Welcome to the forum!

As an adjunct to the Tangents blog, the intention with this forum is to answer any questions, and allow a diverse discussion of topics related photography. With that, see it as an open invitation to just climb in and start threads and to respond to any threads.

"Environmental" Portraits

Hi - I've been hired by a company (who I have worked with previously on an event) to photograph 35 employees in their working environment. This will be in a medical device testing laboratory with different stations. We have decided to do this over three separate days, as I've asked to have at least 15-20 minutes with each employee.

Having worked as an electrical engineer for 30+ years in an experiment and test environment, I can think of a couple of ways to pose people. I plan to first talk with each person for a couple of minutes about what their daily tasks are. Beyond this, I am looking for resources - examples in books or online, etc. - of different poses, methods of lighting, etc. I have a fairly good arsenal of lights and modifiers including large and small soft boxes, gridded strip boxes, umbrellas.

This doesn't even address how much to charge: I'm really confident in my event work, confident in my business head shot work, and I know what my worth is. But with something like, this having little experience other than knowing my equipment, I'm also struggling with pricing which I have not discussed with the client.

If anyone can point me to some good examples and lighting methods, I would really appreciate it.

Thanks, and Happy New Year - Dave


  • TrevTrev Moderator

    Happy New Year also to you and everyone else.

    Considering you will be working over 3 days, 35 employees, etc., travel each day, set up and tear down for different stations, you have to factor in the total time, your expertise, and don't forget the editing then delivering.

    I honestly could not say how things work over in USA on that side, but normally I charge a flat fee according to how many different people and 99 times out of a hundred, it's all in the same set up and same day.

    eg: 1-5 people roughly I would charge a flat fee $450 to cover 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

    Now, if more, I will then work on so much per person once that 'threshold' per se of $450 has been exceeded then after that I charge $65 per person. Over 15 people price drops a bit per person.

    I've only ever reach 19 people in one sitting and for that I charged a flat rate of $50 per person, again, it was all in one sitting/day/location. Lights already set up, same each time so effortless. Total time around 3 hours (you know how it is, some people are just not ready) + 1 driving, then editing of course. You need to let them know it's not just 'click/bam/done' you need to edit.

    And that was just straight head shots, nothing else.

    How many shots of each person is a consideration, you may be taking 10-20/more to fully detail each work station if that is a requirement.

    In your case you need set up/tear down/set up to just get 1 off the rack ready for the next one.

    I think because you already know your number of 35, 3 days, different stations each time (in which case you don't want a plethora of lighting) I think a fee of $65 (or more) per person would be more than reasonable.

    Again, I don't know the general pricing structure you guys over there have. @ $65 pp that would be $2275 for 3 days, the main factor being how many hours you will be there each day, not a great deal at around $750 per day, but PR work goes a long way, could lead to more work or that company could let others know you are a reasonably priced photographer.

    If I was to be doing that here, a flat fee of $75 pp would be the price for me once I've explained why it's that price, set up/tear down, etc., 3 separate days, editing, travelling.

    Sorry for long reply, just want to try and cover as much as I could for you to mull over mate.

    Good luck, and have a great 2020


  • Hi, Trev -

    I hope all is well with you, and thanks for your suggestions. My usual fee for head shots with minimal retouch is $100 set-up fee, and $40 per individual. I am confident enough in this part of my photography to charge this. However, with this upcoming gig, I'm not as confident because I'm just not that experienced - it has to do more with the posing and lighting more than anything else.

    It should be an interesting job, and I'm looking forward to it. I know that I will understand a lot of the technical jargon given my full-time work experience as an engineer. There will be "posed candids" as well as looking into the camera.

    Speaking of my full-time work, I cannot believe I have been retired for 18 months!

    So if you can point me to some examples of how to pose people in their work environments, or examples of lighting and the kinds of modifiers would work best, I'm all ears. I realize this is tough to suggest because each station will be a bit different.

    Good luck to you in the New Year - Dave
  • I had the first of three days on Thursday, and here are some results.. I was a bit nervous going in. Photographed 11 people. Each one got a head shot in the lab where they mostly work, and an "in action" photo in their environment. To do this, I had my laptop on a cart, went with them to their station, and positioned a shoot-thru umbrella where I thought the light would be best.

    The head shots were in front of a rack of equipment, which was lit by a 12x56" gridded stipbox and a silver reflector. I had a 36" double-diffused octabox camera right, and a 36" round reflector underneath. The crop selected by the client made the equipment lighting an almost non-factor, except for the last environmental shot (first photo here) of a manager who really didn't have a station.

    Two more days next week, for a total of 35 people. Each day will be in a different area of the facility where the two different teams work.


  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Well done, I think you did a great job Dave, they should be very happy with those results.

    The 'action' shots are bang on, lighting is great, faces nicely exposed and the work stations are nicely lit as a background.

    You should be pleased with those results, I know I would be if I had taken them. B)

  • Thanks, Trev, I appreciate your comments.

  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    These look great -- clean open light on their faces. No strange color casts from the lights. 
  • dbrunodbruno Member
    Thanks, Neil, I appreciate the comments.
  • Nice shot. Especially the light and texture
Sign In or Register to comment.