Getting better portraits – include the enviornment

One way to improve your portraits is to capture more of the environment in the shot. This can help tell the story of your subject and by working in the right background document a part of their life. Sometimes taking a few steps back and including more of the environment can really enhance a portrait. For family portraits I ask a lot of questions about the family before planning out the shoot. I want to always have the location of the shoot tell something about the family so try and really figure out what they enjoy doing together and see how we can incorporate that into the shoot. I have always felt a true portrait should show what the person is all about. Sometimes I will shoot a family snuggled up on the couch with popcorn watching a movie or running around at a park, my portraits are a glimpse into their lifestyle.

This image was shot in the families home in the play area for the kids. It was an area that you might first pass by, there were a lot of toys and clutter in this area but that is what made it so perfect for me. This was at the end of the shoot and the kids were pretty much done at this point. We had been playing for awhile and they did great but were done. Even though its not a typical portrait and the oldest brother was ducking in the background it still shows a point in time that the parents will always remember. A time of love, happiness and chaos all rolled into one. An image like this really captures a certain point in a families life and can bring back these feelings. It brings back a time filled with all the joys of having young kids playing around the house. Sometimes not having everyone looking at the camera for a family portrait can be great, it might not be exactly what you wanted but don’t throw that image away. That photo could still be so important to the parents and help them to remember some of the joys of parenthood.

And just to show that he did behave right before this shot the 2nd image shows the oldest boy.

lifestyle portraits
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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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