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Thread: Rules For Portrait Photography

  1. #21
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    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by lionel319 View Post
    The rules for capturing portraiture seems so wide that i sometimes get myself confused and so overwhelmed, just in the split of the second to think whether where should i cut of a person's limb, where should i place their eyes, should i include any part of their body to make the picture look more comfortable, etc......, only to let the magical moment fly away.

    I would really appreciate if anyone could please teach me about the basic rules which is good to be followed in order to taking great portrait photos.

    Thanks in advance
    a simple, yet thought-provoking post, if you ask me!

    Which came first - the chicken, or the egg?

    The rules make the picture, or the picture makes the rules?


    'learning' photography is like learning how to walk for the first time, isn't it?
    we may crawl in the beginning, but when you finally - at your own pace - learn how to start running, just trust gravity to be there for you. just like 'rules'.

    consider this quote from Edward Weston (cut & paste one),
    "..to consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk."

    perhaps ask yourself what kind of portraiture you want to make and how you choose to say it. obviously some 'basic' rules which apply to some will be nonsensical and inapplicable to you.

    the more we see, the more we learn, the better and more confident we will become at expressing ourselves photographically. it's ok to be 'confused' - take time to shift through what is useful to you and what's not.
    Last edited by Stereobox; 15th February 2007 at 02:33 PM.

  2. #22
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    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    ************************************************** ***********************

    ok, i can't resist myself...basic rule #101 : NO MESSY HAIRS!!

  3. #23
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    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    hmmm... just thinking aloud... are there really rules to follow in portraiture?? or maybe this question is just way too broad to cover...

    theres a lot of great portraits in messy hair, alot of great ones in natural/ no make up look, and the list goes on... so where to draw the line of great portraiture then?

    Photography ... is an Art and art is pure appreciation...

    IMHO

  4. #24

    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    Look fella (in different what your gender is),First off there is no free lunch like a certain maybe female thinks she can get free education on portraiture via friendly people here. So stop dreaming that some one will come and enlighten you for free. You would probably find a whole range of abilities from those who can make it to no way to do it posting here. How to sort out who is who and what is what ? Ahhhh that the problem with free education. Photography is as much a skill as a science, which mean that even though you can be told the rules (like in science H + 2O = H20), nothing can be done about the skill part that one you have to work to acquire it, work to sharpen it up, work to keep it alive.Go check out places like Safra, Objectives, PSS, and other noteable photographers who teach. Pay for you want to learn no on really has the time or energy to coach you via the net. Heck there are even courses on the internet - there is a very good Russian photographer who conducts portraiture course on the internet downside its US$650 but the portfolio and the recommendations about him come from photographers with a calibre that easily out strips the best of what is posted here at clubsnap . Hopefully he is still amongst the land of the living.

  5. #25

    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    i thoguht someone once said (one of them great photographers)
    there are no rules for good photographs
    there are only good photographs

  6. #26

    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by peanutbeer View Post
    hmmm... just thinking aloud... are there really rules to follow in portraiture?? or maybe this question is just way too broad to cover...

    theres a lot of great portraits in messy hair, alot of great ones in natural/ no make up look, and the list goes on... so where to draw the line of great portraiture then?

    Photography ... is an Art and art is pure appreciation...

    IMHO
    Let look at this another way. In learning english in primary school you learn rules of grammer and move on to start to write essays. Then as you get older, the writing becomes more automatic but you probably start to forget the rules and deviate from the perfect form. Hopefully the content got better by then.

    Look and feel of great work is universal - you see it you know it , any one see it would also know it. If you have to explain it then ........... maybe some thing is not very clear in your mind when you did the picture.

    No point comparing what say Weston said - the senior was certifiably obessess with the craft and probably a genius to boot. What is automatic for him would require thought by most other people.

  7. #27
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    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by ellery View Post
    Let look at this another way. In learning english in primary school you learn rules of grammer and move on to start to write essays. Then as you get older, the writing becomes more automatic but you probably start to forget the rules and deviate from the perfect form. Hopefully the content got better by then.

    Look and feel of great work is universal - you see it you know it , any one see it would also know it. If you have to explain it then ........... maybe some thing is not very clear in your mind when you did the picture.

    No point comparing what say Weston said - the senior was certifiably obessess with the craft and probably a genius to boot. What is automatic for him would require thought by most other people.
    not true! i beg to differ! look and feel of great work is universally....subjective! similarly, what is a 'great' personal work to one at a point in time should be treated as a landmark, and move on from there.

    what we can learn from, say, what people like Weston said, is to interpret and apply it to our own circumstances. there is knowledge to be learnt everywhere, and like i said, give a thought to what is useful to us, and what's not.

  8. #28
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    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    all these asking rules or no rules is missing the point entirely. what are rules for? photography rules help you communicate, they guide the viewers eyes into what the photographer wants to say. as such there are no fixed rules. rules are used to speak the content, they are not the content in themselves.

    new rules are still being invented and old rules discarded. simple example, look at european paintings from the medieval period and the renaissance period that followed. what do you see? in fact the present dominant definition of beauty is still pretty stuck in the renaissance period.

  9. #29

    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Stereobox View Post
    not true! i beg to differ! look and feel of great work is universally....subjective! similarly, what is a 'great' personal work to one at a point in time should be treated as a landmark, and move on from there.

    what we can learn from, say, what people like Weston said, is to interpret and apply it to our own circumstances. there is knowledge to be learnt everywhere, and like i said, give a thought to what is useful to us, and what's not.
    I think that the issue of subjectivity is over rated. It is probably correct if this was in referrence to people who actually know what they are doing and are right out on the outer fringe of the envelope. Few actually are. Most then to just reassure themselves that their "masterpiece" is a "masterpiece" because some people think it is but others say otherwise (ie there is are radical views on the merits of the work) - the essence of the image speaks if you listen close enough and if you are open enough. I think this concept of subjectivity is something the fine arts (in the art scence) is popularising which I feel is somewhat hype heavy and content poor especially in the collectable arena. Opinions will differ on this topic.

    Yup I would agree in treating good work as landmark reference and move on. I do not subcribe to hang on to a point of ability, shoot then move on get better. Like evolution if you stop you stop growing, stop long enough they may have to bury you.

    Yes I agree that we can learn from what these acclaimed photographers say. What I caution is that sometimes what they say has to taken in context. Somethings they put forth as so simple would be relatively difficult for others. For a lot of them a couple of words may need a few pages to explain what they actually mean. Some times when your level is not there yet, the point being made could miss you totally. That is why re reading is always a good thing to do.


    Take the example of if your photo are not good enough it means your not close enough. Taken to the extreme you will get either badly distorted people or objects, inappropriate composition - but if you have the judgement to know how work the parameters this is a good reminder on how to be where you can get expressive, dramatic people pictures. In the context of the thread starter, I am thinking that these sound clips could cause more NG than Goods - I assume the judgement is not there yet.

  10. #30

    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    hmmmz...juz look at more mag shots and ask yourself why u like or do not like them...the portraits forum is also a good place to start...

    be critic...do what u tink works... accept comments...

    then work from there..

    cheers....

  11. #31
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    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by ellery View Post
    I think that the issue of subjectivity is over rated. It is probably correct if this was in referrence to people who actually know what they are doing and are right out on the outer fringe of the envelope. Few actually are. Most then to just reassure themselves that their "masterpiece" is a "masterpiece" because some people think it is but others say otherwise (ie there is are radical views on the merits of the work) - the essence of the image speaks if you listen close enough and if you are open enough. I think this concept of subjectivity is something the fine arts (in the art scence) is popularising which I feel is somewhat hype heavy and content poor especially in the collectable arena. Opinions will differ on this topic.
    i was referring more to - if i showed someone who is unschooled in the context of contemporary western arts, say my grandma, a Picasso and telling her that it's a masterpiece, i might have a hard time explaining to her why it's considered a masterpiece. that was what i meant by subjectivity.

    Quote Originally Posted by ellery View Post
    Look and feel of great work is universal - you see it you know it , any one see it would also know it. If you have to explain it then ........... maybe some thing is not very clear in your mind when you did the picture.
    ----------------

    Quote Originally Posted by ellery
    Yes I agree that we can learn from what these acclaimed photographers say. What I caution is that sometimes what they say has to taken in context. Somethings they put forth as so simple would be relatively difficult for others. For a lot of them a couple of words may need a few pages to explain what they actually mean. Some times when your level is not there yet, the point being made could miss you totally. That is why re reading is always a good thing to do.


    Take the example of if your photo are not good enough it means your not close enough. Taken to the extreme you will get either badly distorted people or objects, inappropriate composition - but if you have the judgement to know how work the parameters this is a good reminder on how to be where you can get expressive, dramatic people pictures. In the context of the thread starter, I am thinking that these sound clips could cause more NG than Goods - I assume the judgement is not there yet.
    no? that's not what you meant? you said there's "no point" in comparing what "acclaimed artists" like Weston said.

    Quote Originally Posted by ellery View Post
    No point comparing what say Weston said - the senior was certifiably obessess with the craft and probably a genius to boot. What is automatic for him would require thought by most other people.
    ---------------

    with regards to the caution of taking "quotes" out of context, in post #27 i already did mention to "interpret and apply it to our own circumstances. there is knowledge to be learnt everywhere, and like i said, give a thought to what is useful to us, and what's not."

    which is what the bulk to your last post is trying to repeat.

    --------------

    Sorry to TS for borrowing your thread for so long! =) returning it back to you

  12. #32

    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    thx guys for all the feedback.

    I know that seeing more of others' work can enhance your skills. It's just that, sometimes, u see the picture, and u know that it is very nice. You just somehows don't understand why it is nice. You just need to understand the 'rules' in order to know why this particular picture is so nice compared that what you have taken.

    That's the rule i am actually seeking to know.

    You know this particular picture is very nice, but u just somehow don't know how to explain it, or somehow won't be able to 'learn' from it. Even if being put into this situation, you won't be able to re-capture the same kind of photo. Why? Because when u see the photo, you just know that it is nice, but u don't understand why it is nice. That's the kind of guidance i'm seeking

  13. #33

    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by lionel319 View Post
    thx guys for all the feedback.

    I know that seeing more of others' work can enhance your skills. It's just that, sometimes, u see the picture, and u know that it is very nice. You just somehows don't understand why it is nice. You just need to understand the 'rules' in order to know why this particular picture is so nice compared that what you have taken.

    That's the rule i am actually seeking to know.

    You know this particular picture is very nice, but u just somehow don't know how to explain it, or somehow won't be able to 'learn' from it. Even if being put into this situation, you won't be able to re-capture the same kind of photo. Why? Because when u see the photo, you just know that it is nice, but u don't understand why it is nice. That's the kind of guidance i'm seeking

    Let me try to explain a little. I am not a good portrait photographer, but I like taking pictures of people, especially nice looking ladies!

    Do not worry too much about trying to understand a picture which you like. You do not have to understand why some foods agree with you. Just enjoy them.

    You DO NOT have to understand the "rules" to enjoy them.

    However if you want to replicate those pictures, those foods you like, then you will have to know how those pictures and foods were made.

    I will never say that "rules" are not important. They are there for a reason. The problem is that people substitutes "rules" for the ability to "express something". That "something" being what you saw before you, or something within you. Taking a picture with all the correct "rules" are easy. But making a picture with impact is another matter.

    Take for example, my posting (#10) on the "Afghan Girl". Is this a powerful portrait? Now I will be direct because what I am going to say is in the open forum. Jeanie had written, that to do portrait, one has to have a make-up artist. Deapoet had also mentioned many many times that a good make-up artist is mandatory.

    Now let us not be unnecessarily complicated. Is the "Afghan Girl" a good portrait or not? According to Jeanie and Deadpoet, this image cannot be a good portrait, because a make-up artist did not give this girl a make-up to show her the way she was. But we all know that this is a great portrait. An icon, in fact!

    So what does this mean? The obvious answer is that Deadpoet and Jeanie were not taking about "making portraits" in the general sense of what the word "portrait" means. To Deadpoet and Jeanie, a "portrait" is a picture of prettily done up lady. Pictures like what you see in fashion magazines etc.

    So, as far as making portraits is concern, their "rule" that a make-up artist is mandatory is obviously misplaced. Very much so!

    That is a very simple example of a misplaced dogmatism.

    There are other "rules" unnecessarily made to be dogmas. Like head being cropped off, and limbs being amputated. Or messy hairs. Or distortion. Of a lack of sharpness. Or not obeying the rules of third. Or excessive contrast. Or................................................ ............. the list goes on.

    That was why, in post #10, I asked you what you meant by "great portrait".

    What do you have in mind?

    Pictures of Fann Wong? Or the "Migrant Mother" by Dorothea Lange? Look at what you yourself consider "great portraits" and find out for yourself how these were made.

    Only you yourself can answer that. You have to decide for yourself what resonates with your "being".

    Then chose the "rules" to make those portraits.

    Oh, by the way, I was told by someone who worked with Dorothea Lange that she was not a great technician.
    Last edited by student; 21st February 2007 at 12:23 PM.

  14. #34

    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    StereoboxDo you have an issue with me or what I post. If its me pm me cos I dunno how I step on your tail.

    [quote=Stereobox;2853753]i was referring more to - if i showed someone who is unschooled in the context of contemporary western arts, say my grandma, a Picasso and telling her that it's a masterpiece, i might have a hard time explaining to her why it's considered a masterpiece. that was what i meant by subjectivity.

    This is what I meant when I said people doing stuff on the outter edge of the envelope. Picasso was a proponet of radical art - not everyone's cup of tea. TS is talking about portraiture work which has recognisable people in it so it would place in the middle range of things not in the far far far advant garde end. The subjectivity in the middle part of any topic is not to wide. I would not be so crass to say that Ah Ma's do not have the ability to read a work of art; hold that too dear and some day it could really surprise you. I met some who could critic better and in depth than the average poster here. I actually learnt some things that I did not know before simple conversations with these AH Ma's. However I not saying that my point of view is the only one. If any one wants to hold to the view that all things are subjective especially in art or in this photography it is fine by me. I merely point out an alternative view point. I am not saying that your one is wrong (or my one is right), what I am saying is for TS to consider the alternatives before just following one possibility.

    no? that's not what you meant? you said there's "no point" in comparing what "acclaimed artists" like Weston said.


    Yes I said that in context and in relation to the TS. I clarified the statment in the latter post. If he is having problems anlaysis photos to find what is he like there, and how to reproduce what he likes - do you accept that giving what amounts to a condensed string of advice to be helpful ? It would be like me telling an Indonesian farmer - you want energy ok think about E=MC squared.


    I know we all have this thing about rattling off what who said about this. But some people are not in a position to hear, spread open the advice into a step by step approach with explainations in relevant areas, understand that and apply. Not because they are stupid, or uneducated but because the level of understanding and experiecence is not sufficient to do so. That's probably why for skill/craft matters you need a mentor or a master to guide you as you grow until you reach point where you can start flapping your wings and start to learn to fly by yourself. It takes time, it take patience because when your learning sometime you can be dam dense not from trying too hard, it takes effort with no expectation of lasting gratitude when it's done.


    Or TS could go find that thread where some one posted american photogrpaher Don ???? 25 rules of portraiture photography. It more or less encapuslates his years of experience in there. For it to be more than rules you need to have the experience to know what he is talking about, to make each point remind you what you need to guard against and what you need to do - all this in the background while composing and waiting/directing for the look that signs off the picture. People who have been classical train do this - I talked to a few to know this. Wish I was classically trained 8_).
    Last edited by ellery; 21st February 2007 at 02:59 PM.

  15. #35
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    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by lionel319 View Post
    thx guys for all the feedback.

    I know that seeing more of others' work can enhance your skills. It's just that, sometimes, u see the picture, and u know that it is very nice. You just somehows don't understand why it is nice. You just need to understand the 'rules' in order to know why this particular picture is so nice compared that what you have taken.

    That's the rule i am actually seeking to know.

    You know this particular picture is very nice, but u just somehow don't know how to explain it, or somehow won't be able to 'learn' from it. Even if being put into this situation, you won't be able to re-capture the same kind of photo. Why? Because when u see the photo, you just know that it is nice, but u don't understand why it is nice. That's the kind of guidance i'm seeking
    feel free to post your own pictures for critique, you might learn more that way

    if you only want to learn how to appraise photographs and not taking them, read up on related publication. or can consider putting up threads providing links to the pictures you're interested in to ask for comments.

  16. #36

    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by lionel319 View Post
    thx guys for all the feedback.You just somehows don't understand why it is nice. You just need to understand the 'rules' in order to know why this particular picture is so nice compared that what you have taken.

    That's the rule i am actually seeking to know. ...

    [emphasis mine]
    Well you must get art, or else you will never ever get it.

    And it is not rules that make art, but art that make rules, if at all.

    In fact that is an oxymoron: that which is art is precisely because it defies rules, or else it will be science.

    So-called rules are just generalisation for what seems to be the working formula in some cases. And thus rules can always be broken, as long as are doing art, and not breaking rules just for its sake: the art justifies it all - but people must concur that what you do is indeed art.

    If you merely apply rules then what you get is mediocrity - it wont be bad but it wont be good - and such is like most things Singaporean: much is the outcome of rule following.

    As an analogy it is like cooking. You can follow a recipe and weigh and measure the ingredients, time and heat and mix them, etc etc to the exact precision as written in the cookbook, but you will never be a good cook. And these are the "food" you get in manufactured food: it is all of a formula.

    Now then, what your question really tantamounts to is: how do you learn art? How do you see it and how do you do it?

    My short answer is I don't know, but what I know is that the worst way is to learn it via rules. (Lots will disagree with me here, but then most here are Singaporeans, so it is can be stated as a rule that rule-following Singaporean will disagree, as a rule, that rule-following is not a recipe for success.)

    But if are just like the majority, then I think your thousands mile journey have started with a foot in the wrong direction.

    But a word about portraits.

    The key in portraits is the person, not so much as in their physical exterior, but more the person within, ie the soul. Now some here may be materialists and deny such as a soul, but then it will be more difficult for them to do portrait photography: for I do not know if they know what is it they are trying to capture or portray.

    But from such a notion a few things can arise, eg it is in the eyes, or that you need to relate to your subject, and so on. But these are not to be taken as rules the way laws are taken in Singapore. These are merely some means to an end, and that end namely is to reveal the "person" within. And thus you can make good portraits in the young, old, male, female, ugly or not, crippled, retarded, suffering, joyous, melancholic, nude, clothed, etc etc ...
    Last edited by espion; 21st February 2007 at 03:24 PM.

  17. #37

    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    hi guys,

    really thnks for all the effort that u guys put up on the replies that help me understand more in this art of photography

    Actually, I personally think that 'rules' are important.
    the reason that i want to know the rules for photography is because, i personally think that, in order for us to create a very impressive photos (by breaking the rules), we must first know the rules.

    Just my 2cents.

    Well, I'm still learning, and from what i noticed, browsing thru the 'Critiques Corner' forum is the best way to pick up stuff bit by bit. I'll be posting more photos there. Hopefully everyone can give me more feedback and suggestion on improving.

    Thanks again to everyone. Really appreciate it

  18. #38

    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by lionel319 View Post
    Actually, I personally think that 'rules' are important.
    the reason that i want to know the rules for photography is because, i personally think that, in order for us to create a very impressive photos (by breaking the rules), we must first know the rules. Just my 2cents.

    That is perfectly fine! There are many ways to do things.

    You will find a lot, a lot of friendly people here who will be more than happy to give you all the rules you need to help you make great portraits like theirs.

    Good luck in your quest!!
    Last edited by student; 21st February 2007 at 06:58 PM.

  19. #39
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    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by ellery View Post
    Yes I said that in context and in relation to the TS. I clarified the statment in the latter post. If he is having problems anlaysis photos to find what is he like there, and how to reproduce what he likes - do you accept that giving what amounts to a condensed string of advice to be helpful ? It would be like me telling an Indonesian farmer - you want energy ok think about E=MC squared.
    i think you hit the important point about passing on knowledge appropriately.

  20. #40
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    Default Re: Rules For Portrait Photography

    Man...very complicated.

    Well, I'm not here to discuss art. Let's try this sink or swim method:

    1) Go to rice ball
    2) Look at the books

    3) If you don't get inspired, god help you.

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