You may have heard it say before, “those who can’t do…teach”. This phrase is usually uttered by an unhappy student with regard to his or her professor. People also seem to sometimes use the phrase ‘old school’ to describe an applied technique as antiquated. The reality is, those who have done well in their profession for 35 years teach it to others and t if we’re talking old school, it’s called a school for a reason. If you know what that reason is, keep reading.
I am a professional photographer. While there are many professional photographers, my area of study has come to focus on studio portraiture with an emphasis on high school senior portraits. Now you might think ok, how hard can it be to take a high school senior portrait? An accurate response to that question would be sometimes it’s a piece of cake, sometimes extremely difficult if not nearly impossible. Every student however presents a challenge whether large or small, and the challenge that every professional photographer must meet, every time, is to create a flattering portrait of the person in front of them. A portrait that is pleasing to both the subject and their family.
Creating such a portrait consistently takes qualified training and practice, or what I like to call “reps”. I have had thousands of reps in head and shoulders portraiture with young adults from 40 countries around the world. What I can teach you about people portraiture will go far beyond the basics…however the basics are needed first.
What are the basics? Well first you need to learn what it is your’e looking for. A good image should have the following characteristics. Your minds eye automatically looks for these characteristics in photos and other still images.
Impact - Just as described, you see the image and it hits you BOOM! There are three kinds of impact used when judging photographs. Initial Impact, you see it, you like it, there is a good first impression which may fade. Emotional Impact, invokes a strong feeling, and Lasting Impact which usually associated with Emotional Impact. Lasting Impact would be the benchmark to strive for. Wether or not an image is considered to have lasting impact depends on the remaining characteristics.
Composition/Content- What your’e looking for here, besides the rule of thirds, crash point semetry and Hogarth’s line of beauty is how the image flows. Is your eye lead in s nicely? Does your minds eye stay on the image or does it wonder? Does the image composition keep you looking or does it let you go? Is it balanced or just centered?
Color / Density - Color for a persons portrait is extremely important. All whites and blacks should be neutral and have no odd hues. Same for flesh tones. Color should be balanced, not to green, not to magenta, not to warm, not to cool…just right. It can take years to master correction.