Environmental portrait photography

location environmental portrait photography

This environmental portrait photo is of an apprentice and taken at Marshall’s Aerospace in Cambridge.

I take photographs both in the studio and on location, many of them are often environmental portraits.


These days most of my photography has been studio based, but I have spent the last 36 years photographing a very diverse selection of people in many locations, both in the UK and internationally.


Locations offer different challenges to studio work as very often you have to think on your feet, lighting can be challenging due to the location constraints, the subject may only have a few minutes free so we have to plan ahead as much as possible so that when they arrive we are all set to go. It’s exciting when faced with a location where there are lots of composition options, together with decisions on the look and style of the photo, and if any space is needed for copy such as on a magazine cover or header image.


I have photographed the ultra rich like Richard Branson and the late Queen, famous Olympian gold medal winners and people who are homeless, others in factories and others in offices or at home.


Locations have been as varied as you can get; like on a 1950’s lifeboat in the North Sea, at the top of the UK’s deepest coal mine shaft, on rooftops of city skyscraper where to get access you have to walk through a hatch, in a balloon flying over Marrakech, laboratories where you have to go through air locks and scanned for radioactivity, greasy heavy industry factories and luxury swimming pools in Spain. The list can go on but I expect you have a good idea by now…


Some of the people have been sent to prison after I photographed them. I photographed Lord Brocket as we walked around his Ferrari collection, pointing to an empty space where an engine had been “stolen”. I visited the Houses of Commons to photograph Fisheries minister Elliott Morley, later he was sent to prison for six months for two counts of false accounting. There are a few more that I won’t mention…


Top tips on taking environmental portraits:


1. Plan ahead as much as possible to prevent turning up and finding unexpected problems that could have been resolved earlier.


2. Keep things simple. If you know you will not have much time to take the portrait, reserve complicated lighting set ups for the bigger budget shots that give more time.


3. Always be polite to the sitter, the shot depends on them playing ball and not feeling unwelcome.


4. Nail your composition, use your experience to compose the image in an interesting way. With environmental portrait photography allow some space around the subject to illustrate their location and strengthen the narrative.


5. Make sure that the sitter is looking good, wonky ties and loose hair may not be the look your client is after.

Artist's photographic portrait Brighton
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