As more and more of our clients are becoming familiar with being in front of the camera (Thanks, Facebook!), people today tend to present themselves the way they want the world to see them, rather than as the people they actually are.
In this video, photographer Sean Tucker talks about the difference between simply taking somebody’s picture, and making a portrait, as well as some tips on how to get it.
It’ll come as no surprise to a lot of portrait photographers that once you’ve got the technical skills down, the key to getting great portraits is psychology. Figuring out what makes your subject tick in order to get them to show the camera what others see in them.
It also isn’t anything new to portrait photography. Yousef Karsh knew it when he photographed Churchill, removing his cigar to get some kind of real response. Out of all the images created that day, that first shot is still the most popular and widely known.
It’s certainly the Churchill everybody knows, even if it’s not the Churchill he wanted to show to the camera that day.
Of course, you need to know your equipment, you need to understand light, learn the principles, and be able to apply them, but the technical side of things is easy. Ok, there are varying degrees of easy, I grant you, but the information is out there for anybody motivated enough to be able to go and learn the technical side.
What manuals and tutorials can’t teach you is how to have a personality and to connect with your subject. It’s that connection that’s vital to creating great portraits and letting your subject’s personalities shine through.
I find that simply engaging with them works much of the time, especially in the studio. I sit the camera on a tripod, prefocused, with a remote shutter and just talk to them. I ask them to stay faced toward the camera while doing so, or I move to where I want them to look, but I don’t keep myself hidden behind the camera, so that they can see and hear me clearly.
What techniques and tricks do you use to get your portrait subjects to show their real selves to the camera? Let us know in the comments.