What Makes For A Good Portrait?

Or any other kind of art really? I’ve just been cruising around the net looking at  work by other portrait photographers I admire and had a thought that I thought worth sharing.

Have you ever tried to watch a movie from a detached point of view? I mean where you are studying the actors and how they act? Or the lighting or direction? What I have found is that the better the performance of any and all these people the harder it is for me to remain detached studying their techniques. Has that happened to you?

I think it is because the purpose of these skills is to get the viewer involved in the story or the person in the portrait and the more their performance is aimed at pulling you in the more you get pulled in.

The reverse is true as well. If you find yourself without any effort noticing the technique of the artists then to that degree they aren’t getting you involved and therefore those techniques, or their performance of them, aren’t good enough.

In portraiture a good artist has to have enough technique in the way of posing, lighting and composing to pull the viewer in to see who the person in front of the lens is. He then has to bring out something from the sitter through his immediate relationship with the sitter that he wants the viewer to get to know.  That takes a lot more skill than having enough light, a correct exposure and good focus. That, to me, is artistry.

And one day I hope to approach it.

Posted in The art of image making

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