Portrait without a head

Do all por­traits need a head or is it okay to frame or crop a photo so that it is head­less? Most times I’d say, “for the love of God include the head”. Nor­mally we con­nect with the sub­ject of a por­trait pri­mar­ily by look­ing at the subject’s eyes, which reveal much about the per­son being photographed.

But.…once you know the rules, you can try to break them to achieve a par­tic­u­lar result. This image is a good exam­ple of a head­less por­trait that works IMO. If we try to ana­lyze WHY it works, it works because the cou­pled ele­ments tell a story. The Jake tat­too on the hand cou­pled with the suit, cou­pled with the Royal Monaco car actu­ally tell a SPECIFIC story. These are all ele­ments of the movie The Blues Broth­ers and both the pho­tog­ra­pher and I likely show our age by know­ing this fact.

How­ever, even if I did not catch the Blues Broth­ers con­nec­tion, for me this shot still works. The ele­ments are still there. The tat­too, older freck­led skin, suit and older car all sug­gest a story. The fact that the shot is in black and white rein­force this fact. It’s up to the viewer to extract the story for them­selves, but all the ele­ments are there.

Okay then — do you agree? What do YOU think about this shot and the con­cept of a head­less portrait?

Many thanks to 1putts of our pho­tog­ra­phy forum for allow­ing me to use this image. Here’s the orig­i­nal photo.

Shooting good portraits

The per­fect por­trait doesn’t exist because there is always some­one that won’t like it ;)
That said, there are a few basic tips that can help you get more inter­est­ing and more flat­ter­ing portraits.

~ Watch which way your light­ing is com­ing in and check the qual­ity of the light. Softer dif­fused light is a much bet­ter light for flat­ter­ing por­traits than harsh direct light. Although back­light is amaz­ing for dra­matic inter­est­ing por­traits, it’s harder to work with espe­cially for some­one newer to pho­tog­ra­phy. Using front light, side­light, and 3/4 light along with fill light from a sec­ondary flash‚ or reflec­tor will bring your por­trait skills up a notch.
~ Adjust your aper­ture so that the back­ground blurs out a bit and more focus is placed on your sub­ject.
~ Alter your per­spec­tive by tak­ing the shot from a dif­fer­ent angle rather than eye level. This can really change the ‘wow’ fac­tor of your photo.
~‚ Play with eye con­tact — it does won­ders to a pho­to­graph when your subject’s focus is on some­thing else.

Shoot­ing the per­fect por­trait may seem daunt­ing, but keep­ing use­ful tips in mind when doing so will make por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy a ‘snap’.

More tips can be found at: http://www.photography.ca/Forums/showthread.php?t=2393

54 — Making the eyes sing — Photography podcast

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #54 talks about how to make the eyes sing in a pho­to­graph. When we take a photo of a per­son or some­thing that has eyes, we really need to pay atten­tion to what we are doing. The eyes are nor­mally the most impor­tant part of any por­trait and they need to be sharp and bright. Through a few basic tech­niques this pod­cast tells you what you need to do to get your subject’s eyes to ‘sing’.

Even in this medium range shot you can see sharp bright eyes

Even in this medium range shot you can see sharp bright eyes

The bulldogs eye sings because the iris is sharp and bright

The bulldog’s eye (stock) sings because the iris is sharp & bright

Links men­tioned in this pod­cast:
The eyes have it thread from the pho­tog­ra­phy forum
Acces­sories pod­cast (check image of the light stand hold­ing reflec­tor with magic arm)
A dodg­ing tech­nique for the eyes described in para­graph 2 of the post
Gary Fong dif­fuser at B&H
Pod­camp Mon­treal
CC Chap­man

Thanks as always to Benny and Susan who posted a blog com­ment about our last pod­cast and for her sug­ges­tion that inspired this pod­cast. Thanks also to Ram, Hallow’s maiden, Rabi­aka­ma­ran, Gatepc, BenH, MikeS, Dabow,‚ Inukamori, svant­land & PKMax who recently joined the photography.ca forum and posted a few times. We LOVE com­ments and sug­ges­tions so please send more.

If you are look­ing at this mate­r­ial on any other site except Photography.ca — Please hop on over to the Photography.ca blog and pod­cast and get this and other pho­tog­ra­phy info directly from the source. I Sub­scribe with iTunes I Sub­scribe via RSS feed I Sub­scribe with Google Reader I

You can down­load this pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast directly by click­ing the pre­ced­ing link or lis­ten to it almost imme­di­ately with the embed­ded player below.

Portrait from the Plateau — Sunday in the Park

One of the many amaz­ing aspects of Mon­treal is the reg­u­lar gath­er­ing of dif­fer­ent peo­ple to enjoy what­ever is going on. Sun­day in the Park (at Mount Royal) has been a tra­di­tion for over 10 years. Hun­dreds (some­times thou­sands) of peo­ple get together and play drums, dance, jug­gle, imbibe, play fris­bee etc. The girl in this pho­to­graph (I HAVE to start ask­ing names) looked so peace­ful prac­tic­ing her art that I HAD to take this photo — I asked first though.
Exif data — F-4.0 1/250 ISO 100

Portrait from the Plateau

I recently moved into one of the best parts of Mon­treal called Plateau Mont –Royal AKA The Plateau or Le Plateau. There are so many inter­est­ing peo­ple in this bustling and artsy part of town that I think I may start a new series of casual ‘street’ por­traits just for fun.

Yes­ter­day as I walked through my new favourite loca­tion (Parc Lafontaine), I spot­ted 2 lovers in a ham­mock and asked if I could take their por­trait. They agreed and I think I cap­tured the feel­ings they have for one another. This was shot at about 6pm with no flash or reflec­tor, only ambi­ent light.

Leonard Cohen Portrait

A cou­ple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to meet the Poet/Singer/Songwriter Leonard Cohen in Sague­nay Que­bec. I have always been an enor­mous fan and rarely does a week go by when I don’t lis­ten to one of his truly great songs. Although we only spent a few pre­cious min­utes with him, he was gra­cious enough to allow us to take a few shots. This shot was my favourite of the few shots we took.

It was a hot sunny cloud­less day and the sun was still fairly high which meant I had to be on the look­out for shad­ows in the face. I there­fore set my flash to minus 2 which would fill in the poten­tial shad­ows. This shot was orig­i­nally processed in colour and I really like how it turned out (maybe I’ll post the colour ver­sion some­time). How­ever there is some­thing time­less and mys­te­ri­ous about Mr. Cohen’s music and I knew when I took the image that I’d likely process it in black and white. Also, his suit and hat were just scream­ing to be pho­tographed in black and white.

I’d like to thank Leonard Cohen (and his UNBELIEVABLE ensem­ble of musi­cians) for the fan­tas­tic con­cert where he received at least 15 stand­ing ova­tions, and for allow­ing me the plea­sure to take a few shots. My only regret is that my wife (who is equally an enor­mous fan) wasn’t there to meet him with me. She was rest­ing at the hotel since she was tired from the 5 hour drive from Montreal.

Best Friends Know the Truth

I took this pho­to­graph the same day I did the pod­cast on 1 light por­traits.
Aside from pho­tog­ra­phy, I am truly pas­sion­ate about pets, so when I get to com­bine the two…well, Yahoo!
This was shot in West­mount Park on a cold over­cast Mon­treal after­noon. Boog the dog started shiv­er­ing pretty quickly so we did not stay out long. I used a faster than nor­mal shut­ter speed because of the shiv­er­ing.
Exif data ISO 400, F-4.5, 1/800 sec.

One light portraits — Photography podcast #38

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #38 talks about cre­at­ing dra­matic por­traits using only 1 light. Using 1 light cre­ates very harsh shad­ows which is PERFECT for a dra­matic por­trait. The fol­low­ing 2 shots illus­trate this dra­matic effect. In the first shot Lorne and Boog are being lit by 1 light located 45 degrees toward the right. The sec­ond shot is side­light. Both these shots use no reflec­tor to bounce light back into the sub­jects’ faces. Note that the light in the sec­ond pho­to­graph reveals a lot of skin tex­ture, so this type of light­ing would not be good for a ‘fash­iony’ shot in most cases. Thanks to Lorne and Boog for being the mod­els. I Love how lit­tle Boog is star­ing me down in the first shot. You can click all the shots to make them tastier on the eyes.

One light portrait

1 light portrait - side lighting

You can down­load this pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast directly by click­ing the pre­ced­ing link or lis­ten to it almost imme­di­ately with the embed­ded player below this image.

Photo of the week
This week, the pho­to­graph is by Zseike and I com­ment in the pod­cast on why I think this pho­to­graph is fantastic.

Photo by Zseike

Thanks as always for the com­ments by‚Gary H, ‚Andre, Tom, Yves Janse, David and Mikael. We LOVE com­ments and sug­ges­tions so please send more.