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.
Yousef Karsh
Richard Avedon
Irving Penn
Victor Skrebneski
And some newer to the scene:
Nadav Kander
Dan Winters
Chris Buck
Nick Onken
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!

I Am Aquanaut
This portrait starts the gallery. I love the unexpected look to it, and the post brings a sense of cold and dread. The subjects eyes being set a little off from each other adds to the surreal effect.

Dark Power
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.

I like the sense of loneliness and separation that this image conveys. Placing the subject in the center and in a little shaft of light isolates her from the dark and mysterious environment.

When are you coming home?
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.

Day 174 - Yellow Man
A single spotlight effect gives this portrait a unique, stylish look. The sunglasses add a bit of whimsy… or mystery.

The post in the bluish tones adds to the unique style of this image. I like that the light is visible at the back to camera left. Her fun pose and leg line are kinda cool too.

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.

GBlair_Natural light portrait_1/2010
A natural, soft light and angled horizon give this shot a very nice feel. Keeping the subject to an off camera gaze allows us to imagine a bit about what is happening in the image.

The falling lines, low angle and well defined light takes this portrait to a higher level. I like the look on her face and how she fits into the environment.

Crazy Yellow (Line)
I love the gesture and the light here. Her total involvement in this shot really carries it. I love it when a model really lets go like this.

Dramatic lighting, the flared sun and the helmeted subject give this shot a dramatic appeal.

Béba & Rodrigo
From the color to the dynamic pose to the dramatic setting, this shot delivers a wonderful feeling to a double portrait.

I like this shot a lot. Dramatic light, interesting post and a subject that really draws you in. The gritty location adds to the accessibility of the image.

Sweet Dreams.
Such a nice, illustrative image. The set of grass and the sleeping subject are set off well with the interesting light. A grand gesture brought into a ‘small’ image.

Lighting Essentials SD-5703
A very dramatic image with a super wide lens and a wonderful affectation from the subject. The cross lighting adds a sense of illustration to the shot.

Industrial Lolita- Odore
A fantastic illustrative shot with excellent lighting and a surreal setting. With the subjects attention off frame, the image takes on a poetic, editorial feel.

the star
The light, pose, composition and excellent framing make this portrait a standout. It just grabs the senses and delivers a fresh look.

Day 156 - Corridor
The negative image of the subject against the light and the corridor gives this shot a totally editorial feel. A small story in a single image.

Just an entertaining portrait with a whimsical feel. The light and the environment lend a fun feeling to this illustrative portrait.

One light majesty with a subject full of character and charm. The simplicity of a black background and a dramatic light can never be underestimated.

Tightly composed and brightly lit with beauty light, this portrait delivers a sharply defined subject with some very nice shallow DOF.

A small pool of dramatic light highlights this subject in a dramatic way that also shows off the muscular physique and interesting wardrobe.

Warm, enveloping light is perfect for this location maternity image. The framing and composition creates a compelling portrait.

This musician shot conveys a dramatic light, and an affable smile. Contradictory and yet inviting. I like how the light just hints at the guitar.

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