1st Edition

Environmental Portraiture A Complete Guide to the Portrait Photographer’s Most Powerful Imaging Tool

By Jim Cornfield Copyright 2020
    228 Pages 160 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    228 Pages 160 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    This unique book is a photographer’s guide to the powerful medium of the environmental portrait. It explores in lucid detail the many "moving parts" of this imaging style, including the techniques and creative processes that drive some of this genre’s finest contemporary practitioners.

    In Environmental Portraiture, author Jim Cornfield puts his readers behind the viewfinder to help them successfully master what he calls "the portrait photographer’s most high-powered tool." In a series of detailed tutorial chapters and study models, Cornfield unpacks every practical aspect of the environmental portrait scenario, including research, location scouting, lighting interior and exterior environments, props and wardrobe, lens selection, composition, color, and after-capture.

    Along with this wealth of comprehensive nuts-and-bolts information, the book probes the deep structure of environmental portraiture—the blend of a sitter’s backstory with the meaningful visual clues in their surroundings. He introduces such concepts as "portraitcraft," "cognitive weight," and "the ideas and emotions quotient," among the many dimensions of an environmental portrait that create eye-opening revelations about the person in front of your lens.

    A separate section of the book is devoted to a prestigious roster of contemporary environmental portraitists, specifically recruited for this book to explore in-depth selected samples from their diverse portfolios. They bring with them a score of insights, tips and fascinating anecdotes that demonstrate their individualized approaches to this versatile branch of the photographer’s craft.

    Written for professionals, amateurs and serious students of photography, this book is both a guide and inspiration to creating powerful, communicative environmental portraiture.


    Foreword by Jacqueline Tobin

    Preface: Beyond The Mask


    Part I: Fundamentals

    Chapter One: Discovering the Environmental Portrait—A Memoir

    Chapter Two: Portraiture and the Invisible Thread

    Chapter Three: Deconstructing the Environmental Portrait, Phase One: A Look Backward

    Chapter Four: Deconstructing the Environmental Portrait, Phase Two: In The Here And Now

    Chapter Five: Executing the Environmental Portrait: The Opening Gambit

    Part II: The Environmental Portrait In The Real World

    Study Models: Ways to Actualize the Environmental Portrait

    "The Four T’s": A Template—a Guide for Organizing and Creating Serious Environmental Portraiture

    • The Tale
    • The Task
    • The Tactics
    • The Tools

    Chapter Six: Study Model

    • The Four T’s At Work
    • Professor Steve Mayo and the Ethos of a Great University

    Chapter Seven: Study Model

    • Kid Thomas on The Vieux Carré

    Chapter Eight: Study Model

    • Tony Costanza in the Lair of The Rat Pack
    • The Bartender Project

    Chapter Nine: Study Model:

    • Craig Calfee and the Bamboo Bicycle

    Chapter Ten: Study Model

    • Albert Lee, Country Music’s Most Famous Unknown Artist

    Chapter Eleven: Study Model:

    • Capt. Curry and the Saga of Aqua 2

    Part III: Masters Of The Environmental Portrait - An Annotated Portfolio

    Introduction to Part III

    Chapter Twelve: Portraitcraft

    • Michael Grecco

    Chapter Thirteen: Community

    • Phil Borges
    • Rania Matar
    • Tom Atwood

    Chapter Fourteen: Interactions

    • Eric Myer

    Chapter Fifteen: The Art Of Improvising

    • Al Satterwhite

    Chapter Sixteen: The Fictive Persona

    • Larry Schiller
    • Michael Wilson

    Chapter Seventeen: Dr. Light

    • Lou Jones

    Chapter Eighteen: The Gold Standard

    • Joe McNally
    • Cathy Church and the Total Immersion Environmental Portrait

    A Parting Word: On Newman, Self-Confidence, and the Critics in The Room Next Door



    Jim Cornfield is a freelance journalist, editor, travel writer, and veteran commercial photographer, based in Malibu Canyon, CA. His adventure and eco-travel articles, covering destinations from Israel, India, Costa Rica, Spain, and Italy to Honduras, the Cayman Islands, and Portugal, are widely published in magazines, including Scientific American, AARP Magazine, Sport Diver, Scuba Diving, and Continental Air Lines Magazine. His articles on photography and photo technique regularly appear in New York-based Rangefinder for which he is a columnist and contributing writer. Over a career that spans nearly 40 years, Jim Cornfield has been Feature Editor of Petersen’s PhotoGraphic Magazine, Director of Photography for inflight magazine publisher East/West Network, and he was co-creator of the acclaimed book series, Masters of Contemporary Photography. His photographs are showcased in advertisements and corporate publications worldwide, for a clientele that includes NBC, CBS, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Tribune Broadcasting, Hewlett-Packard, Dole, AIG, Occidental Petroleum, and a gamut of periodicals including Reader's Digest, TV Guide, Los Angeles Magazine, Popular Photography and Oui. Cornfield is the author of five books and an experienced film and video director, having created many television commercials for his broadcasting clients. A native of Chicago, he was raised in suburban Los Angeles, graduated from UCLA and served four years as a commissioned officer in the US Air Force.

    "With 30 years as an editor and writer for the photo industry under my belt, I am still unable to paint a picture with words the way Jim Cornfield does. Jim’s prose pulls you in and keeps you gleefully engaged while he skillfully slips in all the complicated technical elements of his craft…eloquently and masterfully."

    —Jacqueline Tobin, Editor-in-Chief of Rangefinder Magazine

    "Jim Cornfield is the rare combination of a superb photographer and a lively, compelling writer. He brings intelligence and originality to his photographs and to every subject he’s covered in his books and hundreds of magazine articles."  

    —Ellen Boughn, Author of Microstock Money Shots; Former Executive Editor of Corbis Images; Founder of After-Image Photo Agency

    "Jim is one of the very few people I know in the communications field who’s both excellent photographer and gifted writer…he has a seasoned reporter's eye for detail and ear for language, and the vocabulary to weave them seamlessly into a story. Along with all that, you get his finely tuned creative sensibility—a trait that the best photographers and graphic artists and writers need in abundance."

    —Chris Barnett, Journalist and Author; Founder & Principal of Barnett Strategies

    "A person like Jim Cornfield comes along only once in a great while. He is a fine photographer and a great writer, with many years of professional experience; His knowledge about the craft and science of professional photography is encyclopedic."

    —Bill Hurter, Author and Photographer; Former Editor-in-Chief of Petersen’s PHOTOgraphic, Rangefinder Magazine and AfterCapture Magazine