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Eye of the Beholder

Jack Hartzman

New member
Portraits may be the most subjective of all photographic disciplines. The "perfect portrait" to the shooter, may completely disappoint the client or subject because they simply don't like their smile or the way their hair looked the day of the shoot.

We'll use this forum to expand our minds past the point of what lens to use - and reach more the Excellence of portraits in the true work place.

In the next few days I'll be post images I captured this weekend at a Bar Mitzvah in Washington, D.C. at the Four Season Hotel. It doesn't sound to wild at face value, but I was working w/ a family that didn't have a mother, two kids that didn't want to be there, 5 siblings to the father...and their families...and oh-yea, they showed up an hour late for the portraits.

Stay tuned. JACK

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Wecome Jack

I'm looking forward to see what they allowed you to do!

Thanks again for taking on the responsibility of being a moderator

We look forward to a rewarding experience!

Asher :)

Brian Lowe

New member
Some Portraits from the weekend

I will be honest and admit I have not taken a lot of portrait shots in the past. I am working on some natural light portraits. I am told you want to connect with your subject and show who they are with the lens and capture the inner sole of the individual.

Hear is my first attempt, oh and yes I have a signed model release.

The Stoic leader, company CEO portrait

Next I was trying to capture the inner sole.

All were taken with 1DMKIIn & 100-400 L IS.

Thanks for your comments
and positive criticism in advance


Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Hi Mathew, and again "Welcome!"

I like your two portraits. They do show character. We do have a specific post for wild animal pictures and yours will also be valued here:

As to these pictures, what is there that you would like to do if any before sending the images to a stock photography agency or printing for sale?

Whether as a professional photographer or as one on the upward trek, these are the questions that one must ask of oneself with each and every shot.

Are the details, color and contrast as I want it in all areas of the picture. where should my eye be drawn to, is it cropped as I want it, do I need it lit most in in place XY or evenly and such questions.

So, feel free to keep the pictures here, but let us know if you want to play this game this way.

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Daniel Harrison

pro member
I agree about the portraits being subjective - I think that portraits are the hardest aspect of photography. I was shooting portraits for a political party here in Australia and I do find it hard. It is also perticually difficult when a person is not "photogenic" and they know it.

We may want to take just a technically "good" photo but the important thing is to capture their personality and who they are as a person. At least for family and personal portraits.

I am looking forward to the tips in the forum!

John Carolan

New member
Usage and agenda

The style of the portrait is generally dependant on what it's going to be used for. A photographer providing a headshot for an actor or a family portrait is going to give the client what they want (if he or she wants to stay in business), a fine art photographer is going to experiment or aim to achieve whatever look or insight is relevant to their own agenda/project. A photojournalist will compose the shot dependant on the context of the story, a PR/publicity photographer will again try to meet the needs of the client. Even if you are taking candid shots without any well defined goal in mind or client brief to restrict you, you are still only going to catch a certain aspect of an individual. Capturing a true glimpse of someone's 'essence' is a tall order. Plus the viewer of the photograph would have to be well aquainted with the subject to be able to judge if the photo has achieved this. We have all seen striking portrait photographs, but unless we are friends or aquaintances of the subject we have no way of knowing if they are true reflections of the individual concerned. A couple of my favourite quotes:-

"All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth." (Richard Avedon)

"Some photographers can be very presumptuous about 'capturing' another person with their cameras, my portraits in this book have revealed nothing profound about the subjects or captured anything. They were almost all strangers to me. How could I say anything about them when I never knew them? What I did was share a moment with them, and now I share that moment with you, no more and no less."
(Duane Michals on his book 'Album')
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Jack Hartzman

New member
Living in Washington, D.C -- I have had my fair share of run-ins with politcal figures, both handsom and NOT. My general rule of thumb is to speak directly to the subject and ask them which they like more "Having a cavity filled in their mouth, or having a new portrait created". The humor of the question usually opens the door wide open for truth and honesty.
Ask them what they did or didn't like in past portraits, find out if the problem was the photographer or the photograph.
Many people in high ranking positions often feed off the emotions or energy of the photographer. If you're too talkity, or try to make small talk or mention what a big fan you are...you may if fact be setting the stage for an un-happy customer and it most likey will have NOTHING to do with your portrait.
Chin-up. Good Luck. JACK

Brian Lowe

New member
For Asher as promised.. ;-)

I have a hard time finding humans subjects so I'll continue with these guy's.

Here the subject is at a 90 degree angle with the head turned towards the camera. I purposely shot below eye level so not to draw attention to the strong brow bone of the subject.

Here we have the second subject I am told he did time in the big house (San Diego) and is now reformed and enjoying life in Los Angeles.

Next post I'll share my Photoshop action secrets for nose reduction techniques when shooting at high ISO. Here is a preview.

Happy Shooting,

Daniel Harrison

pro member
Hi jack,
Thanks for the advice. I have to do 60 or so of them in a confined amount of time in August, so I may post some samples and get some advice before I head into that one. Having 2min a person or less is hard stuff :) So obviously I can't put all the energy into it that I would normally. I'll try your line sometime - sound good :) To be honest I think posed portraits are my least enjoyed for of photography - hopefully with more experince an confidence it will move up the list.

Oh and brian,
constructive criticism... I think you over sharpened that noise reduction image. And I think a portrait usually includes at least a face- not just a portion of a face. Happy shooting

Kirk Darling

New member
>>"Some photographers can be very presumptuous about 'capturing' another person with their cameras, my portraits in this book have revealed nothing profound about the subjects or captured anything. They were almost all strangers to me. How could I say anything about them when I never knew them? What I did was share a moment with them, and now I share that moment with you, no more and no less."
(Duane Michals on his book 'Album')<<

What one can say, of course, is what one felt about them at the time of the photograph, which makes it more a portrait of the photographer than of the subject.

An interesting read is the "Song of Songs" or "Song of Solomon" in the Judaic Bible. It is chock full of descriptions of the "Lover" and the "Beloved," but after all those descriptions, the only concrete thing you know of the physical appearances of either is that the "Lover" has black, wavy hair and the "Beloved" has a farmer's tan.

All those descriptions are about how they feel about each other's apperance.

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
One approach to "2 minute per person" portraits at a formal event is to have a strobe setup with a backdrop and a set of beautiful chairs or sofa. First I take a bunch of casual non-arranged shots. Takes 30 seconds and includes putting away paper napkins, drinks and doing up zips etc.

Then I move them to the formal positions. They already know me. I find that they are now more relaxed for the formal pictures. They do all they want to express themselves. All we do is light and frame them.

No photographer is paid well enough for this fast paced work. You have to like people I guess!