Photograph © by Philippe Halsman
ASSIGNMENT #54 + INSPIRATION
We all love portraits, but, for most people, it can be very difficult to photograph other people, especially when it comes to photographing a complete stranger. Portraiture is a very important part of photography, but feeling at ease with the camera and getting people comfortable about being photographed requires some practice.
When taking a portrait, we must establish very quickly a trust relationship with our subjects. The more confident we appear, the more relaxed people will feel. Smiling helps a lot. Instead of feeling awkward, try to feel that you are doing a beautiful thing.
If you choose someone to photograph, it is because there is something special about them, so let them know it. Look at people in their eyes. The most interesting portraits have what we call “eye contact”, that’s when the person you are photographing looks straight to the camera, and you press the shutter at this exact moment.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF PORTRAITS
Close-up portraits: Also called head-shots, close-up portraits are about facial expressions and details. The face of the subject fills the frame and there are a number of different crops that can be done. Either show the whole head or emphasise a detail, the eye, for example, by cropping your images at the eyebrow level on the top.
Half body and full body portraits: The wider your angle of view, the more you need to pay attention in the background. Ask yourself if there are any distracting elements that will ruin your image and position yourself in order to exclude these elements. Shallow depth of field technique is often used for portraits. It allows you to blur the background elements to make your subject “pop” from the scene. Avoid cropping arms at elbow line and legs at knee line as this often results in unflattering portraits. Try to photograph people at their eye level, unless you want to create a sense of “superior” or “inferior” by moving yourself to a lower or higher point of view respectively.
Environmental Portraits: This type of portrait inserts the subject in its own environment, be that a work, leisure, social or family one. It includes some of the surroundings that have significance to the picture and add meaning to the portrait and the subject. With the environmental approach, more is revealed about the subject. People are often shown as doing something. One of the most inspiring environmental Portraits we talk about during the workshop is Dali Atomicus by Phillippe Halsman (main image). Click on the link to see the video about how it was done.