How do you create your portraiture?

Welcome to the forum, the place for fascinating photography discussions with the Masters of Photography community.

How do you create y...
 
Notifications
Clear all

How do you create your portraiture?


MoP Creative Team
Posts: 9
 MoP Creative Team
Topic starter
(@mop-creative-team)
Joined: 4 years ago

Albert Watson takes a very personal approach to portraiture, making sure to develop a strong relationship with his subject. In lesson 6 of his online masterclass, he shares his tips for preparing a portrait shoot, examples from his own career on he how to develop this relationship, and how to direct the subject.

Albert says that, as a photographer, "one of your best weapons of choice is your own personality." He suggests asking a subject to play a character or imagine a scenario in their mind, so that you can guide their emotions "towards what you want" for the image.

In Steve McCurry's online masterclass, he teaches a less crafted and more natural approach to his portraiture. In lesson 15 He says, “in portraiture, you never quite know when the best moment is going to reveal itself. There could be one instance where there's an expression, or a look, or a glance, or a hand gesture, and that'll be the picture. But you have to be ready.”

When making a portrait, he generally prefers to have his subjects looking straight into his lens. He says that "I want them to look directly back at me, to have this connection." For Steve, a great portraits is one that "reveals something about the individual you're photographing, or says something about humanity."

So, what is your approach to making great portraits? Do you have any methods and techniques for getting the most out of your subject? Please share your thoughts below. 

14 Replies
lorraine.spittle
Posts: 7
 lorraine.spittle
(@lorraine-spittle)
Joined: 4 months ago

Being a wheelchair use I find most studios very restrictive Im consecrating more on not knocking lights over and making sure I don't have wires wrapped  round my wheels than on  what Im shooting . 

My way is more in a natural environment letting the subject go about their every day life (you could say it's more of a street portrait)with my camera ready  I sit and watch my subject , watching every movement and jester they make .Unknowingly  they will repeat the same jester or movement many times . so I have a good idea when to push the shutter button to get what I want . Over time Iv got better at predicting what a persons is going to do. 

I know it so far away from studio portraits but it works for me .

 

 

Reply
gtpete
Posts: 5
 gtpete
(@gtpete)
Joined: 1 year ago

I always approach my subject with a smile and a genuine reason as to why I stopped them to ask their permission to make their portrait. Usually the reason is something I saw in them that appealed to me or was unique. This could be something quite physically obvious like their hair colour or style, thier clothing or it could be a little more obscure like they way they arried themselves, whether that be from a lack of confidence or an abundance of ego, either way I have found them intriguing and curious. 

Making the conversation all about them is critical as is explaining my intentions with the portrait. I try to convey to them the importance of how a portrait can celebrate and regognise who they are in this moment of their life.

On making the portait I usually guide them with where I would like them to stand and how to relax and just be themselves. Often this will yeild great results, but can also leave the introverts out on a limb wondering what “being yourself“ actually means. So being more direct about the look I'm after to bring out what I originally saw in them also works well.

The best part is taking that one shot that nails who they are through my eyes and seeing their reaction to the portrait.  This alone makes the effort worthwhile. 

Reply
1 Reply
lorraine.spittle
 lorraine.spittle
(@lorraine-spittle)
Joined: 4 months ago

Posts: 7

@gtpete  Hi I like more natural images the ones that the person is unaware that their pic as been taken ,this way I feel you get a more of the the persons personality which was the first thing that made me want to take the image in the first places . I do ask some times but I feel  the images where I don't ask come out a lot better .

Reply
Michael Vincent
Posts: 12
 Michael Vincent
(@michael-vincent)
Joined: 1 year ago

I really love creating Portraits, especially of people I meet on the streets.

 

I am Feaf, I can’t hear a thing so lip reading, eye contact, focused interest in people is critical to my success as a portrait photographer.

 

The secret is genuine interest in others, “listening” through empathic intuitive understanding.

 

I feel it is important to ask the magic question “ May I create a photo of you“?

 

I rather hear the word NO, than not ask. I kick myself when I don’t ask - so asking has become a natural request.

 

Timing is important and sharing why I would like to create a photograph.

 

Creating a Portrait of a random stranger is a wonderful thing. It’s a way of acknowledging the life and existence of another. It’s a very generous and affirming gesture of humanity.

 

I always send a photo by email or create a print using the instax printer. This is lovely and it makes my subjects happy.

 

My favourite Lens for faces is the XF90mm F2 however, I use whatever I am shooting with that day. The XF35mm 1.4 and the XF60mm are two outstanding Lens for Portraits.

 

For a context driven images us the classic XF24mm 1.4 - this gives me the classic frame of 35mm. It allows a deeper narrative about my subject.

Reply
4 Replies
gtpete
 gtpete
(@gtpete)
Joined: 1 year ago

Posts: 5

@michael-vincent

Nice to meet another street stranger portraitist. It's a very addictive genre of photography that takes quite a it of courage to do. 

Reply
lucianovranich
 lucianovranich
(@lucianovranich)
Joined: 6 months ago

Posts: 3

@michael-vincent  Thanks Michael, I do much the same in the street. A few years ago I came across a project to photograph 100 strangers which I did in 8 months and then I did another and then I stopped. I do ask the person concerned and explain the project and if agreed I take their portrait. Very few rejections. I have also experimented with window reflections as appropriate. Currently I look for people dressed with their work gear. One window reflection attached. I found a book HUMANS by BRANDON STANTON worth a look. Luciano

Reply
MAMIZUKA
 MAMIZUKA
(@20liquidation18)
Joined: 6 months ago

Posts: 2

@lucianovranich I do like street photography too but I never ask permission to take their portrait. People here in Geneva is not easy for that kind because street photography is very new. And they are not used to it seeing people taking a photo of somebody in the street not like other countries where are very open.

Reply
gtpete
 gtpete
(@gtpete)
Joined: 1 year ago

Posts: 5

@20liquidation18 Ciao, Luciano I would disagree that people in Italian cities are not used to photographers asking for portraits in the street. I know of two italaina photographers that have been doing this style of street stranger portraiture for several years. Yes it's a difficult thing to approach someone at first but most people say yes. Check out the 100 strangers group on Flickr for more information

Reply
MAMIZUKA
Posts: 2
 MAMIZUKA
(@20liquidation18)
Joined: 6 months ago

When I work with the portrait of a person, my main key is to find their secret behind in their life experience, it can be the sad moment or the happiest of their lives to catch the perfect emotion. But it's always important for me to have a moment with the person before the day of the shooting that I can have a good preparation before I work with them.
I'm 4 years of experience as a photographer and portrait is something I like the most.

Reply
Al Myers
Posts: 7
 Al Myers
(@alan-anderson)
Joined: 2 years ago

I am not much interested in portraiture, and certainly not "celebrities". But I think a portrait by definition implies consent - it is something collaborative. So, you cannot take a portrait of a dog or a baby. I think trying to capture the essence of a person is misplaced - put a camera in front of a person and what you get is a persona - it is a performance. People say that Karsh captured the essence of Churchill in his famous portrait - the Bulldog British spirit - but he didn't, he captured a caricature of the man that the public were fed. The best you can hope to achieve is a likeness, and if you cannot recognize the person (in shadow etc) in the image without a caption, then it is no portrait. Spend time with the subject to get a more relaxed likeness, yes, but more than that? Not possible. Settle for an interesting likeness, nice gesture and expression, and good composition.

 

 

Reply
1 Reply
lorraine.spittle
 lorraine.spittle
(@lorraine-spittle)
Joined: 4 months ago

Posts: 7

@alan-anderson  Hi Alan  Im also not into taking pics of  celebrities . We all see things different .  I will say you can take a portrait of a dog ? Doing a shoot with a dog is a 2 way street the  dog and my self .Before any shoot I spend time with the dog  letting it get use to its surroundings also building  up a trust between the dog and my self and vice versa with out this trust I might as well forget the shoot . just like humans dogs can be asked to do different poses sit lay down lift a leg a foot lay on your back, tilt your head look happy, surprised . Dogs respond to a quiet calming voice which will give you a head  tilt or a majestic look or a high squeak that gives you a happy surprised look and an ear prick.( I could go on but I will stop here ) Yes You  have to talk to dogs to in a slightly different way to humans  but you and the dog are still collaborating , dogs will only do what they feel happy in doing, the same goes for humans. In every shoot there is always a little give and take between the sitter and the photographer  to get the shot required .

Some of the best street portraiture images  would have never have been taken if the photographer had asked permission . If we all liked the same things and thought the same this world would be a very boring place . variety is the spice of life so they say .

Nice speaking to you take care 👍 

Reply
Al Myers
Posts: 7
 Al Myers
(@alan-anderson)
Joined: 2 years ago

Hi Lorraine. My dictionary definition of portrait says it is about depicting humans. But I notice that some folks are stretching the definition to include pets. This seems to coincide with a trend to include animals as members of the family, give them birthday parties, take their picture in a studio, and generally confer on these denaturalised neutered creatures various anthropomorphic characteristics. A portrait is about giving consent to be photographed and involves interchange and negotiation. Whatever you can get a dog to consent to do in front of a camera, you can never get it to consent to being photographed.

I agree with you that taking someone's picture on the street without permission can produce excellent results; this is because they are not projecting a persona and you are capturing a real, unrehearsed, unmediated moment. But what you are getting is not a portrait. I am all for variety but that does not mean we should define things however we like - communication and understanding breaks down if words don't mean the same.

Reply
2 Replies
gtpete
 gtpete
(@gtpete)
Joined: 1 year ago

Posts: 5

@alan-anderson well said, couldn't agree more!

Reply
lorraine.spittle
 lorraine.spittle
(@lorraine-spittle)
Joined: 4 months ago

Posts: 7

@alan-anderson Hi thanks for you reply . Like I say every one will see things in a different way ,Yes you are right the dictionary definition of portrait says its about depicting humans , I was saying dogs can and will give you permission to take their pic .Dogs understand a hell of a lot more than some give them credit for . You say "you can't ask a dogs permission to take their photo". If a dog doesn't want to do something or are not happy with what you are doing they will not comply and will  make their feels obvious , if  they don't want their pic taken they can and will let you know. I don't know how much you know about the behaviour of dogs ? but with how you have replied I would say not much ( I don't mean this in a nasty way ) I have worked with assistance dogs for over 30 years and in the last 3 years been privileged to work with other working dogs and pet dogs. Dogs do communicate with body gestures   just because dogs can't speak doesn't mean they don't communicate with handlers ,owners  . Any good pet photographer  understand the body gestures and can tell when the dog is not happy . I will end here and say no more on the subject I don't want to be blocked from the group for taking over a thread .I think we will have to agree to disagree on this .  Nice speaking to you Alan keep well and safe .

Reply
Share:

 

Sign up for free & watch 4 amazing lessons from some of the greatest photographers in the world

 + Access great films about photography + Join our Forum conversations + Inspiring interviews & articles

 

Sign Up to Watch Right Now

 

Pin It on Pinterest