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What constitutes a good portrait?

 
 
Martin Francis
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      11-13-2003
Okay, first of a series of questions relating to my dissertation. I am
polling photographic newsgroups in search of varying opinions, and anything
said may be quoted.

Q1: What constitutes a good portrait?
Excluding basic technical considerations, i.e. longer focal lengths,
wider apertures etc., what particular elements do you look for in taking and
viewing people photographs? Do you have particular reasons for this opinion,
or is it based purely on aesthetics? Please be as specific as possible.


--
Here lies the late Martin Francis
He couldn't tell you the technical merits of Leitz and Zeiss
But he did take some photographs once.


 
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Joseph Meehan
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      11-14-2003
It would depend geratly on what your question really is.

From a technical standpoint, I would suggest lighting is number one.

However what makes one portrait stand out is not the technical half, but
rather the life of the person coming through. If you see the portrait and
you then know that person when you have never seen them before, it is great.

For many great examples find some of Karsh's work. One of his most
famous is the one of W. Churchill taken during a visit to Canada during the
war. Read the story about it as well. Yes, it says a lot about the man.

--
Joseph E. Meehan

26 + 6 = 1 It's Irish Math


"Martin Francis" <(E-Mail Removed) m> wrote in
message news:bp15ro$qe1$(E-Mail Removed)...
> Okay, first of a series of questions relating to my dissertation. I am
> polling photographic newsgroups in search of varying opinions, and

anything
> said may be quoted.
>
> Q1: What constitutes a good portrait?
> Excluding basic technical considerations, i.e. longer focal lengths,
> wider apertures etc., what particular elements do you look for in taking

and
> viewing people photographs? Do you have particular reasons for this

opinion,
> or is it based purely on aesthetics? Please be as specific as possible.
>
>
> --
> Here lies the late Martin Francis
> He couldn't tell you the technical merits of Leitz and Zeiss
> But he did take some photographs once.
>
>



 
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Mxsmanic
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Posts: n/a
 
      11-14-2003
> Q1: What constitutes a good portrait?
> Excluding basic technical considerations, i.e. longer focal lengths,
> wider apertures etc., what particular elements do you look for in taking and
> viewing people photographs?


Naturalness. No artificial smiles, no funny expressions, no "posed"
looks.

> Do you have particular reasons for this opinion,
> or is it based purely on aesthetics?


It is based almost purely on aesthetics, and partially on my desire to
produce pictures that show people as they actually look.

--
Transpose hotmail and mxsmanic in my e-mail address to reach me directly.
 
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Paolo Pizzi
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      11-14-2003
Martin Francis wrote:

> Q1: What constitutes a good portrait?
> Excluding basic technical considerations, i.e.
> longer focal lengths, wider apertures etc., what
> particular elements do you look for in taking and
> viewing people photographs?


There is no way to teach how to take the "perfect"
portrait, especially in technical terms (beyond the
obvious basics.) A portrait must be "interesting",
and what constitutes "interesting" is as hard to tell
as what "beauty" is. There are excellent "posed"
(or sometimes even deliberately "over-posed")
portraits and equally superb "natural" ones. Even
basic rules can be violated, when there is an artistic
purpose. I'll give you a classic example: every
photography student is taught that a portrait should
not be taken with the sharpest lens (let alone a
stopped down one) or else the tiniest facial flaws
may become too obvious, resulting in an unflattering
portrait. Yet, a master like Irving Penn has often
used ultra-sharp lenses in his most famous portraits
(Pablo Picasso, Miles Davis, Desmond Tutu etc.)
in the exceptionally successful attempt to portray
the suffering and/or the complexity of an intricate
mind, through a maze of exceptionally detailed
wrinkles, skin imperfections and even sweat
droplets.


 
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at
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      11-14-2003
On Thu, 13 Nov 2003 23:58:48 +0000 (UTC), "Martin Francis"
<(E-Mail Removed) m> wrote:

>Okay, first of a series of questions relating to my dissertation. I am
>polling photographic newsgroups in search of varying opinions, and anything
>said may be quoted.
>
>Q1: What constitutes a good portrait?
> Excluding basic technical considerations, i.e. longer focal lengths,
>wider apertures etc., what particular elements do you look for in taking and
>viewing people photographs? Do you have particular reasons for this opinion,
>or is it based purely on aesthetics? Please be as specific as possible.
>
>
>--
>Here lies the late Martin Francis
>He couldn't tell you the technical merits of Leitz and Zeiss
>But he did take some photographs once.
>
>


During my six years as a full time portrait photog in studio and out
doors the answer to your question is "what ever pleases the customer".

Certainly technical accuracy is very important but I've had bad
technical results sell big returns because the customer was "happy"
with what they saw.

Personally I enjoyed the natural light out door casual portraits
because they were more fun to do and the subjects seemed more at ease.

Hope this adds some insight.

B
 
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Paul H.
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      11-14-2003

"Martin Francis" <(E-Mail Removed) m> wrote in
message news:bp15ro$qe1$(E-Mail Removed)...
> Okay, first of a series of questions relating to my dissertation. I am
> polling photographic newsgroups in search of varying opinions, and

anything
> said may be quoted.
>
> Q1: What constitutes a good portrait?
> Excluding basic technical considerations, i.e. longer focal lengths,
> wider apertures etc., what particular elements do you look for in taking

and
> viewing people photographs? Do you have particular reasons for this

opinion,
> or is it based purely on aesthetics? Please be as specific as possible.


Never forget to airbrush the nose hair before printing the shot. That's
just about it, really.



 
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Matt
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      11-14-2003
On Thu, 13 Nov 2003 23:58:48 +0000 (UTC), "Martin Francis"
<(E-Mail Removed) m> wrote:

>Okay, first of a series of questions relating to my dissertation. I am
>polling photographic newsgroups in search of varying opinions, and anything
>said may be quoted.
>
>Q1: What constitutes a good portrait?
> Excluding basic technical considerations, i.e. longer focal lengths,
>wider apertures etc., what particular elements do you look for in taking and
>viewing people photographs? Do you have particular reasons for this opinion,
>or is it based purely on aesthetics? Please be as specific as possible.


As with most aspects of photographic artistry, simplification is the
most important element. This implies the use of lenses and lens
settings having limited DOF to call primary attention to the subject's
eyes. Above all, avoid the inclusion of distracting elements in the
background and elsewhere, unless these are an integral part of the
portrait itself.
 
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Mxsmanic
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Posts: n/a
 
      11-14-2003
Paul H. writes:

> Never forget to airbrush the nose hair before printing the shot.


How much should one add?

--
Transpose hotmail and mxsmanic in my e-mail address to reach me directly.
 
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TigerMoon
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      11-14-2003
R.Mariotti(at)FinancialDataCorp.com (Bob Mariotti) wrote in message news:<(E-Mail Removed)>...
> On Thu, 13 Nov 2003 23:58:48 +0000 (UTC), "Martin Francis"
> <(E-Mail Removed) m> wrote:
>
> >Okay, first of a series of questions relating to my dissertation. I am
> >polling photographic newsgroups in search of varying opinions, and anything
> >said may be quoted.
> >
> >Q1: What constitutes a good portrait?
> > Excluding basic technical considerations, i.e. longer focal lengths,
> >wider apertures etc., what particular elements do you look for in taking and
> >viewing people photographs? Do you have particular reasons for this opinion,
> >or is it based purely on aesthetics? Please be as specific as possible.
> >
> >
> >--
> >Here lies the late Martin Francis
> >He couldn't tell you the technical merits of Leitz and Zeiss
> >But he did take some photographs once.
> >
> >

>
> During my six years as a full time portrait photog in studio and out
> doors the answer to your question is "what ever pleases the customer".
>
> Certainly technical accuracy is very important but I've had bad
> technical results sell big returns because the customer was "happy"
> with what they saw.
>
> Personally I enjoyed the natural light out door casual portraits
> because they were more fun to do and the subjects seemed more at ease.
>
> Hope this adds some insight.
>
> B


I'll make my answer short: the eyes. They should be in focus and
capture the subject's personality or mood. The EYES have it.
 
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MikeWhy
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      11-15-2003
"Paul H." <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:Ad8tb.438$(E-Mail Removed) .net...
> Never forget to airbrush the nose hair before printing the shot. That's
> just about it, really.


Unless they define the personality being imaged. Thick, waxy, luxuriously
long earhairs, and very ripe goiters on a bald pate fall in the same
category. The person would be less remarkable without them. Indeed, they
might not be recognizable.

 
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