Monday, September 2, 2013

Portrait Photography

I've never considered myself much of a portrait photographer although I've taken some very good pictures of the kids and grandkids throughout the years. I've occasionally photographed others for one project or another and now, with my work through the newspaper, I am taking more people pictures.

The way I work isn't conducive to good portrait photography. When I go out on a photo shoot, whether for the paper or on my own, I carry as little as possible. The camera is slung over my neck and shoulder and a small notebook and pens are stuffed into my pockets. There isn't any lens changing or flubbing around with a tripod. I don't “set a scene” or use external flash. Seldom do I want my subjects looking at the camera. I prefer candid shots where I can capture a spontaneous moment. That means the photos I take are very in-the-moment and quick. I take dozens of pictures. The notebook comes out for jotting down names and comments. For me, it's like a treasure hunt because I don't know what I'm going to find when I sit down to do the editing. So, when the layers are finally peeled away and a wonderful picture is discovered, I am filled with joy and excitement.

A comment I often hear is, “I don't take a very good photograph.” I usually think that myself. Sometimes I have to convince people, and do so without being pushy. (After all, we are taught not to like our own image. How would cosmetic companies make money if we think we look good enough?) I never want to force people to do anything. But I also totally believe that there is beauty in everybody!

I am an artist! If the person is caught in the right moment, with the right expression on his face, and in an interesting light, the photograph can be beautiful. It may take many photos to get the right image. I love capturing the character in people's faces, especially older people. There is life in these pictures and story behind the expressions. These people have lived through thick and thin. They've experienced a lot. I am drawn in.

I tell people that I never keep a picture in which the person doesn't look good. I don't like goofy pictures or ones that are detrimental to the person. Many pictures are good enough for the newspaper, but every once in awhile, I'll get one in which I feel is a true work of art. I am fascinated. This leads to another side of the subject – permissions.

There are two types of work that I do. One is for the newspaper and the paper's Facebook page. The images are used within a short time frame and usually have to do with area events or interviews. Photos on news print paper are usually grainy and fine details are often lost. Facebook photos are posted at a lower dpi, so again, there is less detail. For these photos, I usually get verbal permission with names to be printed.

The second type of work is from an artist's standpoint. These photos may not be used right away. It may take a long time before I am ready to do a book of photographs or arrange a show of portraits. The quality of the paper on which these images will be printed will be higher allowing more detail and beauty. I will still need permission, but in these instances, the names of the people probably won't be used. It's more about the expressions and character in the face that draws my artist's eye with the pictures being given titles, not the person's name. It's not so much about that person as it is about the art of her expression.

I've done research on permissions and there are different views out there on how other photographers go about this topic, which I'm not going to go into here. For me, this is an issue of ethics. I don't like the thought that my picture is being taken without permission. I don't even like knowing that I am being photographed at traffic lights. I feel that's an invasion of privacy and it just feels wrong and intrusive! It certainly doesn't make me feel safe!

I want to honor other people's feelings. I want to show their beauty. My... problem... is when I'm in my shy modes I don't dare talk to people. I don't like getting in people's faces, and yet, I am intrigued by these pictures I am sometimes able to capture and for that, I need to ask. I feel I miss out on a lot when I don't dare approach someone. I'm getting better! I love what I do and when I can see awesomeness in a person's face, I am incredibly pleased. I want everyone to see that beauty.

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