Photographers – consider the environment!

We are all familiar with the standard portrait ‘head shot’, normally seen positioned above or alongside a written article, sometimes with a short caption printed benth. Although images of this style are little more than quality snapshots, they do fulfil the simple purpose of putting a face to the story. The images here were taken for news articles relating to film director, Carl Tibbets and film producer, Jonathan Sothcott. Although there is some mood to the lighting, the images fail to deliver much information about the characters themselves.  The same images can be seen below in published form, so in this case, clearly fulfilled the needs of the client since they were merely needed to support text. (Click any image to see an enlarged version.

With a stretch of the imagination, however there is sometimes scope to try to something different. This is subject to having a willing client and a bit of time, plus an appropriate location. However, prior to setting off on a tangent of self-indulgence, the photographer should always first consider the needs of the client. The shape of the image (be it landscape or portrait) is one obvious consideration – it would be useless to supply an image that is landscape in shape if the final image is required for the front cover of a magazine, for example.


In the case of the image above, moments before I took the photo I managed to borrow a background that was previously used for a TV interview. The person in the picture is Robin Hardy, director of the cult film The Wicker man. Robin had recently directed a sequel, called the Wicker Tree, so rather than settling for a simple head shot, I decided to place Robin in front of the movie poster itself, helping to convey the story. Here, use of both props and lighting helped to create a more interesting environmental portrait that is akin to that of the movie world. This image only took a few minutes to set up and test shots were taken just prior to Robin entering the set. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I think that depends on how the individual photographer utilizes their technical skills and imagination. Use of environment, props and lighting can all assist in developing a more meaningful image – an image that goes further in telling the story without total reliance on supportive text.

The picture above shows John Stretford of Castle Rock Studios with TV personality, Yvettte Fielding. The story behind the image is about a business collaboration between the two. Prior to taking the photograph, I was shown around the premises and quickly made some decisions as to what would make a strong environmental portrait. The recording equipment in the background is apparently state-of-the art, so it was clear to me that this environment should make up part of the image, playing a role in telling the story and also providing a sense context.

All images – Nikon D700 camera with two Nikon Speedlights (SB900) used off-camera with various flash modifiers and stands.

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One Response to “Photographers – consider the environment!”

  1. Great article Ian. I couldn’t agree more . Neither could Arnold Newman.

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