Established 1988

Category: Composition

Environmental portraits

Environmental portraits

Frank Myers
Frank Myers, Latow Photographers Guild, Burlington
An environmental portrait can be defined as a photo of a person that includes enough of their natural surroundings to tell a story about the individual. The shots may be “posed” but the setting is ideally rich with visual information about the person’s life. If you’re successful, the viewer gains some insight into the person you’ve portrayed.
Ron with his beauties

My subjects are mostly people whose work or skills impress me. Often they are family or friends, but occasionally it is necessary to break the ice and approach a perfect stranger for permission to photograph them. Ideally, being in their own environment will help your subject to be natural and at ease. I always offer prints of the finished work, which seems only fair.


Shir in living room
I find a wide-angle lens is often useful, allowing me to work in close while including elements of the person’s surroundings. Occasionally, however, a longer lens and closer crop can incorporate just enough additional detail while emphasizing the appearance of the subject. Bounce flash can maintain a fairly natural look, as can using higher ISO to work with the light available.
Fibre artist Judy Martin
The key to good environmental portraits is finding that fine balance between the individual and his or her environment. A cluttered scene can detract from the main subject. The person must remain the focus, while the surroundings provide detail about their life. Chose that detail carefully and don’t be afraid to ask your subject to move around; everything in the scene should contribute to the story you are telling.

A tip for new photographers – Composition

Wayne Elliott


Wayne Elliott

Latow Photographers Guild

A tip for new photographers – Composition 

This is a tip for new photographers.  One of the earliest challenges is composition…what to put in the frame and what to leave out.  Here is a homemade piece of ‘equipment’ that will help you to compose stronger images.

Find a fairly rigid piece of plastic, I used the bottom of a microwaveable tray.  Cut out the bottom, 4 or 5 inches will do and then cut out a 2 inch by 3 inch rectangle from the centre of your piece of plastic.  You now have a cutout that mimics the proportions created by your 35mm DSLR or film camera.

Instead of using your camera to frame and reframe images, you can now easily frame them using your new composing tool.  Hold it closer to your eye for more subject matter in your frame, much like a short lens, e.g., a 50mm,  or hold it farther away from your eye for more of a closeup as in a longer telephoto.  Move it in and out or turn it for portrait or landscape orientations or angle it for more novel images.








Planning & Preparation

Tug boats in harbour at night,Tim Story

Latow Photographers Guild

When we hear a photographer talk about the planning and preparation that went into the creation of an image, we are likely to envision photography done in studios, planned interior shots or maybe a trip to a far off country. Indeed these types of photography require planning and preparation of the subject matter, but most photographers stay closer to home, shoot outside in available light and go looking for subjects to capture when they have time. Will planning and preparation help under these circumstances? Absolutely!

The tug boats are docked in the same area of Hamilton harbour 52 weeks of the year. How much planning is required to capture a subject this large, mostly stationary and easily accessible? How hard can it be? Unlike photography done under controlled conditions, I have little to no control over the elements for this image. Weather conditions, direction and type of lighting, subject placement and subject availability are out of my direct control. By understanding the impact all the variables will have on the final image will greatly increases my odds of capturing the image I want in an uncontrolled environment.

I wanted to capture the tug boats with a mood not normally seen by the thousands of people walking by on the Waterfront Trail every day. I decided a night shot would meet this challenge. For this type of night shot I am totally dependent on manmade lighting. I began to regularly visit the site after dark to see what lights were on and how they illuminated the subject, if at all. It was crucial the lights attached to the boats to be illuminating for the final image, so I turned to the people managing the tug boats I had met during the previous winter months. With some carefully worded questions I had an approximate date when the boats might be worked on at night.

I wanted the lights from the boats to be captured as reflections on the water, so winds have to be 5km or less in speed or the reflections will be lost in the ripples. Too much wind will also cause the boats to bob up and down resulting in a blurred image with the long exposure times used for night time shuts. All of the variables will have to come together the week on May 6-12, 2012 when they “might” be working on the boats It has been two weeks since I started planning and preparing for the actual moment and I haven`t even taken a picture yet!

Remember the only physical control I have over this image is the time of day I can visit the tug boats. It’s my planning, research and understanding of the photographic variables that will capture the image I have envisioned during the week of May 6-12. Finally at 1:36am on May 12 all of the variables came together, the lights were on and the entire bay was calm.

In the end it took roughly a month of patience and planning to capture the image I envisioned. Most of the time in the field was only minutes per visit to better understand the scenes variables with most planning being done from my  home. So yes, planning and researching your next photograph when you have limited time to spend in the field will show in the finished image.

The image was captured on a Nikon D800, in 14 bit RAW, at 200mm, f8, ISO 400 with a 6 second exposure on a Gitzo tripod, mirror locked up and the shutter was activated with a cable release.

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at



Easy Abstracts

Allan Flagel of the Don Mills Camera ClubAllan Flagel of the Don Mills Camera Club

Rarely do I ever walk past a puddle or pool of water without checking out the reflections on its surface.

If there is a slight breeze blowing, the gentle ripples can produce some amazing abstract designs. These lend themselves to colour images with blobs of luscious hues or black and white prints with interesting patterns, graphic shapes and lines.

The trick to getting artistic-looking results is to use the correct lens, filter and shutter speed. Here I am taking for granted that you have already had plenty of practice in honing your sense of seeing (not just looking) and that you have a good grasp of what constitutes a pleasing composition. These of course are prerequisites, before you even start walking around your reflecting surface, hunting for your image.

For you see, just very minor shifts in camera location can produce totally different results. In fact, every picture that you take of the moving surface of the water will be unique. It is virtually impossible to take two identical images!

  1. Correct lens: this would be a telephoto zoom in the 70-300 mm range. This makes it very easy to isolate many different great images.
  2. Filter: a polarizer is often used to reduce reflections, but here we are using it to just take the sheen off the surface, to intensify the reflection, colours and contrast. You should rotate the filter to get just the correct amount of reflection that you desire.
  3. Shutter speed: this is the most important part, to produce clean, crisp reflections and not blurry messes. Usually 1/250 s or faster is preferred. This also allows you to shoot hand-held for easier hunting while you are stalking your amazing reflections.

These abstracts have the feature that they can turn the most mundane objects into incredible works of art. This technique can also be used on reflections in shop windows, chrome on cars and curved mirrors.
Images can be totally abstract, with unrecognizable subjects, or just altered enough to be intriguing.

It is totally up to you and your imagination plus the conditions of course.

Having said all that, you can still have fun with a simple little P & S (if you don’t feel like dragging out all of the suggested gear above) as the pictures included will illustrate, taken while I was on holiday in the Caribbean.

Yacht Reflection

Yacht Reflection

Glass Roof

Glass Roof