Environmental Portraiture at the Race Track

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Today I wanted to post one of my favorite pictures of Mary that was made on the last day Second Creek Raceway was open before turning it over to earth movers to build homes.

The classic definition of environmental portraiture is making a portrait illuminating a subject’s life  that’s made in their living or working environment. By photographing a person in their natural surroundings, instead a studio, the theory goes, you can effectively capture the essence of a subject’s personality, rather than a mere likeness.

The upside is that it’s more than possible that the subject will be relaxed and likely to be themselves, as opposed to being in a camera room, which no matter how nice it may be, can be intimidating for some people.

Like all rules of thumb, there is some truth to what I just said but out here in the real world truth some people are never going to be comfortable in front of a camera no matter where you photograph them. The upside of environmental portraiture is that you have a much better chance of capturing as much of a subject’s true personality as they will let you see in the studio.

How I made this shot: Here’s Mary at the track in her Tortuga Racing fire suit with her (former) Miata track day car. The helmet serves as prop and the classic hand on hip pose serves as a counterbalance as she leans rather than sits on the car’s fender. The whole riff on capturing a subject’s essence seems especially true here. This portrait was made while she was in the middle of six-week radiation therapy for breast cancer—she’s fine now and cancer free—and that smile is real not canned. Made with a Canon EOS 1D Mark II N and EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens and shot using available light.


If you would like to learn how to shoot better portraits and would like some hands-on training, please check out my 2019 one-on-one workshops.

If you’re interested in learning how I use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio and on location, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere which is available new from Amazon.com for $21.57 or used for $9.94. The Kindle version is $19.99 for those preferring a digital format.