Environmental Portraiture : A Complete Guide to the Portrait Photographer’s Most Powerful Imaging Tool book cover
1st Edition

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

ISBN 9781138935662
Published November 25, 2019 by Routledge
228 Pages 160 Color Illustrations

USD $49.95

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents


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


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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