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December 3, 2012
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What makes a portrait?

:iconabfc:
Abfc Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
I want to hear some of your opinions on what really makes a portrait look good.

I've been taking photos for a few years now and I've dabbled with portraits--a picture of my friend here, family member there, stranger here, myself there, etc.--but I've mostly done high-speed sports snapshots and photos of my car, lol. That said, I've not much experience with the human subject, let alone on an aesthetic level. What are some things to keep in mind when planning a portrait shoot, setting up, shooting, processing? What are some common mistakes that keep a photo from being a great portrait?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. :heart:
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:iconfacingtheplasticlife:
FacingThePlasticLife Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Student General Artist
Honestly it just really depends on who your photographing at the end of it all, if their relaxed and letting a natural pose happen then you'll get the image your wanting, or something completely different than what you wanted but a thousand times better, since no matter how good you are you can never direct a natural pose. :P
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:iconfallisphoto:
FallisPhoto Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012
Sorry, but that's a load of crap. You most certainly can direct a "natural" pose, and if your model is awkward looking, tense, or is just having a bad day, you are going to have to, because a really natural pose is going to look like hell. It's a lot of work, but if you are working for a client who wants you to use a certain (way-less-than-ideal) model, then sometimes you have no choice. Actually, if they're not too bad, I kind of like working with models like that, because it is more of a challenge, the models are very happy with their photos, and I get more of a sense of accomplishment.
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:iconabfc:
Abfc Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
That's exactly how I've thought of it; I've never told someone to sit/stand a certain way for a picture, really. Maybe 'now try lying down' or something vague, but I feel like I'm wasting someone's time enough when I'm shooting them without hurling demands at them. :lol:

Thanks. :)
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:iconfallisphoto:
FallisPhoto Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012
You are never going to get anywhere like that. Not with amateur models anyway. WIth pros you can sometimes get away with that attitude, because they know how to pose, but amateurs absolutely do not and you will probably have to pose them down to each individual finger and toe. One pose can take up to two hours to shoot if the model is amateurish and klutzy enough. Besides, I do nudes and amatuers can take an hour or so just to relax enough to be worth shooting. I usually shoot torsos and detail photos for half an hour before I can even consider backing off enough to shoot anything with their expression in it. By then they may have relaxed enough that they are smiling instead of gritting their teeth. From then until they start getting bored is when you get the best shots.
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:iconabfc:
Abfc Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Maybe if I had a portrait studio, and thousands of dollars worth of equipment, I could get away with treating people like that. But I'm just a college student with a camera and a couple lenses, trying to get experience and gain knowledge. Although, my ideals of photography probably differ from yours, as well, leading to a mismatch of priorities. I just feel, as though, I can sort of tell when a model is forcibly posing. It takes a certain quality away from a photo, a quality which I like a great deal.
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:iconfallisphoto:
FallisPhoto Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012
Treating people like what? Amateur newby models have no idea what they are doing and they know it. They EXPECT to be directed. Quite often, the first words out of their mouths, when they first get in front of the camera are "Okay, what do I do now?" or Okay, direct me." Your job includes telling them. Be nice about it, and explain as you go, but tell them.

An example of what I am talking about: "Look, the placement of that hand is a little too suggestive for what I want to do, and placing it lightly in position does the job; you don't have to clutch. If you clutch, the skin bulges between your fingers and around your hand and that is not attractive. Can you raise that hand a little and angle your fingers so they are not pointing there? Like this?"

You don't have to be an asshole to direct a model and you don't have to settle for second rate photos just because you are a student and not a pro.
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:iconabfc:
Abfc Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Fair enough. Your wording was implicative of harsher intentions in your previous post, is all. :thumbsup:
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:iconfacingtheplasticlife:
FacingThePlasticLife Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Student General Artist
Heh yeah, it's more just giving them brief ideas of what they could do next and just letting them go do whatever they want with that idea and expanding on it in their own way. :)

Not a problem. :)
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:iconfallisphoto:
FallisPhoto Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012
Sorry, but hoping to have a good accident happen on film is no way to go about it.
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:iconfacingtheplasticlife:
FacingThePlasticLife Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Student General Artist
Right I can see your the type of person that has one and only one way of thinking about how to approach something leading to only one highly planned out end. And there's nothing wrong with that, if you have a problem with how I work then that's fine, but if you haven't taken the time to look at the work I've done then I see little to no point continuing with this. Enjoy having a close minded view to this art we're both in, by limiting yourself to thinking what's professional to you and sweeping away anything and everything else.

Much love. x
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