Photograph the Perfect Portrait


I went on a field trip in November with my Journalism class to the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s fall conference at Columbia University in New York City to study there for a day.

My peers and I when to different classes all around the university. One of the classes was called Environmental Portraits.

The speaker Kathy Daly , a former photography and journalism teacher from Boulder, Colorado, said about her class title: “A portrait—not a candid, not a snapshot, and not a selfie.” She said a portrait uses an environment (setting) to create a mood.

This mood can be simple or complex. It depends on the message you are trying to convey. She also talked about character and personality.

When taking your picture, show the character and personality of the person. It’s about who the person is. An Environmental Portrait is a person in their habitat.

For example, If you are taking a picture of your friend and they like to draw, take a picture of them drawing.

But if you can’t get the emotion that you want to portray, have the person you are photographing say different words or phrases to get that certain look or feel.

For example, have your subject say “I love you,” or “I don’t want to talk.”  It sounds dumb but it works.

When choosing possible locations, check out the best lighting at different times of day.  Look at backgrounds for distractions. If you are indoors where you can control the lighting, lower lighting is much better for portraits.   

If you are looking for something more interesting, you can do photo stories.  By telling a story with your picture, it can make your photo stand out.

Another way is by putting text under your pictures.  It can make sure the messages you are trying to send are as clear as can be. You can use words to get emotion, like a funny quote or just something that you think will go well with what’s going on in your picture.

It can also make your viewers stop to see what it says and not just scroll past it. .

Photography is a really fun way to express yourself. Whether you are pursuing it as a career or just want to take good pictures, I hope some of these tips help you for when you take pictures.


Nadia Grossman (9th) and Nikki Prout (11th) working the “Send A Valentine” fundraiser for French Club 5th period. Send a valentine to a friend! Send 1 for 3$ or 2 for 5$. Photo taken by Ryan Milne.