Portraiture 101

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by skieur, Dec 19, 2007.

  1. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    In the forums I am in, I find that even among the pros, there are so few people that have even a basic understanding of portraiture.

    Some photographers seem to have a pretty large ego but seem to think that the subjects of their photos have no ego at all. No woman wants to look at a photo that shows that she is putting on weight, emphasizes her wrinkles, shows a scar or the results of acne, displays bags under her eyes, demonstrates the stress that she is under, makes her hair look flat and lifeless, makes her hands look ugly, shows the red in her eyes from being overtired, points out that she did not have braces or proper dental care when growing up, etc. No guy, wants a shot that emphasizes that he is losing his hair, is getting a paunch from too much beer, is developing jowls, has bags under his eyes, has bloodshot eyes etc. either.

    I am amazed at the number of portrait photographers that excuse their lack of skill behind the camera and in postprocessing with the excuse that they are photographing the "natural, real person". That has never been the purpose of portrait photography. The objective among dedicated portrait photographers has always been to "flatter the subject". Photography has always been representational and the portrait photographer should be trying to get the best, most flattering representation of the subject.

    "The eyes are the mirror to the soul" and that is where the focus of the viewer should be led by any excellent quality portrait shot. Any feature that distracts from this focus is a flaw and a weakness and it is the flaw and weakness of the photographer not the subject. It is the photographer who has let small ears, a wide face, wrinkles etc. distract the focus of the viewer and make the subject look less attractive than she truly is.

    Some misogynists seem to forget that girls don't usually show up for graduation looking like they just got out of bed in the morning and no woman avoids makeup or dressing up in the interest of looking "natural" at an important interview or presentation. They want to look their best.

    The role of the portrait photographer in both technique behind the camera and with lighting as well as postprocessing is to flatter the subject and that is not what is being done in many of the portraits that I see.

    skieur
     
  2. Trenton Romulox

    Trenton Romulox TPF Noob!

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    What if the subject wants to look real? Not everyone in our society is infatuated with looking their best, or being the best-looking. Some people want to be real and raw all of the time. If the person's request is to look best, then by all means, the portrait should do just that. But I don't think you can group all people in the same mindset, not everyone wants to be beautiful. Sometimes portraiture is about capturing the true person, and not that person looking 'pretty'.
     
  3. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    Of course getting amazing looking portraits takes an amazing eye for detail and a lot of know how. Fact of the matter is that is only one approach to portrait photography. Some people go for a fun approach. Some go for a gritty approach. The possibilities are boundless.

    Certainly there are tons of people who are just beginning or are slightly confused. We have all been there at one time or other. Point is that photography is an amazing medium and can be taken on many different levels. Now more then ever photography is about discovery, exploration and just plain having fun. As photographers we need to help when we can and not pass judgement so to speak.

    I do not see a whole lot of photographers that excuse there lack of skill. Mainly I see creative photos.

    Love & Bass
     
  4. kundalini

    kundalini Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    You may be confusing portraiture with photojournalism or snapshots at the backyard BBQ.

    I guarantee you that if someone lets loose cold hard cash to have their photo taken, they will inherently do their part to look their best and expecting the tog to do his/her best. They are preserving a memory.
     
  5. Trenton Romulox

    Trenton Romulox TPF Noob!

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    Maybe you're right. Yeah, you're probably right. But can't photojournalism incorporate portraiture? I don't like to draw distinct lines between the different types of photos.
     
  6. kundalini

    kundalini Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I dislike pigeon holes worse than the next fellow, but think about it. What was the OP saying?
     
  7. Sideburns

    Sideburns TPF Noob!

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    I think you fail to realize the subtle differences between normal portraiture and glamour photography.

    I mean there's no excuse to make the person look ugly...but the point is not to make them look like something they aren't.
     
  8. Trenton Romulox

    Trenton Romulox TPF Noob!

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    YES! Thank you! That's exactly what I was trying to say, you just said it in a much simpler, more understandable, and intelligent way than I could.

    YES!
     
  9. keith204

    keith204 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    :thumbup:

    I am a very beginner at portraiture, but IMO nicely said! I am disappointed with one of my Senior (high school) pictures because it doesn't look like me at all. It looked too good!
     
  10. Sideburns

    Sideburns TPF Noob!

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    I figured I was probably speaking for a few when I said it...thanks.

    thank you.
    I was just kind of taken aback by someone so knowledgeable saying this...kind of weird. I'm sure he just got ahead of himself.
     
  11. petey

    petey TPF Noob!

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    I question what people mean when they say they want to look their best.
     
  12. Sideburns

    Sideburns TPF Noob!

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    usually it means "I wanna look like the stereotypical attractive person, or as close to it as possible".

    For girls this means playboy bunnies, supermodels, and professional beach volleyball players

    For guys this means movie stars, professional fighters, and professional beach volleyball players

    You can't always get what you want...but you can ask...lol
     

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