Call me cranky, but I don’t like the latest photography trends.
I love simple, classic portraiture, and I admire legendary photographers like Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Albert Watson.
Now, one big thing that’s been missing from this site is a real statement about who we are and what we believe in.
I want people to visit and know right away whether this is the place for them.
That’s why I put together the 10 Commandments of Portrait Photography.
I’ve got a flair for the dramatic, wouldn’t you say?
But I used the word ‘Commandment’ for a reason.
Some people believe, and some don’t.
And that’s okay.
This is just the truth as I see it.
1) A Portrait Is About the Subject, Not the Photographer
We create portraits because we want to say something about a person, and because we want to make a connection.
Not because we want to show off our fancy new $2,000 lens or get more likes on Instagram.
2) To Call a Picture a Portrait, You Need Consent
Too many photographers will call any old picture with a person in it a portrait. But to be a portrait, the subject must consent.
Otherwise, you could call any old street or fashion picture a portrait. The world would lose all meaning.
3) A Portrait Is About a Person, Not How They Look
The moment a picture becomes about makeup, hair, a prop, or a post-processing style, it ceases to be a portrait.
It is a fashion picture.
4) A Portrait Can’t Ever Tell You Everything About a Person
You can’t encompass everything there is to know about a person in a hundredth of a second. So never assume you’ve captured the truth about a person.
People have many sides, and you’re lucky to catch just one of them.
5) An Effective Portrait Makes You Curious About the Subject
Forget the words good and bad. If you want to know more about the subject, then it’s an effective portrait.
You may not like what you see in a particular portrait, but if it gets you thinking, then it is effective.
6) We Learn from the Masters, Not the Latest ‘Influencers’
We don’t create portraits for the moment to chase the latest fleeting trend.
We want our pictures to live on and be just as effective 50 years from now.
7) Ideas Are More Important Than Technique
You don’t need to be a master technician to be a good portrait photographer.
But you must be able to formulate idea and concepts that form the basis of your pictures.
8) Technique Is More Important Than Tools
Cameras, lenses, and lights are fun… maybe more fun than they should be. We can all admit that.
But it’s not what gear you use that counts. It’s how you use it.
9) A Portrait Does Not Have to Flatter the Subject
A portrait does not have to please the subject.
It has to affect the viewer.
Related: What Is a Photographic Portrait?
10) Do No Harm
It’s the photographer’s job to make the subject comfortable. A portrait session should be enjoyable for everyone involved.
Yes, you can use Jedi Mind Tricks – but only to put your subject at ease.
Art has no rules. Right?
Wrong! At least around here.
I created OnPortraits.com because I couldn’t find a portrait photography community I liked.
But OnPortraits.com is not for everyone.
Do you have a personal rule or guideline you follow in your portrait photography?
Do you agree or disagree with any of my 10 Commandments?
Let me know in the comments!
About the Author
Michael Comeau is the Editor in Chief of OnPortraits.com, a community focused on simple, classic portrait photography. This article was originally published here and shared with permission.
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