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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Details Of Portraiture

Learn to notice the subtleties for more expressive photos

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Like with most things, in photography, there are always a number of smaller elements that make up a whole. Taking note of the little things and including them in your images can bring greater depth and meaning to your portraiture. —Photo by Sarah-Ji
Gesture: Expression comes in many forms. One good example of this is talking with one’s hands. Hands tell amazing stories, and when captured in a portrait, can tell us everything we need to know. Consider all the things people say using their hands and challenge yourself to use gestures like these to bring more feeling to your portraits.

Wardrobe:People express themselves everyday with their wardrobe choices. Whether it’s baggy jeans, polka dots or a tutu, let clothing help you paint the perfect portrait. Consider using your subject’s unique uniform as the main focus of your shot.

Portraits of children often evoke nostalgic, wistful emotions. These sentiments can be further explored and revealed by including the context of space and time in your shot. Sometimes the most effective details are actually added props that find their way into the frame (on purpose or by happenstance). The illuminated bouquet of dandelions is a symbol for wishes, freedom, whimsy, simplicity; all quintessential elements of the innocence of childhood. —Photo by Stephanie C. Roberts

Accessories:Shoes, although farthest from the face of your subject, can often tell a story all by themselves. Including shoes (or other telling accessories) in your portraits not only will create visual interest, but often will communicate a more inspired narrative of your subject’s personality.

“When I shot this self-portrait,” says Clark, “I recognized my tomboy side—comfortable in my soft cotton and denim ‘uniform’. I saw myself in my bathroom mirror, as I do every morning, getting ready to start the daily routine. What I didn’t see was my father, until I took the detail above. And then, all at once, in one thumb nail, I saw him. Undeniably. I’ve known I have my father’s hands for years now, but it’s one of those things I forget about. I’ll admit I have often complained about having masculine hands—my dad’s hands—but this time when I saw a glimpse of my father in myself, it made me happy. And incredibly proud. His hands are big and can still make mine feel small. They are exceptionally strong. And even amidst the cracks and calluses from years of hard work, they are soft, tender and loving. I can only hope that having my father’s hands means having all of the other wonderful things that they hold as well.” —Photo by Tracey Clark

All Of The Above: Sometimes you won’t have to choose just one detail on which to focus. As you begin to hone your eye to the details, you’ll find your subjects bring them in spades! You can include a number of these elements in creating unique and compelling portraits that are rich with artistic expression—both yours and your subjects’!

Who we are alone is only part of our story. Featuring connection and revealing who we are in our togetherness can paint a more complete picture. Co-author Lemen writes, “It is the job of the photographer to see the things that others often miss; the subtleties of expression, gesture, body language, the seen points of togetherness and those that are only inferred. It takes more than just a keen eye. It takes a lot of heart and the willingness to dig deeper and feel your subjects.” —Photo by Jen Lemen

Learn more about the Shutter Sisters on their community photo blog, www.shuttersisters.com, or in their book, Expressive Photography: A Shutter Sisters’ Guide to Shooting from the Heart.


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