Portraits, so far

Beyond Lighting and Technique

I've never found portraits to be that easy. In fact, I've picked up a few tips on portraiture over the last week from watching Scott Kelby's The Grid, specifically the episodes with Joe McNally and Peter Hurley. Each of these guys have a tremendous amount of experience and come from different backgrounds, but offer very important advice.

Nick, a good friend of mine needed some more professional photos for social media and the jobhunt.  I offered to help him out and get some good lighting experience as well.

When it comes to photographing people, the technical part of the job is done before you even touch the camera.  

Essentially, you've got the model/subject, you have a background, lights, camera, etc.  So, what now?  Now it's time to get a connection with the person on the other side of your lens. You might, as Peter Hurley discusses, have to become part photographer, part psychologist.  I think I find this the most difficult part of photography, but one of my favorite.  This is my chance to get behind the mask that people put on, where smiling certainly isn't necessary and the experience you share will wind up immortalized.  

Tom, shot near Odell Park in Fredericton.  We used the graffiti on the wall to add an interesting background to the photo, something that Tom could use on more 'personal' type social media sites.

That all sounds very zen, but it's quite true. Take, for example, a portrait session I did with someone I just met that afternoon.  Tom, an investment professional, was looking for some classy portraits to use on social media sites, company websites, etc.  I made sure to provide two locales, one with a simple black background, and another, more creative outdoors type background.  Frankly, I prefer the outdoors background but I'm always looking for things of visual interest.   The ulterior motive to having two sets was that we would have time to get to know one another a little bit, and asking Tom to move his head a certain way, or smile, but only just a little would be easier for him to do.  The more comfortable the subject, the better the portraits will look. 

After we got through the 'nice' photos, Nick and I decided that while the lights were up we should have some fun.  I think the images with the sunglasses are my favorite from the day, and just shows how props and good interaction between the subject and photographer lead to better portraits.

Something else I learned was the importance of the jawline.  I hadn't really spent much time on portraiture posing techniques, but after listening to Peter Hurley discuss the way he treats a jawline in his headshots, I'm beginning to think about it a lot more.  Until now, it's been one of those things that eluded me, or that appears in the portraits I like, but not the ones I don't.  I won't try to explain the reasoning, but go watch the video that Peter did on Scott Kelby's Blog and you'll be amazed. 

I have a lot of work to do to get my portraits to a higher level.  These guys have been at it a long time, and I've only just begun.   I think that of the specialities I've tried, My work in portraiture so far has been some of my most rewarding.  

I could have improved this self portrait tremendously by bringing my ear a bit closer to camera and accentuating the good parts of my jawline.  I'll do better next time.

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