Face. Off.

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“What makes a photograph of a person a portrait?” – a question I have been asked on more than three occasions…

If the truth be known, I’ve never really fully understood the definition of ‘portrait photography’. Is a portrait a photograph of a person, or is it a photograph about a person? If it’s an image of a person, then is every single photograph that has a human in a portrait?

I run photography workshops for beginners, one of the first things I tell people is that the most important thing of any portrait is the eyes, if the eyes aren’t in focus then you may as well delete the photo, no matter how good the general overall composition is, but then a lot of my portraits don’t even have the eyes included, some are even completely absent of a head! So I guess that makes me a hypocrite….I don’t know where this article is going, to be honest?! I did say I don’t understand the definition of portrait photography, now all I’ve done is prove that to be correct. Sorry.

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11 comments

  1. I known what you mean…I think. For me a portrait does not have to include eyes, but if it does it HAS to have catchlight in the eyes, unless the eyes are closed of course!!! There is nothing worse than dead eyes. The first shot is particularly lovely. Pensive and gorgeous capture of light.

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  2. Thank you for your honesty, you said you don’t really know what is a portrait.You said the truth. I think a portrait is a sensation of truth and realism, and this impression could be very different when it is in you memory, and when it is made on canvas (picture) or photography. I think you can make pictures also without eyes, but your portrait will be only an abstract representation of the nature.

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  3. Personally, I’ve always thought a portrait is where the head and face are predominant (i.e. not a shot of the lower half of a body). And I’ve always thought a portrait shows the face, as opposed to the back of a head. That’s what I learnt when studying Art and Fashion Design (incl figure drawing) 40+ years ago.

    As always, if I’m not sure these days, I Google the question……

    “A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person.”
    AND
    apparently “a ‘portrait’ is supposed to be higher than it is wide” (as in a portrait size or landscape size).

    So I would consider your 5th image in this post to be a ‘portrait’.

    Love the composition and lighting in the first image.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In some pictures, where you don’t see the eyes of a person, you will learn more about them. I think every pic of someone is a portrait. It don’t matter if it is a duckface or a professional taken one. Eyes are only important if you want to fokus the viewers attantion on this part of the person.. But i think photography i art so everyone has the right definition

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  5. These are very challenging images, each one tells more about the person perhaps than a simple “portrait’ would have done, and each one contains an element of vulnerability and rawness. Love them

    Like

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