Portraiture

SHARE :

Written by Teagan Cunniffe

 

The first documented portraits were from the ancient Egyptians around 3000BC; statues and paintings to portray their leaders. A portrait is traditionally a head and shoulders depiction of a person’s appearance that serves to represent and conserve their identity, as well as share it with others who may not see that person in the flesh. 

 

Images by Samuli Karala Photography

Images by Samuli Karala

 

"It’s important to remember that you are never above the person you are portraying. You need to be openly curious of what the moment will reveal through the camera. I always remind me of the fact that I am not there to tell my story to them, but to listen to the story they might want to share with me. So you, as a photographer, you’ve got to be brave, and truly move closer to the person."

- Samuli Karala, Portrait Photographer, London/UK

 

As years progressed portraiture became something so much more. Artists strove to give an insight into a person’s nature, moods, their position of power as well as social commentary.  Famous painters such as Van Gogh and Picasso both painted self-portraits which shared self-truths. Still, portraits were predominantly commissioned and thus the domain of the wealthy and powerful.

The advent of the photography age changed all this. Tools for mass image-creation were placed in the hands of the middle-class and portraits became more accessible. Yet the allure of a portrait as an insight into a person remained unchanged- and in ways even more powerful in its attempt to capture the soul.

 

Images by Koray Hussein Photography

Images by Koray Hussein

 

"Seeing them strike poses and expressions that I would never have thought of; it’s a cool experience to see somebody try to express an emotion or feeling just with their body and then being put into the position where you have to capture it perfectly."

- Koray Hussein, Portrait Photographer, London/UK

 

1. Play of light

Light is so important when telling a story about a person. In the painting world, certain lighting techniques were made famous; for example, Rembrandt used side-light and inverted triangle in many of his artworks. This lighting method is popular amongst photographers today. Window-light and open shade, like under a bridge or under a tree, is another favourite for creating flattering, subdued portraits with neutral tones and soft focus.  

 

Images by Koray Hussein Photography

Images by Koray Hussein

 

"Always pay attention to the light. Always. If the model lowers his or her chin just a millimetre and you’re not paying attention, you can end up with some pretty unflattering shadows."

- Koray Hussein, Portrait Photographer, London/UK

 

2. Eye connection

People are drawn to the eyes and expression of a subject. Whether human or animal, make sure you focus on the eyes of the subject before you. Use a shallow depth of field to blur the background and bring the viewers focus even more on your subject’s eyes. 

 

Images by Samuli Karala Photography

Images by Samuli Karala

 

"There is something very intimate about eye contact. When you photograph somebody, the person in front of you is suddenly free of all of title and status in the world outside of the room. It offers you the chance to capture something essential of the very core of the person, and that is magical to me."

- Samuli Karala, Portrait Photographer, London/UK

 

3. Look deeper

Capturing a meaningful portrait, one that says something more about your subject than just a standard snap, is a challenge made a little easier by knowing your subject well. If you are photographing a stranger, schedule some time or have a conversation with them before you shoot get to know their story. You will likely be inspired by what they have to say and begin forming a mental vision of the scene you want to create, with lighting style and props.

 

Images by Samuli Karala Photography

Images by Samuli Karala

 

"Once I photographed the president of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö in a hotel room, and that made me think of this simultaneously invasive and vulnerable connection that the lense of a photographer offers. It’s really all about the connection between two people."

- Samuli Karala, Portrait Photographer, London/UK

 

No matter the medium, portraits that tell a story will forever captivate audiences, no matter the medium. Just look at Steve McCurry’s portrait works, like the Afghan Girl which has been likened to Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’. Portraits are in high demand in both the editorial world and through commissions, and as personal photographic projects that keep you growing and interested in your craft. As a photographer interested in human nature, one can never get bored of striving to capture the essence of a person.

 

 

Final Tips from the Experts

 

Images by Koray Huessein Photography

Images by Koray Hussein

 

"Even if you don’t have a fancy pants camera, almost all phones have incredible cameras in them these days. Just grab anything that can capture an image, go out with your partner, friend or relative and shoot. The images will be terrible. They always are at the start.

But you’ll learn from it and slowly figure out what it is you don’t like about what you’ve captured and become a better photographer, and if you can’t figure out what it is that you don’t like about your portraits then go to YouTube. There are countless videos on portraiture which teach you about light, composition and working with models. There really is no reason to put it off anymore."

- Koray Hussein, Portrait Photographer, London/UK

 

Images by Samuli Karala Photography

Images by Samuli Karala

 

" You’re making decisions when you decide to reveal some feature of a person instead of something else. Understanding the various alternative perspectives of photography, however, is not only about getting a hold of your medium – it is also about discovering the ancient art which it is a part of.

So as a concrete tip I’d say go and see paintings. How have people throughout the centuries been able to reveal something of each others personalities, characters, maybe even souls? It’s all been done before. Look at the details: the eyes, the hands, the faces, the shoulders of people. Find the features that tell something meaningful about the person."

- Samuli Karala, Portrait Photographer, London/UK

 

 

- - -

 

 

Written by

 

Teagan Cunniffe is a travel and lifestyle photographer based in Cape Town, South Africa. Her office is as frequently a desk as it is an airport or a mountain side, and is a firm believer in unscripted travel leading you to the best encounters and experiences. You can follow her on @tea_cunniffe or www.teagancunniffe.com.

Teagan Cunniffe

Images by

 

Samuli Karala Photographer

Samuli Karala

Photographer, London/UK

 

Koray Hussein Photographer

Koray Hussein

Photographer, London/UK

 

Related Posts

  • Negative Space
    Negative Space

    Written by Teagan Cunniffe Negative space has been used a...

  • Symmetry
    Symmetry

    "Why we are drawn to images with balance and reflection, ...


PREVIOUS NEXT


Subscribe to download the Starter Pack & Factory Toolbox preset packs

Plus 15% discount on your first order