The main kind of portraits that I take are the standard old fashioned styles of a woman seated in front of seated man, their bodies overlapped halfway and the man half a head height taller than the woman. If the woman is standing, she is about half a head height taller, standing halfway behind the seated man. These are the same poses and rules of composition that Leonard da Vinci used a few hundred years ago when they were sitting around writing rules for everything. Nothing wrong with it, in fact a lot of people like it.
I also like to play around with the lighting and make the images look old style Hollywood. Of course, all these things go through phases and the company I work for is about fifteen or twenty years behind the curve of what is new and cool. They think all this stuff from the 80s is way cool. Ok, I can do that. Break out the pink gels and the giant fans for backdrops.
But that is just the small stuff. Lighting and posing are important, expressions are important. I’ve worked with people that would rather have a technically perfect image that doesn’t sell than one with bad form that does. For me the trouble is a simple one, I never get an image that looks as good as the person in front of the camera. It just isn’t possible really, not until they come up with real usable holography. A flat image just isn’t a person.
So I look at people all day and I try to capture them at a moment when they look good. This is not really easy, as most people tend to think they are butt ugly, no matter what they look like. It is worth noting that Hurrell spent more time retouching his photos than he did setting them up and taking them. I have no such luxury in the mill work that I do, you get the image straight out of the camera and like it or lump it.
When I go back a few weeks later and look at the images I have taken, they look a hell of a lot better than they did when I took them. I have had enough time to forget what the real person looked like and now that I have only the image, it looks pretty good. So I think there is something to be said for coming back to look at proofs vs squinting at a monitor and picking out the images you like. How do you know it will look the way it looks on the screen?
But it is easier that way, and everyone wants it all to be easier. I can envision a future where people use clones solely for the purpose of having portraits taken of the double, so that the real person might never have to worry about the horror of having their image captured again.
While I am at it, just a quick list of a few things NOT to say the next time you have your photo taken.
Top Five Stupid Things People say to Photographers.
5. I’d rather go to the dentist than have my picture taken.
4. Make me look twenty years younger.
3. Make me look ten/twenty/fifty pounds lighter.
2. I’ve got a black eye, sleepy eye, scar, bald spot, etc, will it show in the picture?
And the Number One Stupid Thing People say-
1. I’m gonna break your camera!
Maybe it is time to think about retiring to the South of France and painting landscapes.