4 Ways to bring the beauty of nature into your portraits

  • Including nature in your portraits is a great way to add interest. There are many ways to do so and I'm discussing four of them today!

4 Ways to bring the beauty of nature into your portraits

When you stop and look around, this world is pretty amazing!

Bringing nature into our photos connects viewers to our imagery and I love the wonderful texture and depth it creates.

Have you explored your neighborhood with portraits in mind? Look for inspiration in your surroundings and try out some of these tips for combining portraits and the world around us.

1. Look for natural framing.

Photograph your subject through trees and leaves to add depth and interest to your image. Climb right into the bushes if you need to or stick yourself between branches.

Accept that you might find pine needles in your pants for the next week or two. (Even after laundry day? How does this happen?) Try shooting from a higher or lower perspective and see how your background changes.

By shooting through the greenery you’re creating foreground, which gives that lovely layered depth. When your focus point is on the subject, the foreground takes on a dreamy blurred quality that helps to draw the eye directly to your subject.

Including nature in your portraits is a great way to add interest. There are many ways to do so and I'm discussing four of them today!

2. Find the light.

Nothing brings nature to life more than some magical light. (I know you love it as much as I do!)

If the weather allows, aim to shoot during golden hour. The light will highlight your surroundings and fall in a more flattering way on your subject than it would in direct sun. If you’re shooting on a day with light fog or mist, this is the best time to capture the sun’s rays – especially in a forest setting.

To avoid washed out photos, try to filter the sunlight with your environment instead of shooting directly into the sun. Position yourself so the sun is blocked either by your subject, trees, mountains, bushes, etc and let the light just peek into your scene enough to highlight your subject.

If you’re in a more open environment, you can also use your hand to block the sun while you focus and then remove it to take your shot.

Including nature in your portraits is a great way to add interest. There are many ways to do so and I'm discussing four of them today!
Including nature in your portraits is a great way to add interest. There are many ways to do so and I'm discussing four of them today!

3. Grab your wide angle lens.

Bring in the landscape as much as you can with your lens selection. I shoot mostly with the Canon 35 f/1.4 on a full-frame camera and I find that it allows me to easily back up and photograph the full scene when I’m shooting. Go even wider to highlight your surroundings!

I like to position my subject in the center of the frame and allow the scene to fully surround them. Play around with your distance from your subject and your subject’s distance from the background until you find a look that you love.

Related: The do’s and don’ts of using a wide angle lens

Including nature in your portraits is a great way to add interest. There are many ways to do so and I'm discussing four of them today!
Including nature in your portraits is a great way to add interest. There are many ways to do so and I'm discussing four of them today!

4. Use natural elements as props.

Bring a small bouquet of flowers or greenery to add some colour and texture to your portraits. Or forage while you’re on location and see what you can find! Abandoned leaves, ferns and wildflowers are all a great addition to a session.

Note: This is a great way to kick off a session. Having something to hold or focus on can make your subject feel more at ease while they’re getting used to the camera being pointed in their direction.

Related: 5 Beautiful ways to get the most out of your images with spring flora

Including nature in your portraits is a great way to add interest. There are many ways to do so and I'm discussing four of them today!

For a deeper look into environmental portraits, including videos of location scouting and shooting using these elements, check out Wild World: Creating Authentic Moments with Light & Movement.

I will forever be running around in the forest and mountains taking pictures and would love to see what you create!

About the Author:

Cassandra Casley is the lifestyle photographer behind Twist & Shutter Photography in BC, Canada. She loves to combine the wild beauty of the BC westcoast with the beauty that she finds in the connections between her subjects. Visit Cassandra Casley online.
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One Comment

  1. Christopher Hall Apr 21 2018 at 2:18 am - Reply

    Brilliant! I am always looking for ways to improve my outdoor portrait photography and this has not let me down.

    Thank you.

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