One of the pleasures of being a photographer is meeting interesting people. I love trying to understand what makes people who they are and what motivates us to do what we do. Portraiture is one of my favorite aspects of photography both has a viewer and as a creator.
Sometimes I have an hour and other times just a minute. This is the fate and the challenge of being a portrait photographer. But what makes a good portrait? A good portrait is both compelling to look at and gives the viewer a sense that they have[DG1] learned something about the subject. A great portrait leaves the viewer feeling like they’ve met that person.
Portrait photographers start with two goals. The first goal is to create an environment that draws the viewer in. To achieve this we utilize light, color, texture, and composition to draw a viewer’s eye into our picture, focusing on what the image creator finds important. Backgrounds or environments can reveal compelling details about the subject. Details tell the viewer who this person is.
The next goal is trickier. The portraitist needs to develop a rapport with their subject, so the subject feels free to express and reveal genuine emotion. We react emotionally when we understand how another person feels. If a subject puts on a “face,” if they put on a forced or fake expression, the viewer will sense it and the portrait will fall flat.
One of my strengths is my ability to connect with people. Usually with just a few moments of conversation, my subjects let their guard down and reveal who they are or, at least, how they are feeling in that moment. This creates a sense of intimacy that gives the portrait a feeling of honesty and authenticity that viewers enjoy.