Make Environment Part of the Portrait

Portraits—no matter where you make them—are all about light, so start by searching for places where the light looks good. When the weather is nice, I’ll shoot at a local park a few blocks away from my home and for swimsuit shots I shoot at a nearby lake. I typically make portraits during the week when there is far less activity in the neighborhood, at the park, or the lake.

In the Winter? Colorado has three hundred sunny days a year, more than some so-called Sunshine States,” so it’s almost always a nice day in the park, even if it might be a might bit chilly. Megan needed some “winter clothes” shots for her portfolio and we made this image when the temperatures were in the 50’s; too cold for her however so the shoot was brief. The arms folded pose worked because she was shivering. Image made with Contax Aria with 135mm f2.8 Carl Zeiss lens and Kodak ISO 400 color negative film. ©2011 Joe Farace

You can make a successful portrait or fashion image anywhere. Work using focal lengths that are appropriate for your style of and maybe crop a little tighter than you might otherwise. Some shooters like wide-angle shots and I use them occasionally but keep going back to 85mm focal length. Sometimes, I even use my favorite Canon EF 135 f/2.8 soft focus lens that I love to use outdoors for full-length shots. The main thing is that it doesn’t matter what I say, if you like shooting with a 14mm lens, go for it. If there’s any secret, it’s don’t give up. Don’t say, I can’t shoot here. You can shoot anywhere. Just take the time and look around.

Use the subject’s own pose and work to make it work better. This image was made during a group shoot on an outdoors movie set and the subject grabbed the chair, turned it around backwards and sat down. I worked with her original pose to get her to bring her left hand near her face to direct attention to her face. The hat is a great prop and I used it her to have her peer out from it at the viewer.

The original color image was captured using a Canon EOS 50D with 50mm lens and an exposure of 1/200 second at f/5.6 and ISO 400. A Canon EX 550 speedlite was used as file. While the image was in color but I converted it to monochrome with a light copper toning with heavy vignetting to give it a vintage look.

Author: Joe Farace

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