Advanced photographers talk about “layering” their street photography and street portraits, which means showing more of the environment and having visual elements at different distances in the scene. Like the “have a foreground, mid-ground, and background” advice for landscape photographers, the “aim for layering” advice for street shooters is about adding visual interest by showing not just the subject, but his or her relationship to the surroundings.

I was trying to do that at the racetrack yesterday, partly because the person I’m shooting for requested it. I had only moderate success. Lighting conditions were often tough, and I couldn’t ask people to move very far from where I encountered them. I think this image successfully shows the subject’s environment, but the background isn’t all that interesting. (Also, not an ideal crop.)

This one does show the racetrack behind the subjects, but the difference in brightness levels was so extreme that it’s just a band of white.

Here I show the bar behind my subject, but to get the entire sign in, I had to make him fairly small.

This one doesn’t show any environment at all, but I’m including it because the skin tones are great, and the white wall works as well as a seamless paper background to show the women with no distractions.

I’ve got more shooting days at the track. It’s still my goal to come back with better environmental portraits.