Environmental Portraits: Electronics worker

For this environmental portrait shoot Karl was challenged with turning a busy factory setting into something far more suitable for a pleasing portrait.

Photographing an electronics worker at broncolor’s factory in Switzerland, Karl was looking for a location that highlighted the hand crafted element of the company while also acknowledging their advancements and modernity.

Once he’d found the right location, he then had to declutter the busy scene, balance daylight and studio flash to get the best possible results and also make sure the subject felt comfortable. Throughout this video you’ll learn how to overcome these common challenges as Karl walks you through the shoot from start to finish. By the end of this class you’ll have an understanding of the most important skills that will help you work confidently in any location (with both natural and artificial light) and you’ll be able to apply this knowledge to other areas of your photography.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to photograph environmental portraits
  • How to work in difficult environments to get distraction free backgrounds
  • Balance natural light and flash for the best lighting
  • How to communicate with your subject and put them at ease
  • Lighting setups for environmental portraits
  • Tips for environmental portraits

If you have any questions about this class, please post in the comment section below.

When it comes to environmental portraiture, each image is unique, and comes with its own set of challenges. For this image, the main challenge was finding a suitable location. Before I even started shooting, I took some time to walk around the building to try and find the best spot.

environmental portrait location

A stand-in subject can be used to test the best locations.

Once I’d found a suitable location, the next challenge I faced was decluttering the scene and lighting the subject.

Once everything was ready, I was able to get the subject in. The key to natural looking portraits is to make sure your subject feels comfortable, so I made sure to clearly communicate with her throughout the shoot so that she could see my vision too.

environmental portrait planning

Communicate with your subject and make sure the background is not too busy before you start shooting.

In the end I used a very simple three light setup (which, as I explain in the video, could have been a one light setup), but the key thing was to balance the different types of light. After running through different combinations, I was able to achieve a very pleasing result, as you can see below.

Environmental portrait example

The final environmental portrait image of a broncolor electronics worker.


  1. Hi Karl,

    For 1 year birthday photography setup ( there is background and in front of the background there are some objects related to background’s theme and the baby is sitting on the wood deck as a ground as big as background ) would you give me an advice please , how many Siros and which Broncolor softboxes do you use for this setup , thank you


    1. Hi Zee, may I ask what you are trying to achieve here and why? It sounds like you have thought through a baby shoot setup and set quite carefully which is unusual if you are asking the questions about the lighting needed? Do you have any experience about lighting or are you looking for an instant formula just for this one particular scenario? In answer to your question though the minimum I would use is 3 lights and one of them would have a very large softbox on it as the key light, but in saying that lighting is what depicts mood and you really need to understand how lighting works and how, when and why to modify it to create different looks. The classes on our platform such as these one will help you in that direction:

  2. Thank you Karl~This is so informative!
    Three quick questions about this particular session:
    1. Since you were mixing light sources (Window, florescent overhead and studio) What white balance setting did you use on your camera….AWB or something more specific?
    2. How did you avoid the window glare in her glasses? (Glasses are always difficult for me!)
    3. Did you use a color checker or grey card on this shoot to get the skin tones correct?

    Thank you so much!


    1. Hi Susam thank you and you are most welcome. Answers to your questions below:

      1. The primary sources of light were natural light through window (5600K) and studio lighting (also 5600K) the factory lights were not significant so I went with 5600K or daylight balance.
      2. The angle of her head meant there wasn’t any significant problem for me on this occasion but in instances where it might be you will benefit from watching this class – https://visualeducation.com/class/live-painterly-portraits-lighting-lessons-urs-recher/
      3. Probably not as I can’t remember doing it but primarily because there wasn’t anything that needed to be pinpoint accurate in colour for the final result and I knew that 5600K was the dominant light source. There are other classes where I explain when it is appropriate to use one but it is good practise to put one in for your first shot once you’ve got your lighting setup right – This class may also be useful to you – https://visualeducation.com/class/how-to-use-a-colour-checker-card/

      Kind regards

  3. Wow, this is brilliant Karl. I have only just joined KTE. I think my initial interest was because I liked your style of photography and that I am originally from Cheltenham and even though I live in Canada I still love things from Britain lol. This type of “hands on” real life situations is priceless information and really opens my mind and eyes not to just shoot the obvious whats in front of you.

    I personally would greatly enjoy more of these style tutorials especially combining ambient and flash. Your teaching technique and style is articulate, thorough and easy to follow. Thank you Karl.


    1. Thanks Mike, there are of course more of these environmental portraits and as soon as this covid nonsense is more clear then we have plans to do more like this. All the best Karl.

    2. Very detailed love how you take your time and get everything working together I love it thanks KT.

  4. I wish you would make a new series for shooting life style photography, I think it’s kind of similar to this environmental portraits series but slightly different.

    1. Hi Mohamed, what do mean exactly as we always welcome members ideas for new tutorials to consider. This current series of environmental portraits has been very popular so we are currently looking at doing more.

      1. I’m not sure if I missed this in the video. What was the white balance for this? Did you shoot at 5600 Kelvin or WB to the studio flash units? Thanks

        1. Hi Headswimmer, studio flash heads are balanced the same as daylight around 5600-5800K. I find speedlites run a litte bluer at around 6300K and of course daylight can vary between 3600K at sunrise to 9000K on an overcast day but as this was a normal day and predominantly flash I was balanced to the flash.

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