It’s been awhile since I gave out tips (as if I’m an expert). Anyway, this is all based from my observation and what I find interesting. Portraits has become a challenging thing to shoot since photography became too democratic, everyone is now a photographer. So here are some tips that might help you get ahead.
Find a story to tell.
So how to get ahead. You see it’s easy to shoot a face but one approach is to pop out a person’s personality. every great portrait that was shot has a story to tell, one great example is this photo of Winston Churchill by Yousef Karsh.
Here’s Karsh’s story behind this portrait:
"Churchill’s cigar was ever present. I held out an ashtray, but he would not dispose of it. I went back to my camera and made sure that everything was all right technically. I waited; he continued to chomp vigorously at his cigar. I waited. Then I stepped toward him and, without premeditation, but ever so respectfully, I said, “Forgive me, sir,” and plucked the cigar out of his mouth. By the time I got back to my camera, he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me. It was at that instant that I took the photograph."
Sharing your environment to your model.
Sometimes it’s not all about the model’s personality, you can put yourself as a photographer in that environment, try to apply your taste of aesthetics to shoot your model. but remember the only way to make this work is to share not to hug everything.
For example this Terry Richardson’s portrait of Lady Gaga.
Terry is well known for his raunchy raw approach to his models. His aesthetics is mostly a collaborative effort. he gives the model the freedom to do anything but also he applies his style in them.
Another photographer who’s a master on this style is Annie Loibovitz. check out this photo of Whoopi Goldberg in a milk filled bathtub.
The cool thing about this image is Leibovitz finds a way to make a photo interesting by making her dark skin pop-out in a humorous way. The whiteness of milk, the blackness of her skin and her interesting personality made this image work.
Documenting a moment.
Portrait photography is not always about directing your models what to do. It is also finding a moment like a street photographer. Mind you that this method will always be a hit and miss but once you got the shot, you’ll find it truly fulfilling. One tip is to truly know your model, she should be a family member or a close friend.
Here’s a photo by Nobuyoshi Araki.
Araki who is one of the greatest photographers in Japan invited his audience to his personal life by producing a book called Diary Sentimental Journey. To read more about this story click here.
Selfie Self Portraits.
Try to be more creative when you shoot a self portrait. Because posing with your camera has been done a million times since eons ago. Remember that it’s not always about you being a photographer, it’s also you telling your side of the story. For example this shot of Kishin Shinoyama.
So one tip is to get another photographer to take your portrait. you may know yourself that much but other people might have another impression about your personality. I mean you can always shoot a portrait of yourself in the mirror but can you imagine how many photographers has done that already?
So yeah to sum it all up. Just try to think about your shots before you head out and shoot. It’s cool to know about basic photography techniques and lighting and stuff but you need to think about concepts too.
Anyway, those are some of my tips, i know I’m not a writer and forgive my grammar but I do hope you get what I mean. Please feel free to message me if you have any questions.
PEACE AND HAPPY SHOOTING!