For today’s #TuesdayTips lets talk about a different way to shoot portraiture. A portrait is defined as: “a painting, drawing, photograph, or engraving of a person, especially one depicting only the face or head and shoulders.”. In photography, there are many rules, but sometimes the most creative and beautiful images break these rules.
When first learning photography, having a set of rules to follow can help teach the basics of composition and steer the neophyte photographer toward the path of making pleasing images. All too often, photographers stick to these rules so stringently that their creativity can be stifled. The next time you are shooting, get the shot that follows the rules, then break them. Place your subject in the middle of your frame, experiment with different angles, take off the modifiers and shoot bare bulb with your strobe – you never know what you will get. In my case, the rules didn’t work for me, so I had to find a different way to look at traditional portraiture.
I’m almost completely blind, and I cannot see people’s faces, but I love the interaction of photographing a model. I had to come up with an alternate way of shooting portraits that worked with my remaining vision and still created a compelling and unique representation of the person. When I look at a subject, I see blurry shapes, color, highlight and shadow. I realized the shapes I can see in a body are unique, and can be as expressive, tense or sensual as a person’s face. In my work, I embrace the negative space in my vision, and compose my portraits based on line, curve shape and light value rather than the expression of the face. It is a different way of looking at the human form. In your work, consider shooting a closer crop of the parts of the model – the hands, arm, elbow, knee etc. It doesn’t have to be abstract like my work is – I frame specifically to remove easily recognizable landmarks of the body, but a hand laid softly on the neck of the model showing the cheek and ear can be very interesting and different than the usual headshot. I have always loved landscapes, and I shoot with the mentality of a landscape photographer when I work with a model. I imagine mountains and valleys and embrace the different focal planes, like you would see in a landscape image shot with lower depth of field.
This technique can save a shoot and yield useable images even if you have terrible light conditions. Thinking differently about the way you shoot portraiture can also lead to interesting and unique images. I also break traditional rules about portraiture when I post-process, I don’t smooth the skin, rather I embrace the imperfections and texture. I also don’t remove tattoos, if it is a permanent part of the model’s skin, I leave it there. Rather than grabbing the skin softening brush in Lightroom first thing, consider leaving the texture of the skin intact, sometimes a natural look can be very appealing.
How many times have you tried to take a shot of someone and they spend the whole time telling you that they hate pictures of themselves. On your next vacation, try shooting your partner’s toes in the sand, or that newlywed couple’s hands, showing their rings off. Look at the lines the body creates rather than the face. Embrace the parts of the body.
My work is all shot with the Canon 5dmkIII and 5dmkIV, and a single Profoto strobe. If you would like to see more of my alternate portraiture work, check out http://www.bodyscapes.photography/ You can follow me on social media @nedskee on Twitter and Instagram.