In this informative article and video, New York environmental photographer Benny Migs discusses the differences between environmental portraits and location portraits.
I get this question a lot: “What is an environmental portrait”? Environmental portraits are taken of people in an environment that they live, work, rest, or play in. The environment helps tell the story about who they are, what they do, or what their passion maybe. As photographers, we are visual storytellers and need to tell that story with out the use of words. Having your subject’s environment help to aid that story is key to environmental portraits. In most cases, the subject will be much more comfortable in an environment they know or love rather then in an unfamiliar studio with lights blaring in their faces.
Much like environmental portraits, these are done outside of the studio. The only difference is that the location is not telling a story about the subject. It’s helping to set the tone and mood of the photo. Location also does not mean outdoors only. A good portion of my location sessions are done indoors. One thing to be aware of when setting up a location portrait, whether it be indoors or outdoors, is that you may need to apply for a shooting permit in some public places. Some locations may need a month or so notice and you may need liability insurance as well. I don’t do many family portraits, but when I do I always go with a location-style portrait. I find kids are much more easy to deal with when not cooped up in a studio.