Friends, don’t let friends take your picture unless they are a photographer. And if they are a photographer, challenge that person to create a thoughtful portrait of you.
In my opinion, snapping a picture is like attacking somebody with your camera. It’s like saying “Stop! Smile! Bang! Gotcha!”
Creating a portrait, however, is like capturing the essence of a person. A portrait evokes emotion and allows the viewer to establish a relationship with the subject. Creating a portrait is like creating art.
I’m hanging out in Tilghman Island, Maryland with fellow photographer, Anthony Franklin. The sun was going down, and we came across this old row boat. I had a great and unique idea: “Hey, go stand by the boat and do your best Captain Morgan impression!!”
(Don’t judge me.)
Fortunately, Anthony isn’t the pirate type, but the image above is what I typically see people take of their friends. It’s not particularly flattering or inspiring, but more importantly, it doesn’t conjure anything interesting about the person or the surroundings. As a photographer, it’s your duty to do better.
Here’s what I did:
I put my camera on a tungsten white balance to make the background sky and water bluer. In order to maintain a neutral color tone in the foreground, I put a warming gel (CTO-color temperature orange) on an off-camera flash. I then asked my subject to assume a natural poses and, more importantly, forget that I’m taking his picture. Become absorbed in your surroundings and I’ll just be a voyeur (albeit with a big camera and a bright flashing light).
So here is a step up from the first image. Good composition (remember rule of thirds!),. Pleasant facial expression. Minimally, I can tell the subject likes to hold expensive cameras. It’s a step up, but still can be better.
Next, I backed up a bit to reveal more of the surroundings. I also asked Anthony to look out into the glorious Chesapeake Bay. The facial expression that ensued was NOT coached by me. I really think, in that moment, he was enjoying the spray of sea water. Actually, he’s looking like he’s about to beat a sea monster with his camera. More refinement is needed.
Lastly, I suggested that he just start pondering the meaning of life. Now I get the dark, brooding introspective artistic thing going on. That’s him!! This can be proudly hung on a wall and not be considered a narcissistic cry for attention. Note: His girlfriend went crazy when she saw this portrait.
This is the holy grail for me. I am honored to have had the opportunity to create this portrait.