So I walked past the "Founders & Presidents" portrait wall at a local community college yesterday and had a couple minutes to look. My interest was purely photographic/artistic, not historic. (In a historic sense they all do their basic job, the college's roots are in the vocational world, it's not an art gallery.)

It was truly amazing how bad most of the photos were and I'm not talking about bad printing.

Out of 30 or so head and shoulders and 1/2 length portraits only two were nicely done, the big failing with the rest was with the backgrounds competing with the foreground.

In some the subject was so sharp in relation to the setting that it looked as if the portrait was a "cut and paste" project. In others the wrinkles in the background curtains or walls were as prominent as the wrinkles in the subjects face. In others the backgrounds were too busy, bright, or just plain ugly to ignore.

Most even appear to have been done by local "pros" over the last 55 years.

The two portraits that succeeded were classic in style and pose. One was older, a B&W a bit low in contrast, prominent grain fading to white. The newer one was color on a black background, the background was lit with a well placed spot behind the subject to allow a nice transition and gentle offsetting of the subject from the background. Nothing in these two photo's backgrounds were in competition with the subject.

I've seen similar "problems" at various company or organizational walls of fame.

Is it really the case that 28 of 30 "pros" the college chose over 55 years are that bad?

Why is it so tough for us photographers as a group to do good portraits?

Have Y'all seen similar issues?