When I’m behind the camera one of my favorite subjects to shoot is environmental portraits. It is also one of the hardest things to do. Putting a camera in someone’s face and releasing the shutter can be intimidating. It feels slightly uncomfortable and I don’t want the subject feeling uncomfortable. As a photographer I feel compelled to demonstrate respect for my subject, family, friend or stranger. It doesn’t take much to put someone at ease in front of the camera, sometimes you don’t even need words. Just a smile, a nod of the head and a thank you is all that’s needed.
I’ve known some people that are very skilled at capturing portraits of strangers and I’d encourage you to take a look at their work. One of them, Dave Powell of Shoottokyo, is particularly skilled at grabbing portraits off the street. I’ve shot with Dave in the past and I like his approach, because it’s a friendly non-threatening approach unlike other gorilla tactics that some photographers rely on.
Even though they are personally challenging, environmental portraits will continue to be at the top of my list for favorite photographic genre. The portraits below were taken with a Leica M8 or M9 and a Sony RX1r and were shot at either 35mm or 50mm.