Environmental Portraits. A time and a place.

April 11, 2023  •  Leave a Comment


Environmental portraits

Welcome back and today’s theme is the environmental portrait.

Put simply the environmental portrait is a genre of photography that places the subject to be photographed in the environment where they work, reside or just simply enjoy being there.

It’s the inclusion of their surroundings that will give the subject context.

If it’s for their work website or social media feeds then what you include in the photo will be a key element in the image.

In this first image it is immediately apparent what Eloise does; it was shot in her premise, RHR Male Grooming and not only includes part of her shop but also the tools of her trade, scissors , straight razor and the barbers chair.

This formed part of a Magazine submission for publication in Modern Barber a trade journal that highlighted Eloise’s shop.

The key here was the lighting, just enough to illuminate the background but not too much as to be a distraction from Elle who after all was the main subject.


But let’s go wider.

In this shot for Yates Motor engineers on Hart Street we wanted to include more of the background to show the working environment.

It was a greyish day outside but that gave us an even light coming through the skylights and I then set my camera to expose slightly darker for that light which we refer to as the ambient light. Unfortunately this left Leigh under exposed so to bring him to the foreground with a bit more pop, I simply place two Flash units out. The first to the right of the frame as a key or main light. The other to the left, just to lift the shadows.


In this image of Dan Rix at work at The Master Barbers Lord Street, he is actually working with a client. To get this shot I had a small flash unit off the camera and a remote trigger on the camera to get a slightly different angle on the light. If you notice the windows behind still have detail. Without using additional light Dan and his client would have been in silhouette or the background would have been to bright and the image would have less impact.


However you don’t always require additional lighting as on a good day in the right environment you can step outside place your subject in the frame and still have the context of their workplace, as in this shot with Fire fighter Alex at Kirkdale Fire Station. We lined up with the Appliance in its bay and had Alex stand central not only to the Appliance but also so she is framed by the Engine house doors.


It’s not all about the workplace as in this final image I was commissioned to capture Gill on the event of his 90th Birthday.

Sat in his favourite chair surrounded by photos of his family. A lovely way to spend an afternoon in his company.

DSCF9503-EditDSCF9503-Edit The secret sauce, its all about balancing the ambient (background light) with the subject. Knowing how to place your lights and setting up your camera. No two scenes are ever the same and that's the fun.

Thanks once again for visiting my blog page.

If you require an environmental portrait please get in touch.

Either direct message here on Facebook or via email at;

[email protected]

You can also find me over on Instagram @davebrown2332

If you want to see some more portraits, then pop over to my portrait gallery..