We’ve Always Been Making Portraits

While we might not realize it we have all been making portraits since the day we were born. We recognized the shapes and proportions of the face as being of our own kind, and grew to recognize the features of those who were near to us and were dependent upon. We also began to understand that as we went out in the world how the rearrangement of those features boded ill or well, and began to understand the looks of love, empathy, anger, fear, and even indifference. The ability to read those signs was what enabled us to cope with the world and the people who inhabit it.

Part of our portrait training also came from pictures, paintings, and even the exaggerated grimaces and grins of cartoon figures, whose outlandish faces stretched the limits of expression. We are inundated with images of people on TV and the Internet, generally trying to sell something, but also with faces that cry out from the news of the day. We understand the false smile of the pitchman; we also understand the pain and fear of those caught up in sad and unfortunate events.

In short, by the time we are able to even hold a camera we have pretty much cataloged the range of emotions facial (and body) language communicated. Of course each face has its own quirks and characteristics, but in all it is not difficult for us to “read” at least some of what’s going on by just looking at someone closely. Even the classic poker face communicates something.

As photographers, we can translate that knowledge via our craft into photographic portraits, moments captured that reveal the “sitter” and in some cases the photographer as well. While most portraits are made for remembrance, some are also made for the world at large. Those portraits can become something universal, that is, an image that even though we are unfamiliar with the subject at hand it reaches into our heart.

Most portraits are snapshots, made during fun or momentous times, but here at Shutterbug we are concerned with the intentional portrait, the sitting down of photographer and subject to create something special for family and friends, or to make portraits of those we encounter on our travels that tell us something about themselves and their culture.

In this issue we have gathered together a number of portrait photographers, contemporaries who make their living week to week by dealing with, posing and creating images for numerous and varied clients, and got their inside information on how they run their business and how they approach their clientele. We have expanded that feature to show you a representative sampling of their work, and I hope that their tips and techniques can be a benefit in your work, even if you only do the occasional portrait or if you have no ambition to make a living with that aspect of the craft.

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