Making real people look their best. How to? Best book? guide?
I never paid much attention to faces. Never had the reason to.
I am doing a portrait study right now. I didn't want to stress myself too much, so I picked pretty girls to study.
They have problems.
The eyes are uneven. The nose grows to the left. The lids are not symmetrical. When the mouth is closed a front tooth is sticking out. A really long face...
I'm not going to talk about the bodies, but you get the picture.
I need a book. Or a guide.
What would you recommend?
Hark the words of the 19th Century photographer, Mr. Peter Britt, of Jacksonville, Oregon. When the young daughter of a Hotel owner came in and complained about her portrait Mr. Britt had made, he said, "Madam, if you want a photograph of a pretty face, you will have to bring one."
My uncle was in great demand at the local university as a model for the painting classes...his face was unusually symmetrical and well proportioned. I think you will find that kind of face rare...and perhaps eventually uninteresting.
At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can be a good day of exercise.
Uninteresting? I'd just give credit to myself, the photographer.
I still don't know what to do about the normal, unsymmetrical people though.
Just a few thoughts - softer lighting, always take 3/4 or profile shots, never head-on, use a yellow (or even orange) filter to subdue redddish skin blemishes, be aware of which side of your sitter's face is the "good" one, use a longer lens (3 or 4 times standard focal length) to flatten out perspective, use a diffuser filter or soft-focus lens. If working in b+w, be aware how very small changes in printing exposure can radically change the way skin tones look, from smooth to quite muddy and spotty-looking. And if all that doesn't work, digitise the results and retouch, the way all portrait photogs used to do when LF was the format of choice for portraits. In fact, there's an idea ...
1. There are books on Photoshop that teach you how to do cloning, healing brush, slim waists, enlarge breasts, remove double/triple chins, etc.
2. If you do darkroom, then you can still use a fine brush and spotone in addition to dodge and burn.
3. Of course before you even enter the darkroom or Photoshop you can use a Softar filter. As Zeiss says, each grade takes away 10 years.
4. The real question is-- do you really want to do all this? Will the end result be real? I've been repulsed by studios offering "makeover" packages where the results are so fake, the skin is so obviously plastic, the diffusion effect is so strong, etc.
5. My suggestion is to do what you can in terms of clothing, posing, lighting and camera angle to hide/minimise the flaws and let the rest be. I remember well the portrait of Condoleeza Rice in a portrait photography book I bought. She is frankly not a very pretty woman, and the photographer did put the more pimply part of her face in shadow, and the side lighting created a mysterious and powerful look that was appropriate for a Secretary of State. Not pretty-- she's never going to win a beauty contest-- but it was a well-executed formal portrait.
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There are all sorts of miracles that soft window light, ample fill, appropriately diffused lenses, and a strategically moving photographer can achieve!
As you will see clearly from what I am about to say, I'm not a portraiteer- haven't even tried. I am thinking mostly about landscapes these days. Nevertheless I would go about this the exact same way that I'd approach any landscape: foremost enumerate the best things about the scene and think about how to make them come to the fore. Unusual or unexpcted elements can become extraordinarily powerful in any composition. Now, with portraits you have all kinds of technical and creative power that you don't have with landscape: you can totally control the lighting, you can credibly diffuse or work with very limited depth of field without it being seen right off as an "effect", you can make big adjustments in the orientation of yourself and your subject... very quickly. Just think about all that power you have and how you're going to use it for good!
[Okay I just realized why I am afraid to try portraiture: too many degrees of freedom.]
Books? There must be millions on portrait lighting alone. I think the thing to do is go to the bookstore and find some examples that you like, and learn how to start taking them apart in terms of what lighting techniques were applied. Right on this site, in the gallery section, I think you will find some masterful examples and people willing to discuss how they worked the shot.
you might consider going to a junk store and leafing through
old portraits, carte de visites, high school portraits ...
and look at photography books ( from pre 1940 ) on portraits ...
they show lighting, and technique that may give you ideas...
nice site, great portraits. Andrey look and learn.
I agree with everything David said, he is clearly knowledgable in this area.
Long lens, some type of softening filter (if needed), diffused lighting in most cases (umbrellas, strip-lights, white reflecting material, etc.) are all ingredients for good portraiture. I also use yellow or green filters to control B&W skin tones (haven't tried orange, though).
One note of caution: wide faces need more contrast than narrow faces to avoid enhancement of these characteristics, unless that's your intention.
Last edited by panastasia; 02-08-2008 at 08:08 AM. Click to view previous post history.
"Pictures are not incidental frills to a text; they are essences of our distinctive way of knowing." Stephen J. Gould