I was talking to my friend Jeff Wendorff about portraits, and what makes them successful – be it a bird, a flower, or a person.
Both Jeff and I were taught to consider 1. The Subject. Is it the nicest one? Is it compelling? 2. Lighting – is it lovely soft light or harsh and washed out? 3. Conditions – is it windy? Does the baby have a cold, do you have a cold and can’t concentrate? and maybe most important 4. The Background – does it enhance or distract from the subject.
This is the short version and all the points are very well worth keeping in mind at all times. IF these variables line up, voila, you get an excellent portrait. One of them is missing, it’s a dud. However, there is one other intangible you need the get a GREAT portrait – the moment, the mood, the little split second where the essence of the person is revealed – the small moment where you are allowed to enter their world. If you are lucky enough to have met the first 4 requirements and are awake and sensitive to the last; you’ll get a portrait that speaks to the heart of what a real portrait is.