The human face is my entire world as a photographer. It is a portal into something infinite, and each portrait is an attempt for me to find the 'person in the person.'
A lot of it has to do with the eyes. The tension in eyes. And around the mouth. I can see it when someone lets down their guard and shows me who they really are for a split second. If I am lucky enough to capture that moment, I find that their face holds a depth that evolves over time and I see that photo over and over again.
It's utterly hypnotic to me, and after years of doing all kinds of photography, the portrait is the singular thread that links my work.
A few weeks ago, I taught my 'Treating Your Career as a Bonsai Tree' course at Experience ARC, a photography conference in Vancouver, Canada. It went over really well, and I loved connecting personally with Mastin Labs fans as well as those that had never heard of us.
The ARC conference was absolutely amazing, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting a mix of inspirational and practical education.
During coffee breaks, I pulled people out of the conference center onto a softly lit balcony. I wanted to get a portrait of each attendee. 175 total.
Over the course of 3 days, I took 83 individual portraits. Assessing each person's personal palette - their eye color, skin color, hair color, and what they were wearing, I chose a background that complements that.
- If a person had a warm overall palette, but blue eyes, I would choose a blue or gray background.
- If they had an overall pale or cool palette, I would choose a warm background.
We took a few videos of me talking aloud as I took portraits so you can get an idea of what I am considering when I take a portrait. They are a little shaky but you'll get the idea!
For any portrait, you must take into account the quality of light and how that models the face, as well as how the colors and textures of the subject play off of the background. To me, what makes a strong portrait photographer is their ability to work with what they have. I hope these videos are helpful!
For those that care about technical details, these were all shot on a Pentax 645 with 75mm lens, using Portra 800 film slightly overexposed. I metered it at ISO320.
I hope you enjoy these. I did! And in the process got to know many talented photographers in all stages of their careers.