Environmental or location portraits, headshots, and fashion shoots are often far more visually interesting than studio shoots. They do, however, present many challenges and require rather more effort including, learning about the subject, planning the shoot, checking and rescheduling for the weather, and logistics of moving people and equipment around.
Perhaps the most fundamental question I need to answer is, where to make the photographs? Clearly, I would choose very different settings for a portrait of a proud new mother with her baby and a corporate headshot of a business manager. For an environmental portrait of a lorry driver who enjoys renovating steam locomotives, I might suggest a visually dramatic location such as an old engine shed. For a portrait of a dressmaker who loves painting watercolours, I might choose to work in a her favourite beauty spot on a sunny day or in her studio.
In this case, my client was Cameron, a fashion conscious and handsome young man from the Tees Valley. He is tall with a very masculine appearance. So it seemed obvious to pick some local industrial locations. I chose an underpass at Middlesbrough Railway Station and Paddy’s Hole fishing harbour at the South Gare, Teesmouth.
Like many young people Cameron loves music. So, I wanted to shoot some of his photographs in the style of a cool musical album cover. The photographs would be composed in a square format.
But Cameron also loves fashion and takes great pride in his appearance. So, I thought an entire fashion/editorial spread would be appropriate for this bearded fashionista’s environmental portraits. Therefore several different locations were required. I did not want to just use the far too obvious shopfront plate glass windows or High Street cliches. So, I chose a commercial office block reception area, with glass doors, stainless steel fixtures, lifts and commercial lighting mixed with daylight and studio flash.
So we had an interesting set of locations: the office block, a Victorian underpass, and an old commercial fishing harbour, beautifully representing the modern and the proud traditional working class legacy and industrial heritage of Cameron’s home, the Tees Valley, which gave the world its first ever ever steam-powered passenger railway, has a 175 year long history of making iron and steel, and building world famous bridges and ships.
Fashion Editorial Spread
I wanted to show Cameron’s style, fashionable street-ware, creativity and his size and strength. But I also wanted to illustrate his soft and gentle side. In short I wanted to shoot him as I might an editorial celeb assignment. So, careful possing, low angles, tight framing, and long lenses would be required. I would use contrejour and high contrast lighting.
A grungy edit to harden up the images with cool tonal range and creative colour grading would be the final touch to deliver the artistic “look” I wanted.
All told less than 3 hours photography across 3 locations and a couple of days editing and we have 3 sets of photographs which combine to make an wonderful spread or portfolio of photographs.
Of course, not everyone wants such an extensive selection and a one hour shoot can deliver a set of images of one or if they are near by, two locations. Hopefully this story illustrates what can be done to produce stunning, unique and impactful environmental portraits, headshots, or fashion spreads, designed uniquely to suit each customer’s brief.
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I am a creative Photographer and Filmmaker. I also work as a Lighting Cameraman & Director of Photography, in television, film and digital media.