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