One of the challenges for most photographers is the portrait. It is so simple to turn up get someone to smile for the camera and head back to the office. But the challenge of the portrait is like a layered cake and the bottom layer is the simple approach above. So, what to add next?
We can add a prop of some sort, something to do with the subjects work perhaps? Or maybe this might be a bit too obvious. It could be that the portrait is taken at the subjects’ place of work and we can then get a bit of the character of the person from their surroundings. Always helpful is the lighting, preferable available light and hopefully with a strength that makes a difference to the subject.
One of the Guardian photographers, Frank Baron was very keen to use a hand held spotlight that he illuminated the picture with, giving great contrast to his portraits. Here, Andrew Fox tells us about how he created this moody portrait.
‘The Canadian singer-songwriter Grimes, real name Claire Boucher, had just stepped off a plane and was jet-lagged. She was to perform in Manchester that evening in August.
I’d been commissioned by the Independent, after they’d interviewed her for the arts section. I had about ten minutes before she had to go to rehearsals and carry out sound checks. I had arrived early and scouted an alleyway near the venue. Thankfully, although she has a reputation for shyness and for disliking publicity, we got on well. She was wearing a cloak and put her hood up. Perfect. It conveyed her personality.
I shot some frames with available light and some with a small flash through a soft box held by her assistant. Three quick set-ups and we were done. The Independent used a vertical portrait of her sitting on some steps with more straightforward lighting. This is my own favourite in black and white, printed with fairly heavy contrast. It hasn’t been published anywhere.’
So Andrew has used available light , that has given him good contrast and a prop i.e. the cloak and dropped it all into a great location. Clearly a master at work.
See more of Andrews work at https://www.fleetstreetsfinest.com/product/grimes-by-andrew-fox/