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The War In Every Portrait | The Key to Capturing Authenticity In Portraits

July 3rd 2016 7:00 AM

“I’ve never taken a photograph of someone and created a persona, I’ve just discovered what was already there.” – Anthony Farrimond

As a portrait photographer, how many times has your subject said, “I don’t like having my picture taken.” If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard that…well, you know the rest. You actually may even be one of those people who have a tendency to get extremely uncomfortable in front of a camera, and will put up a guard to hide your insecurities or fear from the camera.

Why is that?

Due to human nature and our natural inclination for vanity, we try to keep who we really are, our authentic selves, hidden. The self that people show the world is very polished and put together. The fear of being exposed causes us to withdraw inside ourselves when we pose for a portrait and that comes across in the image. It is the portrait photographer’s job to draw the real self out and capture it in a frame. Not an easy task.

capturing-authenticity-portraitsThe premise for the following video explores the challenge of every portrait photographer, and that is to capture their subject’s true self. Anyone can take a photo of someone, but to be able to see someone past the walls they put up and capture that moment their personality shines through is a gift that not many possess. So how can you, as a portrait photographer, do it? In the following video, “The War in Every Portrait,” London based photographer and filmmaker, Sean Tucker, talks about on capturing that authenticity in your portraits.

Sean says that when a client tells him, “I don’t like pictures of me,” they are actually putting you, the photographer, “on notice,” telling you that they feel vulnerable and that they want you to “capture the persona that they want you and the rest of the world to see.” Your job is to be “sneaky” and aware to catch them at their most unguarded moments during the session to capture the real them in your image.

[REWIND: HELP YOUR CLIENTS OVERCOME THEIR FEAR OF THE CAMERA LENS WITH PETER HURLEY AT TEDX]

It would be easier if there were X tips on how to do this that us photographers could follow, but much of it comes down to your personality, the way you interact with people and how you get them to trust you quickly. Sean points out that depending on your tendency to be an introvert or an extrovert, how you draw the subject’s true self out will look different. There’s a lot of insight in the 7-minute video below, reminding us that much of our job as a successful photographer has less to do with our technical skills, and more about how we deal with people. Only through a combination of both can we make truly great imagery.

[RELATED: FOUR KEY SKILLS OF A SUCCESSFUL PHOTOGRAPHER]

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Comments [3]

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  1. Aldo Sanchez

    Excellent tips for portrait photographers! I’d hopefully like to become one.

    Someday.

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  2. marcel bauer

    This is great, I know I am on the right path as this is what I always try to do in between the “poses”

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  3. Daniel Thullen

    Sean Tucker packs a wealth of information in the 7 minute video. Valuable for portrait photographers and non-portrait photographers alike.

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