City Paper Portraits

For the past three months I have been interning at the Baltimore City Paper as a photographer. This is my last semester of school and I felt the need to get a little more photo experience under my belt before I graduated, so the City Paper was the perfect opportunity. I have learned so much over the past three months, but today I will be focusing on on-site/environmental portraits. An environmental portrait is a portrait of your subject in their "space", and by space I mean where they work or a location that tells a lot about him/her. I have definitely run into some obstacles while creating these portraits, but I am going to tell you how I overcame them!

For this assignment I had to photograph Cricket Arrison because she was going to be in an upcoming play in Baltimore about a woman living in an jungle. Well, when I got to her studio it was a big white room. This posed a problem for me because it had nothing to do with her play. I looked around for something that could help me and saw that she had brought in some vines from outside. The only problem with that was...where do I put them!? What I ended up doing was hanging them over a door and then shutting the door which created this backdrop of vines. As you can see the photo on the left says nothing about Cricket and the play, but the photo on the right has a sense of the environment of the play.

For this second example I was sent to a Piano Tuner's house to photograph him and his work. The space was relatively small so I had to think of new ways to work. I started off at ground level photographing him from the side and was just not happy with the results. So I took a moment, stepped back, and observed what he was doing. I then noticed the beautiful red accents within the piano and knew that I needed them in my photo. In order to get the angle I wanted I had to photograph from above. So I kindly asked for a stool and used that to get a higher angle. The top photo shows more about the tuner himself, but the bottom photo shows just how intricate the piano and his work are. 

So far the main things I have learned from creating these portraits are:

  • Always observe your surroundings for something you can incorporate in the photo
  • Don't rush the process
  • Look at the small details!
  • Don't be afraid to ask for objects that will make your job easier
  • Know who you are photographing! (The most important in my opinion!)

If you have any questions about any of the information feel free to send me an email or leave a comment!