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Existential crises in portraiture.

 
 
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 04:51 pm
In response to some.... er.... feedback, I am trying to expand my repitoire beyond the ultra-close up, and, hurrah, and you can help me out!

I'm going to post three photos -- all I need you to do is tell me whether you think they qualify as "portraits" or not. (And why you think that would be lovely but it is not required to participate in the thread.)

Next I'm going to post two photos -- well, really one photo cropped two different ways and all I need you to do is tell me if you like one more than the other. In this case, why would be especially lovely.

The vision-stuck photographer thanks you very much for your help!

Series one (portrait or not?):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v667/boomerangagain/tybike.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v667/boomerangagain/tyrock-1.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v667/boomerangagain/tybeach.jpg






Series two (which do you like better):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v667/boomerangagain/tygear.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v667/boomerangagain/tygear2.jpg
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 2,478 • Replies: 40
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 05:01 pm
Wow-wee!!!

Series 1 -- I'd say #3 is the most portrait-y. Really get a sense of Mo, as opposed to a generalized figure in the landscape. (And that one's just a stunning pic on many levels.)

Series 2 -- the difference is interesting! #1 is kind of sporty boy, resting after playing hard. #2 is much more vulnerable. Hard to say which I like better.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 05:38 pm
Thanks, soz, for your reply.

If I may pick your brain a bit (I have a shoot coming up where "a sense of place" is important the the client)....

Does 3 work better than 2 because the subject is more prominent or is it something else? If it weren't for the "portrait" aspect, would you still like 2 better?

You're comment about the second series has given me a LOT to think about. Thank you for that. Hmmmmm.......
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FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 05:42 pm
#3 most portrait-like. You can see more of the kid.

Of the second set I like the first one better. The second one shows more of his face, but for some reason he doesn't look as happy the way it's cropped. I have no idea why.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 05:57 pm
I agree with #3 on the 1st series. To me, the idea of a "portrait" is that the picture focuses on the person and #3 does that best.

I like #1 on the 2nd series. The full picture gives context that is lost in the #2 pic. Looking at the pic #1 I see a kid that is relaxing after riding. He looks a little worn out but in a good way. Pic #2 has the face that looks tired but no context to why. There isn't enough of the protective clothing to give me a clue as to what he may have been doing... I suppose either could work in different ways - #1 helps tell a story. #2 leaves the viewer asking "I wonder what he was up to?"
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 06:09 pm
Weeeellllll, okay then.

The response to the second series has me furiously pecking at my shell. To me, the second photo is better but the response I got in the "real world" was very much like what you all are saying.

I guess I like angsty portraits.

This is precisely why I asked -- my likes are not often what other's like and I'm trying to be a bit more marketable.

I'm thinking 3 can stay as "portrait" but the other two need to be ditched into the "picture" bin.

I'm going to work up a couple more of my also rans and see what you think.....

Thank you all so much!
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 06:20 pm
Yeah, part of what I was getting at with "hard to say which I like better" is that a parent I'd probably like #1 better (in terms of portrait of my kid that would capture a moment I'd like to remember) whereas #2 is more ambiguous and that makes it more artful, to me, more interesting on that level.

I think that in general people don't want too much angst in photos of their own kids.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 06:23 pm
boomerang wrote:
Weeeellllll, okay then.

The response to the second series has me furiously pecking at my shell. To me, the second photo is better but the response I got in the "real world" was very much like what you all are saying.

I guess I like angsty portraits.

This is precisely why I asked -- my likes are not often what other's like and I'm trying to be a bit more marketable.


IMO, either pic is "marketable" in the 2nd series. I guess I'd ask "What is the purpose of the picture?" Trying to tell a story is different than provoking thought/discussion.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 06:23 pm
Further thoughts:

In series 1, I consider #1 to be more about movement, landscape, rather than about a specific kid. #2 is especially landscape-based -- your eye goes to the rock, then the figure of Mo is just a little bit more visual interest. In #3, Mo's the focus, the landscape is the backdrop.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 06:59 pm
By "marketable" I really mean .... would you order this picture of your kid if it was presented in a selection of different images.

I understand that most people don't want angsty images but the fact is that kids are kind of angsty -- they aren't always smiling and happy. I like that they are so expressive and I have always worked to try to capture some of those "other" moments.

Okay. Here's one from the reject pile for consideration:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v667/boomerangagain/tycastle.jpg
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 07:07 pm
Wow, is that Mo? He's going to be a model some day. He's become so used to the camera. I think a portrait needs to show a person - therefor, I like the third best, the second is ok - it still gives a sense of the person. The first is shot because of the helmet, I think. Though, it's a fantastic shot.

I like both of the second run. I think I like the pulled-out one better because of a small sense of place evoked by the cooler and vague, dark background.
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littlek
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 07:09 pm
I see I am in good company! I love the sand-castle shot. I'd much prefer that to a "cheesy' photo any day.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 07:26 pm
I go along with the people who preferred #3 in Series 1, and also like the later "huge sand castle" protrait. People who are going to pay you for a portrait want the person to be the subject of the picture, even though they may be attracted to the idea of a dramatic setting for the portrait. I mean, after all, in #'s 1 & 2 of Series 1, it looks like the trees and the big rock by the sea are the subject of the portraits, not the boy. That's what portrait means, a picture of a person.

Who would want a portrait to which people react by saying: "Wow, great picture of the beach . . . who's that kid walking there?"
0 Replies
 
caribou
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 07:39 pm
Haven't read the whole thread yet, So I'm answering initial post.

In the first series, three is the most like a portrait. One could be any kid, two is beautiful, but the big rock competes with the kid. Three is about the kid (it's really beautiful!)

Second series, I have a hard time picking one. Both are portraits.
Maybe the second one.


Edit: read what people are saying about the second series. Yeah, #1 has more a sense of the why. Still like both. But maybe cause I saw the #1 first.

And the reject one with the sandcastle. Love it!
Cute kid!
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 08:57 pm
I don't consider any of the first three portraits, they are figures in a landscape; the third one is most LIKE a portrait, but not one, not even close, to me. Unless people are stretching what a portrait is now, and maybe they are.

I guess that for me the portrait has to do with the proportion of the figure, full or in part, to the frame as a whole, whether or not the person in the landscape is very significant for some reason. Maybe a pea sized person in a vast landscape has emotional or intellectual weight. Maybe great photo, but I don't think of it as a portrait. May a person in a large field is shot with the field a total blur... eh.. still not thinking portrait.

The second series photos are both portraits, and I prefer the first. I have a reaction against head lopping - not always, but I find it distracting and not additive. I'm not so much a purist on that - I've got a thick Gary Winogrand book, heh - and do not have to have things all within frame as a general rule. But with a close-up, part of my personal reactivity doesn't get it.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Jun, 2007 09:19 pm
On the first three, kinda like #1 for Sozobe's comment, and #3, as pleasing in general, to a parent or other.

I missed the sandcastle thing previously.. I have a reaction about bright red lips on young boys, like what?
However, past that quibble, I think that's a terrific photo, think I like it best. Well, that and #1 of the second series would vie for fave.




(I had trouble with my use of 'may be' on editing in that next to last post...)
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 07:46 am
.... continued furious pecking from here.....

Interesting and informative comments, thanks to you all.

I'm thinking a lot about what you said Setanta, about people wanting the dramatic landscape but really wanting a picture of themselves -- and not the landscape. That, in combination with what osso says about stretching the idea of what a portrait is, is really what the issue is about.

I've been making a study of what are called "environmental portraits" and really, anything goes. The one element that seems somewhat consistent is the subject having an awarness of being photographed and responding to the camera in some way.

Is that awarness what makes a picture a portrait?

I remember a long time ago on a photo thread soz saying something along the lines of "when you know it's your kid in the picture it changes the way you look at the picture". So, like with the rock picture - if you knew it was a photo of your kid, would it change the way you responded to it?

I've heard all of the anti-head-lopping arguments. I know that a lot of people don't like it. Still, if you want to get to expression you have to get close, if you get close and don't lop heads you end up trying to work with this big round object within a square frame. To me, that is rarely pleasing. The alternative is to back up for a 1/4 length shot and then you end up losing the focus on expression. A lot of it depends on the picture but I'm certain I will continue head-lopping.
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 07:51 am
Bookmark

These are really interesting bommerang!
I'll be back later so's I can take my time looking & also read the posted comments.! (It's very late.)
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 07:55 am
I wouldn't mind at all having the rock picture, with my kid being the kid. It's a cool picture, and it would be cool to have it personalized in that way ("It's not just a beautiful landscape picture, that's my kid in it, that little figure on the left...")

Scale could affect this too... on my monitor they're something like 5" x 7", and I'm sure you'd print them much bigger than that. Bigger print = bigger figure = more prominence for the kid.

I know what you're saying about how kids don't smile and laugh all the time and I think you have made that a real signature and selling point, capturing the varieties of kid expressions and emotions. Still, I think there is a point at which most parents who are paying for a session would consider a photo (of their own child) TOO angst-y. The first (full-length) photo comes down on the better side of that I think.

I don't mind head lopping, I do that a lot too.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 07:56 am
Ooops!
Sorry to call you "bommerang"! (Like I said, it's late!)
0 Replies
 
 

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