IMPROVE YOUR TRAVEL PORTRAITS-PART 1
Article and images by Tania Chatterjee
Pick a digital camera, point it towards your friend or family member and click! Instant result makes portrait fun. But travel portraits are special as it needs to describe the specialty of the subject within itself or along with its surrounding. Moreover you are taking someone’s image, who is not known to you.It takes lot of patience, regular practice, technical knowledge and skills to connect with the subject and the environment to create a good image. In this article we will learn about some tips of travel portrait photography.
I usually take two types of travel portraits:
- CLOSE-UP portrait, where only subject’s face, expression or some unique feature on face is emphasized.
- ENVIRONMENTAL PORTRAIT, where subject along with the location get importance.
Let’s find out more about environmental portrait in this article.
WHAT IS ENVIRONMENTAL PORTRAITS:
Environmental portrait is nothing to do with environmentalist images. It portrays a person or a group in harmony with their surroundings; it helps the viewer to develop an idea about them. It is like telling a story of the subject and his/her environment, life, culture, food, housing, livelihood, nature etc. In short, tie up the subject and his/her location in a meaningful way. Environmental portrait can be taken with subject’s permission or it can be candid as well.
HOW TO TAKE GOOD ENVIRONMENTAL PORTRAITS?
#1 RESEARCH ON PEOPLE AND PLACE
It’s always good to know about the people and place you are photographing. Before visiting the place, it is suggested to do some internet research on the type of images you intend to capture. Before my Myanmar trip, the people and their culture fascinated me. I had spent hours on researching the subject and their surrounding before the visit. This is minimum background work which should be followed.
#2 CONNECT YOURSELF WITH LOCAL PEOPLE
This is an essential skill for people photography. Connecting yourself with people give more dynamic expression to the portrait. Interacting with stranger is a challenging task, yet it is a rewarding experience. To get good environmental portrait you must leave your comfort zone and mingle with the local people. More you travel, more you interact with strangers, more you will learn this skill.
#3 POSING OR CANDID
I usually prefer both, asking for a pose or candid, completely depending on the situation. Ask for permission and once you reach the comfortable zone with your subject, don’t feel shy to give direction to your subject to get the best image and expression that suits the environment or situation. For example, you can ask where to sit or stand, for a smile etc. Click a few shots to get a natural looking image that fit into the situation. If permission is not given by the subject, that means subject is not comfortable with camera. In that case respect their wish and politely move on.
Candid portrait is one where the subject is unaware that a photo is taken. The whole idea of taking candid environmental portraits is to capture action and emotion.
#4 FILL THE FRAME WITH SUPPORTING ELEMENTS
This is essential for environmental portraits. Fill the frame with supporting elements that support the main subject and complete a story. Adding elements in a frame is the main difference between simple portrait and environmental portrait. Add some elements in your frame that make your story better and stronger. The supporting elements can be a worker’s tools, a vendor merchandise, friends and family, home ambiance, on-going event etc. The key components of taking successful environmental portraits are decisions of location, managing natural light and handling the expression of the subject.
#5 CAMERA SETTINGS
There is no particular setting to shoot environmental portraits. It totally depends on the balance between the main subject and other supporting elements. Moreover, it is preferable to use natural light condition for environmental portraits.
If you want to keep both foreground and background full on focus, keep larger number of f stop like f/8 and above. If the focus is on the subject and the background is blur, keep f stops between f/2.8 to f 4.
Medium zoom lens is best choice for environmental portraits. My personal preference is NIKON D750 with 24–70mm lens. The ISO settings depends on the light condition.
Hope this article will help you to improve your travel images. In my next tutorial I will discuss on CLOSE-UP portraits ….