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How to Shoot: Lifestyle Portraits



Whether Zachary Salter is trying to capture the essence of a brand or get creative with fellow photographers, his Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD telephoto lens helps him tell the story.


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By Jenn Gidman
Images by Zachary Salter



In one form or another, art has always been on Zachary Salter’s mind. From the drawing and painting he did as a kid, to the digital animation he studied in college, the creative process has long been an integral part of the South Carolina photographer’s lifestyle. But two years ago, when he decided that digital animation wasn’t the career choice for him, he dropped out of the program and picked up a camera instead. He was hooked.

“I fell in love with photography,” Zachary says. “I started learning as much as I could about the craft on my own, creating lots of portraiture to start building up my portfolio. But then I went on my first trip with a camera, and after that, I found myself gravitating toward a more lifestyle type of portraiture, especially photos that could tell a story for companies and their brands.”

To achieve his portraits, Zachary uses the Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD telephoto lens on his Sony mirrorless camera. “The 70-180 is now one of my favorite lenses,” he says. “It almost never comes off my camera, especially for portraits and for my travel and landscape photography, which I also do quite a bit of. I love having just one lens that offers me such a wide range of focal lengths. The image quality is excellent, and I especially appreciate the compression I’m able to get with this lens.”

Trying to capture the emotion and details of both his subjects and their backgrounds is how Zachary pieces together a composition that works both aesthetically and in line with the desires of whatever brand he may be shooting, if it’s for an assignment. “I want to tell a story with my photos,” he says. “And that often includes telling a story of where my subject is.”

For two of the photos here, created for a tennis shoe brand, Zachary decided to tell that story with compelling portraits that incorporated the sport’s projectile of honor: the tennis ball. “My sister is one of the models in these photos,” he says. “She’s been playing tennis lately and so was ready and willing to get out on the court and help bring this project to life. I thought it would be interesting to capture a few different perspectives with the 70-180mm, with my subjects lying on the ground and me shooting them from eye level and then from directly above.”

© Zachary Salter
70-180mm (127mm), F/2.8, 1/800th sec., ISO 800
Click image to view larger

© Zachary Salter
70-180mm (70mm), F/2.8, 1/1000th sec., ISO 800
Click image to view larger

The next series of images, taken in Washington state, was part of one of Zachary’s annual Camp Create workshops, in which participating photographers rent a house somewhere (this year’s will take place in Zion National Park) and spend time shooting together and having fun. “I’m making a big cross-country move to Washington soon, and the people you see in the photos are some of the friends I’m moving in with,” he says. “This Camp Create session was our first time meeting each other. We rented a bunch of Jeeps, headed out into the woods, and just went to town with our cameras.”

© Zachary Salter
70-180mm (76mm), F/2.8, 1/640th sec., ISO 1000
Click image to view larger

© Zachary Salter
70-180mm (180mm), F/4, 1/1000th sec., ISO 1250
Click image to view larger

For portraits like these, where the great outdoors is integral to the shot, Zachary aims for soft lighting that keeps his subjects looking natural. “I almost never use artificial lighting when shooting portraits, but especially not outdoors,” he says. “If I had my preference, I’d most likely choose to shoot close to sunset, but when you’re hiking or traveling, you don’t always have that option. So I’ll often end up shooting midday, when I have to deal with harsher lighting; it just is what it is. That’s why I’m always happy when I wake up and the morning is slightly overcast. If it lasts like that all day, I know I’m going to get the photos I want.”

© Zachary Salter
70-180mm (163mm), F/4, 1/100th sec., ISO 1250
Click image to view larger

Whether he’s photographing his sister on the tennis court or his future roommates in a Pacific Northwest forest, Zachary knows the key to drawing out the most natural portrait is simply to engage and capture what emerges. “Many of my models aren’t used to being in front of a camera,” he says. “So we’ll spend a couple of hours together first, having some laughs and good conversation, where I’ll maybe start with some candid photos to kick things off. As the minutes and hours pass, everyone becomes increasingly relaxed and soon I’ve got those natural portraits I’m looking for.”

To see more of Zachary Salter’s images, go to www.zacharysalter.com/ or check out his Instagram.






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