Effective portrait photography is created through the connection between the photographer and the subject. A portrait should convey the subject’s character: its individuality, strength, weakness or even vulnerability. Often this connection is made through the eyes or gaze, but a portrait can be equally effective with little or no eye contact. It should evoke curiosity from the viewer, teasing out queries, questions and conjecture about the subject.
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Faces are familiar; we look at and see faces everyday, all the time. They stare out from all manner of media, in all shapes and sizes, which makes it all the more challenging to create a striking and absorbing portrait. A portrait where the photographer bears not only the subject’s soul but imprints part of their own self there too, quietly and invisibly.
The best portrait photographers include the viewer in their picture and bring them into the equation by allowing them to share the connection and revelation of character.
On commercial shoots, not using professional models, we have found 80% plus of the men do not freeze when it comes to having their portrait taken, and on the surface, are not overtly self conscious about the process either. They want
instructions of what to do, how and when. They listen, and most times fall into that way of sitting, smiling, posing etc readily. They are happy to have the process over and done with quickly, once the photographer is happy.
We also found that around 80% of women, however, are more likely to freeze or adopt an overtly dramatic, caricature of a pose when confronted with the same scenario. A mix of emotion is palpable in their being; anger, panic and
embarrassment are visible in their faces; any gentle words of direction from thephotographer go unheard, and suddenly, they can’t smile with any degree of confidence while moments prior have been directing procedures with efficiency,
conversation and laughter. In short, many women turn into jibbering wrecks. On the surface, such a difference in behaviour would seem odd as women are traditionally much more used to looking at their own faces – when applying
make-up, styling their hair, cleansing, toning etc, and when taking selfies. It is claimed that the average 16-25- year-old woman spends more than five hours a week taking photos of themselves. According to the Pew Research Centre
report in 2014, 68% of millennial women (18-33 year-olds) had posted a selfie, compared to 42% of millennial men.