Portraits… man I love portraits. People are so interesting and the combination of an interesting person and a creative photographer reveals more than simply a photo of someone… it reveals the nature of all of us. And that makes it timeless.
From the earliest times, painters and sculptors used people as their inspiration… from the Roman statues to the Mona Lisa, Rembrandts portraits to Bourke-White’s mother and child… people dominate our subject interest.
And photography is the medium I, and I presume most of the readers here, choose to render the people we see into portraits.
There are a lot of opinions on portrait photography, from the ‘Rembrandt triangle of light below the shadow eye’ to the ‘correct’ lens to use. I believe most of that stuff is crap… there are no rules other than the rules you impose on yourself. Does your vision of the portrait match the image taken? If so, good. If not, you may need more work. And that’s fine too.
Portraiture gives us a wide variety of genres to work in. Fashion, beauty, glamour, artistic nude, wedding, maternity, environmental, studio and more. And the styles can run from a total formality to a whimsical play. And so much in between.
But because portraiture is so popular as a type of photography, it becomes more and more difficult to set your work apart from the vast amounts of portraiture being created daily. I know that it is hard to do, but it is so important. And it can mean the difference in whether you can be sought out by people wanting your particular spin on the image, or just being considered by the price-shoppers.
Light can be one differentiation in how your work is seen and appreciated. How you work with your subjects, their relationship to the environment, posing, lens choices, angles, and gesture becomes your pallet. And then comes the vision thing that ties it all into your approach to the portrait.
Great portraitists present their subjects as they want them to be seen… infusing the photographers vision into the resulting image. This can be a little challenging to some who want only a ‘picture’ of themselves, and there are plenty of places and photographers who are only too happy to provide a snap. Portraitists want to do more than simply snap, they want to explore and reveal and lead and challenge.
A few portrait shooters from my list of influences.
And some newer to the scene:
And of course, Annie, Patrick, Arthur, Albert and Peter.
The goal for me has always been to make the subject look as beautiful as possible… without changing them into something they aren’t. I want to let the beauty I see in them come forth through my camera. And that takes a mix of lighting, composition, lens choices, timing and most of all, rapport. I look through the lens and become emotionally involved. I don’t hear the music, I don’t hear the distractions (which I keep to a minimum in the studio… cell phones on buzz, only answer in the dressing room, no chatting on set unless it directly involves the subject and the session etc…). I just see the subject and what we are trying to do. When the camera goes down, things go back to normal, but when I am shooting… I simply am involved with my subject.
After the jump we will take a look at 24 images from the LE Flickr Pool that I thought brought a little more the portrait… a drama or sense of style.
If you are considering a workshop, we have planned a schedule that will bring us near to your city, and if you would like me to bring a Lighting Essentials workshop to your city, let me know. I like to go to the smaller cities where other workshops don’t venture. We are a small group (limited to 12 tops) so going to smaller venues is possible. And fun!
The black and white post adds to the drama of this image. The slight backlight is offset by the fill and the light in the eyes. The photographers use of angle and the subject looking off from the camera adds to the uniqueness of the image.
Framing the subject with a panel of color, and with the gates in the foreground make this image seem like a grab shot. But the formal position and the off camera gaze give the shot some definite focus.
I like the black and white processing on this shot. It adds so much to the dramatic pose and skin of the shot. Working the light to advantage here, the end result has interesting tonality and highlights.
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