Child Environmental Portraiture

Photography Tip #6

The environmental portrait is a great type of portrait when photographing busy children inside your house on a winter day. In this type of portrait, the subject is doing something and not just looking at the camera. Your child may be reading a book, coloring or playing a game. Whatever your child is doing, it is something consistent with people who know the child, would expect that child to be doing.

Because more of the child’s surroundings are included with this type of pose, a wide- angle lens in the 28-35mm range makes a good choice. You can go up as large as a 50mm lens if you have sufficient room to get back away from the child, so you can get everything in the viewfinder.

With environmental portraits, you want both the background and foreground in focus, so use an aperture of at least f8 or greater. The farther away the background is from the subject, the more depth-of-field you will need to hold it in focus, so adjust your aperture appropriately. In this type of portrait, you want everything in focus because the child, what the child is doing, and the background all help tell a story.

It is fun to experiment with viewpoint. Shoot from the child’s eye-level viewpoint instead of your normal standing eye-level position. This technique yields excellent photos with a more personal look as it puts the viewer on the same plane as the child.

You don’t need a lot of fancy lighting equipment for environmental portraits; by using the natural light streaming in from just one window, you can create great portraits. If your window faces east, west or south, it can provide a strong directional sidelight that accents skin texture – something you don’t want when photographing children. You can minimize the texture effect in a couple of different ways. One, you can tone down the intensity of the light with a layer or two of sheer drapery material or a white rip-stop nylon, or two, move the subject farther away from the window. You could even use a combination of both. To further minimize the texture effect, and achieve a soft focus look, try using a diffuser filter.

A north-facing window is a better choice as it provides a more soft, even light. However, your images may have a bluish cast to them due to the low color temperature of the light. You can filter out the bluish cast by selecting a warmer white balance setting, such as Cloudy or Shady. Of course, you also edit it out in the image-editing process, but it is always better to get the best images possible at the time of capture and use as little editing as possible.

Environmental child portraits are a more pleasing type of portrait than posed portraits. It is visually more stimulating for a viewer to see the child doing something while being photographed rather than just looking at the camera. Besides, with it hard to get young children to sit for very long for a posed portrait, an environmental portrait makes a good alternative. Enjoy!

Professional Photographer

Professional Photographer

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