Portrait photography

The 10 commandments of portrait photography

Art has no rules. Law? Wrong! Call me grumpy, but I don’t like the latest trends in photography. I love simple, classic portraiture and admire legendary photographers like Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Albert Watson. That’s why I’ve put together my 10 commandments of portrait photography.

I used the word “Command” for a reason. Some people will believe, and some won’t. And it doesn’t matter. It’s just the truth like I to see him.

Commandment #1: A portrait is about the subject, not the photographer

We create portraits because we want to say something about a person and because we want to establish a connection, do not because we want to show off our fancy new $2,000 lens or get more Instagram likes.

Commandment #2: To call a photo a portrait, you need your consent

Too many photographers call any old photo with a person a portrait. But to be a portrait, the subject must consent.

Otherwise, you could call any old street or fashion photo a portrait. The word would lose all meaning.

Commandment #3: A portrait is about a person, not their appearance

As soon as a photo talks about make-up, hairstyle, accessory or post-processing, it ceases to be a portrait – it becomes a fashion photo.

Commandment #4: A portrait can never tell you everything about a person

You can’t encompass everything there is to know about a person in a hundredth of a second. So never assume you have grasped the truth about a person.

People have many facets, and you’re lucky to catch only one.

Commandment #5: An effective portrait makes the subject curious

Forget the words good and bad. What do they even mean anyway? I prefer to think of images in terms of efficiency. If you want to know more about the subject, then this is an effective portrait.

You may not like what you see in a particular portrait, but if it makes you think, it’s effective.

Commandment #6: We learn from the masters, not the latest “influencers”

We are not creating portraits at the moment to chase the latest fleeting trend. We want our photos to last and be just as effective 50 years from now.

Commandment #7: Ideas are more important than technique

You don’t have to be an expert technician to be a good portrait photographer. But you Homework be able to formulate ideas and concepts that form a basis for your photos.

Commandment #8: Technique is more important than tools

Cameras, lenses and lights are fun…maybe more fun than they should be. We can all admit that.

But it’s not the gear you use that matters. This is How? ‘Or’ What you use it.

Commandment #9: A portrait doesn’t have to flatter the subject

A portrait doesn’t have to please the subject…unless it pays to be happy.

Commandment #10: Do No Harm

It’s the photographer’s job to make the subject comfortable. A portrait session should be enjoyable for everyone involved.

Yes, you can use Jedi Mind Tricks, but only to put your subject at ease.


About the Author: Michael Comeau is the editor of OnPortraits.coma whole new online community dedicated to simple and classic portrait photography. Click here for more information. The opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author. This article was also published here.