What constitutes a good portrait?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Martin Francis, Nov 13, 2003.

  1. 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.
     
    Martin Francis, Nov 13, 2003
    #1
    1. Advertising

  2. 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" <> wrote in
    message news:bp15ro$qe1$...
    > 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.
    >
    >
     
    Joseph Meehan, Nov 14, 2003
    #2
    1. Advertising

  3. Martin Francis

    Mxsmanic Guest

    > 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.
     
    Mxsmanic, Nov 14, 2003
    #3
  4. Martin Francis

    Paolo Pizzi Guest

    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.
     
    Paolo Pizzi, Nov 14, 2003
    #4
  5. Martin Francis

    at Guest

    On Thu, 13 Nov 2003 23:58:48 +0000 (UTC), "Martin Francis"
    <> 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
     
    at, Nov 14, 2003
    #5
  6. Martin Francis

    Paul H. Guest

    "Martin Francis" <> wrote in
    message news:bp15ro$qe1$...
    > 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.
     
    Paul H., Nov 14, 2003
    #6
  7. Martin Francis

    Matt Guest

    On Thu, 13 Nov 2003 23:58:48 +0000 (UTC), "Martin Francis"
    <> 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.
     
    Matt, Nov 14, 2003
    #7
  8. Martin Francis

    Mxsmanic Guest

    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.
     
    Mxsmanic, Nov 14, 2003
    #8
  9. Martin Francis

    TigerMoon Guest

    R.Mariotti(at)FinancialDataCorp.com (Bob Mariotti) wrote in message news:<>...
    > On Thu, 13 Nov 2003 23:58:48 +0000 (UTC), "Martin Francis"
    > <> 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.
     
    TigerMoon, Nov 14, 2003
    #9
  10. Martin Francis

    MikeWhy Guest

    "Paul H." <> wrote in message
    news:Ad8tb.438$...
    > 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.
     
    MikeWhy, Nov 15, 2003
    #10
  11. Martin Francis

    Frank ess Guest

    "Paul H." <> wrote in message
    news:Ad8tb.438$...
    >
    > "Martin Francis" <> wrote

    in
    > message news:bp15ro$qe1$...
    > > 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.
    >


    So, what about the equivalent of removing eyeglasses to avoid glare?
     
    Frank ess, Nov 15, 2003
    #11
  12. Martin Francis

    Guest

    "Martin Francis" <>
    wrote:

    > Q1: What constitutes a good portrait?


    The only good portrait captures the soul of the imaged so carefully,
    so perfectly, so exquisitely, in such fine, resolved detail, the
    patterns of the personality, the bad habits, the neuroses, the
    intelligence (or lack thereof), the very quintessential essence of the
    person that they are left an empty shell, a hard neurological vacuum
    normally encountered in intergalactic space.

    Yes, the only good portrait serves as a veritible encephalectomy. The
    oscillating, quivering, neural networks of the subject are
    photonically yanked through their eyeballs and smeared over the
    imaging sensor. All possible questions that could be asked of the
    subject can be answered by any viewer of such a portrait. The nuances
    of their thoughts and aspirations, their inner creativity, the
    beliefs, their goodness and happiness, as well as all of the
    calamities they have been subject to, the insults their have endured,
    the profound sadnesses that may sit at the core of their being ... the
    perfect portrait is all of this and more. It is both reductionist and
    holist. Their ying, yang, all the karma.

    The person has been captured in complete totality, the schematic
    diagram of their soul has been laid bare, draped before the viewer
    like a Playboy centrefold is over Harley.
     
    , Nov 15, 2003
    #12
  13. Martin Francis

    Mxsmanic Guest

    Frank ess writes:

    > So, what about the equivalent of removing eyeglasses to avoid glare?


    Light it properly and the glasses can stay on, if the subject so
    desires.

    --
    Transpose hotmail and mxsmanic in my e-mail address to reach me directly.
     
    Mxsmanic, Nov 15, 2003
    #13
  14. Can anyone top this one?

    --
    Joseph E. Meehan

    26 + 6 = 1 It's Irish Math


    <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > "Martin Francis" <>
    > wrote:
    >
    > > Q1: What constitutes a good portrait?

    >
    > The only good portrait captures the soul of the imaged so carefully,
    > so perfectly, so exquisitely, in such fine, resolved detail, the
    > patterns of the personality, the bad habits, the neuroses, the
    > intelligence (or lack thereof), the very quintessential essence of the
    > person that they are left an empty shell, a hard neurological vacuum
    > normally encountered in intergalactic space.
    >
    > Yes, the only good portrait serves as a veritible encephalectomy. The
    > oscillating, quivering, neural networks of the subject are
    > photonically yanked through their eyeballs and smeared over the
    > imaging sensor. All possible questions that could be asked of the
    > subject can be answered by any viewer of such a portrait. The nuances
    > of their thoughts and aspirations, their inner creativity, the
    > beliefs, their goodness and happiness, as well as all of the
    > calamities they have been subject to, the insults their have endured,
    > the profound sadnesses that may sit at the core of their being ... the
    > perfect portrait is all of this and more. It is both reductionist and
    > holist. Their ying, yang, all the karma.
    >
    > The person has been captured in complete totality, the schematic
    > diagram of their soul has been laid bare, draped before the viewer
    > like a Playboy centrefold is over Harley.
     
    Joseph Meehan, Nov 15, 2003
    #14
  15. Martin Francis

    MikeWhy Guest

    No. And I thought I knew how to rant...

    "Joseph Meehan" <> wrote in message
    news:svotb.5748$...
    > Can anyone top this one?
    >
    > --
    > Joseph E. Meehan
    >
    > 26 + 6 = 1 It's Irish Math
    >
    >
    > <> wrote in message
    > news:...
    > > "Martin Francis" <>
    > > wrote:
    > >
    > > > Q1: What constitutes a good portrait?

    > >
    > > The only good portrait captures the soul of the imaged so carefully,
    > > so perfectly, so exquisitely, in such fine, resolved detail, the
    > > patterns of the personality, the bad habits, the neuroses, the
    > > intelligence (or lack thereof), the very quintessential essence of the
    > > person that they are left an empty shell, a hard neurological vacuum
    > > normally encountered in intergalactic space.
    > >
    > > Yes, the only good portrait serves as a veritible encephalectomy. The
    > > oscillating, quivering, neural networks of the subject are
    > > photonically yanked through their eyeballs and smeared over the
    > > imaging sensor. All possible questions that could be asked of the
    > > subject can be answered by any viewer of such a portrait. The nuances
    > > of their thoughts and aspirations, their inner creativity, the
    > > beliefs, their goodness and happiness, as well as all of the
    > > calamities they have been subject to, the insults their have endured,
    > > the profound sadnesses that may sit at the core of their being ... the
    > > perfect portrait is all of this and more. It is both reductionist and
    > > holist. Their ying, yang, all the karma.
    > >
    > > The person has been captured in complete totality, the schematic
    > > diagram of their soul has been laid bare, draped before the viewer
    > > like a Playboy centrefold is over Harley.

    >
    >
     
    MikeWhy, Nov 15, 2003
    #15
    1. Advertising

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

It takes just 2 minutes to sign up (and it's free!). Just click the sign up button to choose a username and then you can ask your own questions on the forum.
Similar Threads
  1. don

    portrait mode in Windows XP

    don, Apr 22, 2004, in forum: Computer Support
    Replies:
    6
    Views:
    33,509
    Toolman Tim
    Apr 22, 2004
  2. Sigi Rindler

    Printing webpages in Portrait format?

    Sigi Rindler, May 24, 2005, in forum: Computer Support
    Replies:
    2
    Views:
    1,067
    Sigi Rindler
    May 24, 2005
  3. Mike Henley

    Portrait Portrait Portrait (you gotta see this!)

    Mike Henley, Jul 2, 2005, in forum: Digital Photography
    Replies:
    5
    Views:
    418
    Mike Henley
    Jul 3, 2005
  4. George

    Good portrait? (brother & sister)

    George, Nov 29, 2006, in forum: Digital Photography
    Replies:
    20
    Views:
    611
    LuvLatins
    Nov 30, 2006
  5. Steve Pake

    What constitutes 'a good father'?

    Steve Pake, May 7, 2006, in forum: Computer Support
    Replies:
    46
    Views:
    970
Loading...

Share This Page