Portraits – men, women and the impact of selfies
There is definitely a difference between men and women when it comes to
having their portraits taken.
On commercial shoots, not using professional models, we have found 80% plus
of the men do not freeze when it comes to having their portrait taken, and on the
surface, are not overtly self conscious about the process either. They want
instructions of what to do, how and when. They listen, and most times fall into
that way of sitting, smiling, posing etc readily. They are happy to have the
process over and done with quickly, once the photographer is happy.
We also found that around 80% of women, however, are more likely to freeze or
adopt an overtly dramatic, caricature of a pose when confronted with the same
scenario. A mix of emotion is palpable in their being; anger, panic and
embarrassment are visible in their faces; any gentle words of direction from the
photographer go unheard, and suddenly, they can’t smile with any degree of
confidence while moments prior have been directing procedures with efficiency,
conversation and laughter. In short, many women turn into jibbering wrecks.
On the surface, such a difference in behaviour would seem odd as women are
traditionally much more used to looking at their own faces - when applying
make-up, styling their hair, cleansing, toning etc, and when taking selfies.
It is claimed that the average 16-25- year-old woman spends more than five
hours a week taking photos of themselves. According to the Pew Research Centre
report in 2014, 68% of millennial women (18-33 year-olds) had posted a selfie,
compared to 42% of millennial men.
This would all suggest that women know their faces and features better than
men know theirs. That they know how they want to look and also how best to
achieve that look - with chin down, eyes up to give them that big eyes-and- oval-
face-classic- beauty-look. But, because so many women, are conscious of how
they think they should look, when put in front of a camera they try pulling that
‘magazine face’, in order to achieve it. This is the face that shouts out from every
area of the media. When this doesn’t work, they say they hate having their photo
taken and relinquish any responsibility for it.
With the selfie habit, however, while some might accuse women of becoming
more self-obsessed, it could also be argued that women have found a way of
having total control of their own image, through their eyes, and, are doing it for
Portrait Photography: making that connection
Effective portrait photography is created through the connection between the photographer and the subject. A portrait should convey the subject’s character: its individuality, strength, weakness or even vulnerability. Often this connection is made through the eyes or gaze, but a portrait can be equally effective with little or no eye contact. It should evoke curiosity from the viewer, teasing out queries, questions and conjecture about the subject.
Faces are familiar; we look at and see faces everyday, all the time. They stare out from all manner of media, in all shapes and sizes, which makes it all the more challenging to create a striking and absorbing portrait. A portrait where the photographer bears not only the subject’s soul but imprints part of their own self there too, quietly and invisibly.
The best portrait photographers include the viewer in their picture and bring them into the equation by allowing them to share the connection and revelation of character.
In his early photographic work, iconic fashion photographer David Bailey used the same formal composition as many of the great portrait painters, such as Holbein, Vermeer, Velázquez and Rembrandt. These artists studied composition and knew what was most pleasing to the eye, generally following the rule of three by composing in triangular shapes and in thirds. Bailey’s black and white images are powerful and stark, and use these guidelines to marry contemporary media with traditional arrangement which makes them so successful.
Master of studio lighting, Yousuf Karsh of Ottowa on the other hand, used a plate camera that picked up each and every detail of his subject – warts and all – giving his images an ethereal and compassionate quality. While Dutch photographer, Rineke Dijkstra allows the viewer to inhabit her world with her photography in a series called Beaches. For this she set up her camera on a carefully chosen beach location and approached adolescent subjects to pose in front of the camera for their picture. The result is a gallery of gauche, slightly embarrassed and self-conscious portraits, the subjects of which are both vulnerable yet defiant in their constant gaze.
It could be argued that a good portrait photographer needs to like people - or at least be interested in them and their faces. Be someone who looks rather than sees, who watches through the viewfinder, and someone who is brave enough to rely on their instinct to let them know when the time is right to make that connection.
The simplest forms of photographic image come from a pinhole camera; a box with a hole cut in the lid to house a lens, created by pushing a pin through a sheet of aluminium foil.
After working as a professional photographer for over thirty years using more and more technologically advanced cameras and equipment, going back to the basics with this simple device made me realise how important light and composition are to photography. Using different visual planes, offsetting tone and texture, looking for light and shadow are actually what makes photography beautiful and an individual expression. On a sunny day everything becomes part of the photographic tableaux. Ordinary everyday objects or empty rooms become jigsaws of light and dark, shadow and tone. What inspired so many of the photographic greats, Robert Frank, Paul Strand, Minor White, Steichen, Steiglitz and Eugene Atget, a love of simple form and instinctive interpretation is clearly visible.
Using high-end, full-frame digital SLR cameras is undeniably exciting and a commercial necessity, but for me, it feels increasingly like shooting a series of film stills using a bunch of automated settings rather than making decisions based on my knowledge and experience. The drive and ambition to capture a single moment or instinctive reaction has been diluted because now I can choose from a whole series of images, knowing also how they can be manipulated to give me what I thought I wanted.
I would in no way suggest using a pinhole camera professionally but I would argue that going back to basics is a good way to improve your own photography: to get back into the conscious habit of actually looking through the viewfinder; considering the visual planes within a scene and how to break them up; making decisions rather than settings; waiting for the moment; consider all the elements that are now knobs, levels and readings.
It has often been said: ‘It’s not what camera you use but what’s behind the camera that counts,’ and in many respects this is true, but auto focus, 59 point matrix metering, face recognition, auto bracketing, 12 frames per second and onboard processors do shift the balance toward the equipment and not the photographer.
For me, using the latest digital kit has taken away some of my individuality as a photographer, and I only realised how easy it has become to rely on my equipment to obtain great images when I went back to my shoe box pinhole and did it myself.
Having been a closed country for so much of its recent history, expectations of Burma, or what is now called Myanmar were sketchy and unreliable. Bordering Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, Thailand and made up of over 130 different racial groups, Myanmar is rich in its diversity and influence.
Its landscape is made up of bullocks pulling ‘taxi’ carts, ladies selling their wares and remedies in dressed in traditional costume and young men dressed in a traditional longyis, as well as many in contemporary styled jeans; a plethora of mobile phones; the UK's premiership football and the newest Japanese 4x4s – and it works.
Myanmar is one of the poorest nations in the world but what strikes a chord is the personal effort in appearance and surroundings, regardless of living conditions; their orangisation, order and pride.
Attitudes towards the exploding tourist population was unexpected in its sophistication and delivery; the knowledge and enthusiasm of young workers was infectious and a lack of discrimination when faced with a multinational customer base was refreshing. Unlike some emerging tourist destinations, the Burmese appeared to driving the industry rather than playing catch up and struggling.
Street food and markets in Myanmar, were as always in southeast Asia exciting, diverse, fresh and seasonal, and along with its photogenic culture, accommodating and friendly people and mystical landmarks, our 18-day stay Myanmar was easy, trouble-free and impressive.
Incorporated into body text, images can really help to illustrate some writing, bringing it to life for the reader. These images might be photographs, drawings, illustrations or even maps.
As professional photographers, we can offer huge discounts on photography for a Tricorn published book, and some packages even include a free photo shoot. Call to find out if it applies to you on 023 92 736 271 or view website http://131design.org
Uniquely Falklands, 2014
Colin Roberts CVO, Governor of the Falkland Islands
We offer a full photographic service with competitive rates and affordable price plans where we quote a fixed fee that won't change if the job doesn't change, in Portsmouth, Hampshire or indeed anywhere you want to send us! Starting from £85 for the first hour, £65 thereafter.
Happy clients include The Household Cavalry, National Lottery UK, Portsmouth City Council, RAK Ceramics, Southampton City College, Halyards, Alex Hibbert, record breaking polar explorer, world champion swimmer, Katy Sexton - to name but a few.
Commercial photography includes product and studio based shots for advertising, marketing and editorial.
Location photography means exactly that! We will travel to any location you want and photograph anything you want us to – whatever the place, weather or time of day - everything is possible.
Creative photography is when you need something different for something special. We will develop a concept for you, shoot a range of ideas and process high resolution images for reproduction. This might be for illustration, book jackets, magazine covers, web stories or to adorn the corridors of power.
Portrait photography could be on location, in your offices, home or at a nearby studio that we can source. It can be of your workforce, family or an individual - for portfolios, publicity, CVs - or anything else you think of. A model's Portfolio might include original work, creative folios or a collection of simple head shots.
Editorial photography is used to illustrate and article in a magazine, newspaper, book, online.
Display images are seen all around in advertising, promotions and point of sale, indoors and outdoors. They need to be succinct and recognisable.
Exhibition photography is often large scale and sometimes printed on different surfaces, so should be clean, perfectly exposed and focused.
Prices start from £85 for the first hour, £65 thereafter and the price quoted won't change if the job doesn't change. Included are: Photographer & assistant, all cameras & equipment, daylight lighting set-up where necessary, photos on CD-Rom in agreed format, full usage rights.
Uniquely British, 2012
Images can be in sections or placed throughout the book; in colour or black & white. If you don’t have the correct images, we can source them for you using stock photography or produce them ourselves using our own professional photographers, with rates starting from £65 plus vat per hour.
All images should have correct permissions, be supplied separately to the text as 300dpi JPegs or TIFFS, in electronic format. However, if you need help with that, we can do that too!
Also see website danbernardphotography