Portraits are to your social media what carbs are to breakfast pancakes. Your can try to do without, but that’s never really going to work. Fortunately some carbs are better than others so it all about choosing the right ingredients. And it goes beyond social media: business promotion, invites, celebrations or just to hang on a wall, we always need a fresh new portrait. So… How do we cook it?
First, pick a big bowl. err… background
Picking a bowl too large or too small could quickly become as awkward as picking the wrong venue for a first date. I like to think about the background first. It’s the canvas we will paint on and can set the mood to the picture. If it’s shot indoors, we can pick a backdrop or just shoot on white/green/black and change it later. If it’s shot outdoors, where do you want to be and how will the environment affect the image you will convey?
Drop in a cup of You
Well.. If it’s a portrait, hopefully, YOU are the center of attention. But, unless you’re Mister Spock or Steven Seagal, there is more than one side of you to shoot. What side are you going to bring to the set? Light or Heavy? Fun or Serious? Kale or Donuts? You need to be true to yourself. Bring a friend, or a close family member to your portrait shooting. It makes it easy to let it loose, and it doesn’t hurt to have a second opinion.
Add a pinch of Accessories
From clothing to jewelry, from tools to digital add-ons, from makeup to hairstyle, think about what will put your shoot in context. Cinnamon accounts for only a small volume of your cinnamon rolls, but without it, well, it’s all guilt, no pleasure. Add flavor to your portraits. Personality, profession, passion, fantasy… What can make you more flavorful?
Fill in with Lights
Lights are to photographers what lies are to politicians. It the paint we use to fill in the canvas, or purposely leave some of it blank. If it’s outdoors, what’s the weather, how high is the sun? Dusk and Dawn always provide the softest light. A reflector can help too. If it’s indoors, a typical portrait setup will have 3 light sources : key, back and fill. But rules are meant to be broken. Multiple setups will be used during a shoot, and you always elect the one with the best paint.
Whip with your favorite Pose
Whether it’s to watch you whip or watch you nae nae, attitude comes from movement. We capture a still, but doing the move that leads to that still is what makes the shot genuine. It is so natural to smile at a joke, but so hard to hold a natural grin in front of the lens (you should ask my 6-year old!). When you move, when you’re in the moment, you don’t have the time to overthink it. The shutter hits when it’s truly you. That’s how we put the candy in candid.
Shape your pancakes
Or how much batter are we going to put on the pan. How thick is it going to be? Do we want to do shapes? (Yes, yes we do. Of course we do!). Even after the scene is set, there are many ways to take the picture. Position, focal length, aperture, exposure, focus, tilt, motion… Your photographer knows what to do, but you might have your own ideas too. Share, snap, look, redo.
Cook until done
Photoshop, Gimp, Lightroom, PortraitPro, Enlight…. So many tools to cook, so many ways to pet a cat (because petting is all we’ll do to that kitty – she’s way too cute). The work is not done when the shutter is released. From color balance to contrast, to curve adjustment. From cloning to liquefying to background replacement. From blemish removal to dodging and burning to frequency separation. If you want your portrait to stand out, it’ll need to get it worked – and revised. That’s the job of the retoucher, but always with your input.
Enjoy with Friends.
The dish is served! It has been cooked to perfection and now it’s time to enjoy it. Social media, invites, fine art prints, each have their own impact, but each are meant to be shared. But don’t count the value of a portrait by how many likes it gets. Measure it in connections. Perception is everything, and your portrait only helps that purpose. Social media is only a way to be connected, invites are only leading to an event, and fine art prints are only there to be felt by an audience. The medium is nice, but the connection it brings is its true value.
Try a new Recipe.
It is my belief that, when it comes to cooking, a meal is most delicious the first time you have it. It’s a fresh new taste, something unexpected. So the next meal will call for something else. Let’s have fun again, let’s do something else and embark on a new project. To illustrate the point, I will do and publish a new self portrait every week for the next year. Same subject: me (I know. You’re welcome). Same constraint: from the chest up. But 50 different moods and effects. It will be a work in progress until August 2018, and the portraits will be compiled [here].
How does this inspire you for your next portrait session? Browse the web, find some inspiration, and let me know how you are going to cook your next ones in the comment section below. Until then, make memories my friends!