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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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:iconfallisphoto:
FallisPhoto Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012
Maybe you don't understand. Here's an example of what I am talking about: [link] Without any direction, you'd wind up with the top-left photo. Trust me on this, if the girl in the photos was your client and you presented her with that upper left photo, you would lose your client two seconds later and would probably not get paid. You'd have a hell of a lot of trouble selling that photo to anyone else either.

BTW, your response says a lot more about your own closed mind, immaturity and dread of honest criticism than it does about me.
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:iconfacingtheplasticlife:
FacingThePlasticLife Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Student General Artist
Right I do understand what your saying, but what I'm trying to get across to you is that we have different work styles. You may take the upper left photo and tell the model to face forward so that she's actual in the range of the light source, I on the other hand may move the lights so that it works with how the model has naturally positioned themselves granted the fact that there's a limit to work within til you have to tell the model to move forward or further back than totally changing their body position to how you wanted their body to change.

Oh hush you try waking up to the comment of someone calling your work style crap, not you pieces of your work, but the way you personally work, crap and not give a somewhat grumpy response. :P If you were going on about my work then sure some pieces are better than others and some are just bleeh, but I was giving my view on how I do my work. Not trying to give a general over sight on the whole of "Photography" in general and how it's done within the 'norm'.

Also of course I'm immature, regardless of the circumstance personality wise. I ain't gonna change that just for a comment on a website from some person I've never seen before. XD
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:iconfallisphoto:
FallisPhoto Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012
The biggest problem with the upper left photo was not the lights but what that pose was doing with her thighs. Better lighting or not, the "thunder thigh" pose made it unusable. I went ahead and shot the stages so I could illustrate the process of how I arrived at the final pose though.
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:iconfallisphoto:
FallisPhoto Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012
Things to think about: skin texture, makeup, hair, skin folds, body language, expression, dynamic tension, acne, scars, birth marks, cellulite, freckles, moles, skin oil, skin color, framing, rule of thirds (when to use it and when to stick it), leading lines, and the elements of art. Is the clothing too tight? Is the clothing too loose? What colors and combinations is it best to avoid? Does a pose make a model's breasts sag or make her legs or ass look big? Contrast, grain, fitting seperate design elements together, foreground, background, depth of field, how to get light where it is needed and where it is supposed to go in the right proportions, whether a pose looks graceful/awkward, soft/hard light, shadows, how to achieve the illusion of depth, contour, how best to avoid breaking aesthetic lines, what lens filters to use, how to calm down a nervous model, how to interest one that is getting bored, keeping the model comfortable, deciding what poses/themes are going to appeal to the client, and literally hundreds of other things. You could write a book the size of "War And Peace" on this one subject.
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:iconabfc:
Abfc Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
:lol: Well you've provided me with a nice checklist.
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:iconfallisphoto:
FallisPhoto Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012
I've provided you with the beginnings of one.
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:icondelahkel:
Delahkel Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2012  Professional Photographer
Hmm, lots of things, you'd need good composition, good lighting, good pose and expression, good camera angle, pay attention to the background...

I'd say some of the most common mistakes I've seen in portrait shoots is shooting the model at a sunny midday, which is highly unflattering (could easily be fixed by holding a diffuser over the model's head, play with the angle till the light looks good). And of course when a tall photographer is shooting a shorter model, and the tog is shooting while standing up, when he should be kneeling down, or even lying on the floor, depending on the pose of the model. You should be below eye level if you plan on shooting something other than a headshot.
From the model's end, I'd say beginner models look nervous in shots, and it's your job to make them more relaxed so they'd look more natural.
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:iconabfc:
Abfc Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Yeah, I've been experimenting with different light sources; I've been trying to avoid broad daylight as vast majority of my photos already utilize it. And I never really thought about the subject being nervous, honestly, and in hindsight I can see how that could play a big role in the outcome of a photoshoot.

Thanks for your feedback! (:
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:icondelahkel:
Delahkel Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Professional Photographer
Anytime, hope it helps :)
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