When you’re out on an environmental photoshoot, it can sometimes be hard to pick the best locations to maximize your session. Mango Street has published this 8-minute video that covers a host of tips they say will make your images better.
Many new photographers will frequently choose what they perceive to be an “interesting” background over what actually matters more: good lighting. While obviously, that means golden hour lighting is the most ideal, you can still achieve good results even if the sun is high in the sky. Mango Street suggests looking for a location with even lighting, taking advantage of shade cast by buildings or trees. Overcast or rainy days can also be helpful in diffusing bright light onto subjects.
As another example, a photographer who excellently balances bright light from mid-day sun is John Schell:
When shooting portraits, another good technique to consider is matching colors. Whether that means finding background subjects that match the color of the subject’s clothing or the color of their eyes, trying to mesh like-colors or complimentary colors helps add interest to images and makes them more cohesive. Using colors might also mean completely removing them from the background and allowing your subjects to stand out more strongly.
In a similar vein, using background textures can work to your advantage depending on the mood you’re going for. Rough, grungy backgrounds have a completely different feel from clean lines or smooth walls. Either using these textures to accentuate the mood of your photo or to act specifically as a foil are both applications of using texture that can have a large impact on your image.
Mango Street covers a few more topics in their full video which we recommend watching, but in summary: pay attention to the content of your background and how it interacts with your subject more than just seeing the background as “interesting.” Good scouting, either while on location with a subject or ahead of time, means being able to see a theme with what you are shooting and blending your surroundings effectively with that theme and your subject.
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