Adding Plants to your Portraits
Photography Chat

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022

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I’m always framing my subjects around plants, greenery, and flowers.

Whether we’re at the park surrounded by trees or in a garden with blossoms, I’m always finding a way to try and create the portrait while incorporating plants. They’re a natural way of bringing attention to a subject, a perfect backdrop for a panoramic shot, and the easiest way to create lines that point to where you want the viewers eyes to go.

Emily and Simon walking together in Fairmount Park for their Elopement
an Elopement shot of Emily + Simon taken at Fairmount Park

I love how a plant, even a simple tree, can add to a photograph and make it feel gentle and welcoming. The movement of trees, the color bursts of flowers, or the clean lines and modern look of greenhouse plants create excellent yet natural-looking props in my pictures. It comes from years of me being a bit of a nature lover and me trying to still incorporate landscape and nature photography into my work as a portrait artist. After all, it was my intent to become a traveling photographer. Yet life put me on this path for a reason, and now I can bring both the elements of nature into my artistry.

Model of a young woman sitting in a chair with yellow clothing surrounded by plants

For a few of my in studio sessions, one of the first things I wanted was a bunch of plants. No joke, I would say that most of my budget was spent on all the plants I could get. My studio needed to look like a tucked-away bohemian oasis. I’m not sure if I managed to pull it off, but I will say it made me fall in love with all the houseplants I collected.

I realized the reason I loved adding them is because its almost like they’re lines that point or navigate you to what I want your eye to focus on. I say this and it probably makes no sense at all but that really is what I was going for. The green helps give not just color but also texture. I try to position it where its just presentable enough to not steal all the thunder but enhance what I want to be the focus.

Did it do the trick? I think so! For me, that’s the mental thinking that goes into these pictures when I take them. So as long as the outcome is a beautifully composed portrait, then I did the task.

philadelphia wedding photographer sabrinaguytonwright 3 scaled Philadelphia Photographer
Two beautiful brides stand beneath a canopy of trees and flowers at Bartram’s Garden, Philadelphia.

Over the last few years of working as a portraiture photographer, I have noticed that I am drawn more to a subject matter when I can frame it around plants. If I find a way to incorporate the trees, flowers, or even the house plant into my work, it makes the photo more appealing. At least for me. I can do something creative when I can use light or plants as my tools to enhance the picture.

Take for instance the sessions when I am outdoors surrounded by greenery. I’ve noticed with some photographer’s work that green isn’t exactly loved. I get it, I totally do. Its such a headache when its oversaturating the wooded area or summer garden and gets into the skin. All the work you have to do to correct the white balance can be a nightmare. Instead of lowering the greens overall in my pictures, I just remove them from the skin tones.

While in Lightroom (and sometimes Photoshop), I play around with the settings until I am able to get the skin corrected while also maintaining the green in my background. I don’t want green to be loathed, I LOVE green. I love when green can turn a picture into this lush, beautiful canopy and turn a simple moment into a magical forest.

Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania - Wedding
Benjamin and Kellsey’s first look at Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia, PA

It’s not always full-proof. There have been moments when a plant or location couldn’t master what I had in mind. Yet these are just some tools I have on hand when thinking on the fly. When you have just an hour to capture pictures, finding ways to create a portrait that looks creative and natural must be done within minutes. Green trees and forests have yet to steer me wrong. While I know some people hate them and will try to mute it in their pictures, I’m always trying to find a way to keep them and still create a vibrant yet beautifully toned and composed picture.

Road Bike - Recreation
Julie and Kyle walk with their bikes down a hiking trail in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.

And there you have it. That’s me sharing a bit about some of my go to tools with portraits. So if you ever work with me and you’re watching me move you around to every green planted area or flower spot I can think of, that’s probably why. Yet I imagine if you booked me and we’re out there doing a session, that’s precisely why you hired me in the first place! Don’t be afraid of plants. Don’t be afraid of green!