As a portrait photographer, it’s your job to create an emotional connection between your subject and the viewer. As the facilitator of that connection, and in order for you to deliver that to the viewer, you must fall in love with each and every one of your subjects.
Historically, portraits are a composed image of a person in a still position with direct eye contact to engage the viewer. Today, however, a snapshot, video or even an image where no human is present could be considered a portrait. Whether the portrait you’re creating is a traditional representation of your subject or an abstract interpretation, the image should display the likeness, personality or mood of the person.
While lighting and location are certainly important in helping round out your portrait, the most important aspect of creating an emotional connection between a subject and the viewer is developing a connection between you and your subject. This is why it’s important to fall in love with your subject; find something in your subject that you love. Is it their face, their personality or wardrobe? It could be the awkwardness of how they stand, something they’ve created or the cadence of their speech. Small details like a beauty mark or the way their hair curls are other attributes you can focus on as a photographer.
Before you even shoot your first frame, talk with them, get to know them, empathize with them. Take yourself out of the equation and try to view the world through their eyes so that even if there is nothing particularly physical about your subject that interests you, once you get going, you’ll be able to more fully understand who they are. Their stories may be captivating and be that one thing you can fall in love with.
I’ve photographed hundreds of people. Some of them I loved before ever meeting them, and others I didn’t care for before we started shooting or after. But, while I’m behind the camera, and they are in front of it, I forget about everything but them.
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