In a photograph a person’s eyes tell much, sometimes they tell all.~Alfred Eisenstaedt
Capturing character is all about portraying subjects as they are – a genuine representation of the person or people. Far removed from the super smooth, heavily processed, angelic faces we see on magazine covers, character portraiture presents subjects in real-life appearance with all their attributes, expressions, nuances and details. Such as the picture below which is a study of characters in contrast: the lines, creases and wrinkles of old age, and the soft, smooth features of youth.
In his article Character Portrait Photography Tips And Techniques, long-time photography instructor Wayne Turner offers some pointers:
1. Treat the subject with dignity
2. Capture the face
4. Add some environment
5. Relax your subject
6. Focus on the hands
7. Black and white
8. Available light
Go over the article of Turner and read his brief explanation on each of the tips. It will just take you a couple of minutes. And may I add, when capturing the face make sure as much as possible to have the eyes clear and in focus. Eyes are expressive and truly are the windows of the soul. You may have noticed in reportorial images of persons whose identity are hidden, that their eyes are blocked off, covered or superimposed with a black rectangle. Eyes reveal much, both the identity and the character. The bottom line, people photography is about capturing personality, emotion and mood. The subject may not be all sunny and smiles, and may not be the most beautiful and photogenic face in the world, but it is incumbent upon the photographer to capture subjects in the most actual, factual and categorical manner. Turner aptly puts it this way: “Character photography is all about capturing the essence of your subject and conveying who they are and what they do.”
It is required and should be the aim of the artist-photographer to produce in the likeness the best possible character and finest expression of which that particular face or figure could ever have been capable. But in the result there is to be no departure from truth in the delineation and representation of beauty, and expression, and character.~Albert Sands Southworth
Article Excerpt: “When it comes to black-and-white imagery, being able to ‘see’ how your final shot will look is a key skill. It’s important to understand how the colour image you see through your camera’s viewfinder will translate into a monochrome image. To get the best results, you have to look beyond the colours, and instead try to visualise how a shot’s shapes, textures and tones will be recorded…The success of your black-and-white shots relies on several different factors, but the main thing to look out for is a main subject that will appear in a significantly different shade of grey to the background. Then look out for subtleties of tone and texture that will add depth to your images.”~From the article Black and White Photography: What Every Photographer Should Know
Here’s another combination piece by yours truly. Keep that love aflame!
Article Excerpt: “Very few people know that macro photography is a primer for taking perfect portraits…Once you master this skill, you’ll see it pop up in your portrait photography too. You’ll start paying attention to the jewelry people are wearing, their eyebrows, the shininess of their lipstick, and the reflections on their sunglasses. It all adds up, and some of it detracts. Great portrait photographers know how to tone down the distractions while emphasizing the interesting details…If you think about it, that’s the only difference between a highly experienced photographer and someone just starting out. Photographers who have been there know which details matter the most. They can see a photo happening before they’ve even pressed down the shutter. Strengthening your macro photography skills will only get you closer to this goal.”~David Peterson from his article 3 Things Macro Photography Can Teach You About Taking Portraits
Article Excerpt: “The differences between the technical and artistic photographer can be explained in terms of cerebral lateralization – what the popular press often describes as “left versus right brain.” The left side of the cerebral cortex tends to involve thinking that is more logical, analytical, objective, sequential, detail-oriented, concerned with reality, and focused on language, facts, patterns, and order. The right side involves thinking that is visual, emotional, subjective, intuitive, spatial, holistic, and based on symbols, metaphors, and imagination…What’s interesting about photography is how it calls for a robust engagement of both sides of the brain…most photography will require us to draw on the visual thinking of the right brain while also employing the left brain to master the technical aspects of working the camera and processing the image. To produce good photos, technical photographers will need to draw on a right brain appreciation of visual design and composition, whereas artistic photographers will need to tap left brain thinking in order to learn the tools of the trade that help them actualize their artistic visions.”~John Suler on Technical and Artistic Photographers from his article series Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche
Book Excerpt: “Character is destiny,” wrote Greek philosopher Heraclitus back in the fifth century BC. And what better way to see character than to observe the lines of someone’s face?…in the absence of color you have shapes–and lines. Therefore, black and white emphasizes lines and portraits created using black and white can show character at a deeper level than those in which the structural issues are masked by color.”~Harold Davis, The Monochromatic Vision from his book Creative Black & White
This is just a sample of the many monochrome images that will be showcased by yours truly, together with four featured photographers, in the all black and white Issue #5 of Junsjazz Images & Inspiration Digital Magazine, coming out at month’s end.
I don’t do portraits, but I do photograph to show the beauty and mystery of what many might call ordinary, and occasionally people become part of that process.~Tom Feher
Portrait photography is not my forte. But given the time and opportunity I would love to engage in this area of photography because it’s always a different experience taking photos of people and another thing, this one has commercial applications. In other words, you can earn money doing this stuff. Doing this stuff however requires a lot of things to come up with professional results. This is set up photography that needs the appropriate camera and lenses, lighting equipment, a studio or a field location and a model. If you are already into this, well and good. You have found your niche. Yet for us casual shooters, we find situations where we take pictures of individual family members, friends, children, and of course we’d like to make them look good. Google “how to take portraits” and again the number one result is our mainstay online photography instructor Darren Rowse with his article How to Take Portraits – 19 Portrait Photography Tutorials. It’s actually a compilation of tutorial articles from the archives of his site DigitalPhotographySchool.com. With an extensive archive of over 600 articles, Darren compiled the best articles pertaining to portrait photography. You may have to bookmark this and go over them in your free time. Formal portrait photography is exciting, it is a controlled situation. If you have a photo group who does portrait sessions with professional models, do join the activity. It gives you the chance to practice your shoots, get to know more of what your camera can do, get advice from your shooting buddies, and learn how to go about tackling your subject. For the likes of me who only has nephews and nieces (such as my niece Roxanne in the picture) as willing models, I found lots of insights in the various tutorials, things and tips I could readily apply anytime I get to take more portraits in the future.