With a thousand techniques to learn, then light, lenses and location to consider, remember that portrait photography is more than just equipment and technique; it’s a story. If you want your picture to ‘tell a thousand words’, you need to be in tune with your subject. Here’s some thoughts on the ‘non-technical’ side.
1. Understand your subject’s likes. What do they treasure?
To begin to appreciate their view of the world, try to understand what they like, love and live for. What is important to your subject?
2. Try to ‘walk in their shoes’.
Your background, upbringing and experiences may be quite different to theirs. But try to imagine the world as they view it.
3. What does their point of view say to you?
What is important to your subject? What side of themselves do they want shown? What is important?
4. Look for emotion in their story and plan how to show it.
Your skill as a photographer will be clearly demonstrated when you can bring out the soul of someone who is quite unlike you. Perhaps they are vivacious, shaking ten hands while you talk to them; you may be an introvert. But their way of relating to the world is part of their essence. Can you bring it out?
5. Can you use movement?
Portraits can be dynamic, split seconds of time that capture a love of speed or activity that only a camera can freeze for future inspection. It’s your advantage.
6. Choose a setting where your subject is in their element.
You could choose their living room; their workshop; their favoured garden. If your subject is comfortable, your shot will reflect it.
7. Try to make history – use unusual props and positions.
Some of Freud’s painting featured clutched rats – a juxtaposition designed to arouse emotion. What can you put before your lens to heighten the viewer’s experience? What will be unusual and yet also linked to your subject?
8. Establish strong connections
What do you have in common with your subject?
9. Respect their story
Maybe your subject has a life path you would not choose. But in this moment, you are as their biographer. Acknowledge their own feelings about their story. Once you’re trusted, your camera could capture things not often seen.
10. It’s art, after all.
The wonder of portraiture is the range of action and emotion you can show. Get inside your subjects and the results will show it.
Reproduced for educational purposes.