Many newspapers publish variations of "snapshot" profiles. These are mini-environmental portraits of outstanding community members. However, the portraits often have strict formats due to layout. They must be vertical and relatively tight because they run about the size of the old, broadsheet one column image (about 2 x 3 inches).
Within these rules, we still need to make each image unique enough to quickly identify something about the person in the image for the readers. This is the core difference between a portrait and an environmental portrait. The image isn't a generic person on a generic background like a studio portrait. An environmental portrait is a specific person and some insight into this person from their specific environment and artifacts.
Here's the quiz: match the cutlines with the portraits below. The answers are at the bottom of this post.
A) Jeremy Jenkins poses for a snapshot portrait at Hebron High School in Carrollton on Wednesday, December 8, 2004. He is in the National Honor Society as well as the captain of the varsity soccer team.
B) Barbara Naylor poses for a snapshot portrait with Labrador retrievers Ascot, 8 months, (left) and Rindy, 1 year, (right) at the Sunnyvale School in Sunnyvale on Wednesday, December 8, 2004. She is a K-to-8 art teacher and Canine Companion trainer.
C) Leonard Untung poses for a snapshot portrait at Hebron High School in Carrollton on Wednesday, December 8, 2004. The senior is in the National Honor Society as well as the math and chess clubs.
D) Balch Springs fire chief Ricky Woodham poses for a snapshot portrait at the Balch Springs Fire Station in Balch Springs on Wednesday, December 8, 2004.
Photos © Mark M. Hancock and The Dallas Morning News
All four images were shot on the same day in three different cities. None took more than 30 minutes. I'll admit the students were trickier because we didn't have a soccer ball available. However, it shouldn't have been difficult to tell each person from the next. I've probably taken more than 100 of these images over the last five years. No two look alike. Each subject has her/his own unique environment.
Again, these are simple, straight-forward portraits with tight shooting constraints. Pro PJs already know to track trends and environmental changes over time. It's this skill which makes their images either timeless or timely. For the folks who don't do this for a living, make your family photo albums become a living history of the people and their environments.
Enough for now,
(Answers) A, C, D, B
Since this post has an education-based link to it, please read "Primary educator's introduction to photojournalism" and see additional environmental portraits in my portfolio.