Portraiture Challenges

One of the toughest things I find about shooting portraits is to get people to truly relax. Most people (unless they’re models) don’t spend all their time in front of a camera, so when they do get in front of one they tend to tense up. They think they need to act differently because they’re being photographed. But shooting a really good portrait is about getting people NOT to act differently, to capture people’s true essence when they’re in their most natural state. To get them to RELAX! A true smile comes from emotions that generate it – amusement, happiness, contentedness – it doesn’t come out when someone says, “Ok, smile!” You have to talk to the subject, put them at ease, get them to relax. I had a tough time with that on a recent shoot I did for Duke. I only had about 15 minutes to shoot this particular grad student, and he was very quiet, so I was really having a tough time getting him to open up. But very close to the end of the shoot I happened to say something that made him laugh, and thankfully, had my finger at the shutter button when it happened. The below shot is the product of that moment. Sometimes you only get the one, and that’s how it goes. But at least you got one!

Did a little cross-coloring processing on this one, btw. Just swapped reds and greens in curves.

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