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Tips & Tricks

How To Create Epic Environmental Portraits

By Shivani Reddy on July 3rd 2018

We went on Facebook Live to discuss how we create some of our extraordinary portraits featuring subjects within a wide environmental landscape. We covered how to light, compose, shoot and edit these images to make the subject stand out amongst a busy and vast scene, watch it here:

With portraits such as these, our main goal is to ensure that the subjects stand out amongst the large landscape they’re in, and to do that requires a greater understanding of off-camera lighting and knowing just how far you can push your camera. You can see more in-depth tutorials and techniques on how to achieve this look in SLR Lounge Premium!

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Off-Camera Lighting Techniques for Environmental Portraits

We often get asked in our community what the best lighting tool is. There simply is no right answer to this question because it all depends on your budget and needs as a photographer. However, here are some of our recommendations:

Lighting tools (flashes)

Lighting tools (strobes)

Lighting Modifiers (small)

Lighting Modifiers (large)

Location Scouting for Creative Compositions

Put your camera down and take a glance around the scene. Often you’ll find that just a quick location scouting session prior to shooting will give you the most unique perspectives. Planning for a shot like this requires a deep understanding of the landscape which takes time, and sometimes even incorporating spontaneous elements like these kayakers in the distance. Keep an eye out for the following things when location scouting:

  • Leading lines
  • Foreground objects
  • Interesting shapes
  • Unique angles

Camera Settings For Environmental Portraits

When photographing in a large landscape you need to make the decision of whether or not you will be using off-camera lighting to assist in bringing out the subject in the frame. Then dial in the appropriate camera settings depending on the look you are trying to achieve.

To achieve this image we first dialed-in the ISO desired to expose for the natural ambient light, then we wanted to slow down the motion of the water, which then meant we would have to compensate for the brighter exposure by stopping down our Aperture. You can see exactly how we created this extraordinary image here.

Post-Production For Environmental Portraits

Environmental portraits require a compositing technique due to the fact that you are shooting in a wide landscape with an off-camera light. Using a Layer Mask in Photoshop will allow you to mask out your assistant or off-camera light in the frame. You can watch a tutorial on how to edit a composite image here.

For more tips on visualizing & creating images like these check out Shoot to Post, exclusively available in SLR Lounge Premium!

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Shivani wants to live in a world where laughter is the cure to pretty much everything. Since she can’t claim “Serial Bingewatcher” as an occupation, she’ll settle for wedding/portrait photographer at Lin and Jirsa & marketing coordinator here at SLR Lounge. For those rare moments when you won’t find a camera in her hand, she will be dancing, eating a donut, or most likely watching Seinfeld.

Follow her on Instagram: @shivalry_inc

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