when the environment, i.e., the surrounding area, plays a large part in the photo.
Environmental portraits help establish context and make it easier to divulge the personal interests and lifestyle that your subject enjoys.
For me, if I am going to make an environmental portrait, I like to spend a great deal of time interviewing the subject to find out what they do and don’t like, how they spend their time, what’s important to them and how they want to be portrayed.
In this portrait, a yoga student poses in front of a well-known icon in Sedona, AZ. This place and the spiritual people it attracts are important to the subject. The pose provides help with the composition since there is iteration between the student and the rock formation at Cathedral Rock. The image illustrates peace and tranquility in the form of the ancient rock formations and the carefully crafted yoga pose.
Some of the benefits of environmental portraiture include letting the background and surrounding area help tell my subject’s story. I also like environmental portraits because they tend to relax the subject.
When I am making a traditional portrait, I tend to like simple backgrounds and tightly cropped photos where the subject fills the frame. In an environmental portrait, all that goes out the window. There may be times when the subject is very small in the frame as in the case of the image above. I would never place the subject this small in the frame in a traditional portrait.
Give environmental portraiture a try. Remember that the background and surrounding area needs to tell your subject’s story.