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So, This Is The ‘Perfect Portrait’ Proven By Science?

By Wendell Weithers on April 24th 2017

Anyone who takes photography seriously hopes to get the “perfect shot”, and if you are a professional, being able to repeatedly produce high quality results is essential to your business surviving. So, suppose you embark upon your usual trek down the Youtube rabbit hole and you find your way to an alluring video entitled “Why This Is The Perfect Portrait Proven By Science”, you may think you’ve struck online gold. But, it’s Youtube, and videos claiming to be definitive end-all be-all discoveries are endless. Ed Gregory from has made such a video so, let’s see if his science holds up.

For his setup, Mr. Gregory uses a Nikon D800 with a 85mm 1.8 lens. He uses a clamshell lighting setup for his model and positions the camera six feet away. He moves his camera two feet to the left or right and adjusts the camera height up or down eight inches to provide different shooting angles. In all, his experiment yields 16 images from which determines the perfect headshot.

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There is, however, one glaring problem. The test doesn’t provide an objective conclusion and neither does Ed. Furthermore, he unsurprisingly chooses image number 11 as his favorite. What’s worse, is that he concludes by undermining the premise of the video, pointing out the subjectivity of preference in pursuit of creating art. To make such a bold claim in the beginning and not deliver results nearly relegates this to click-bait.

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What this does do is provide an excellent look at the results from shooting a subject from different angles and there are a lot of variables to examine from this test. The shift in camera position and the model’s posture causes the light to fall differently on her face and changes the feel of the final picture; sometimes subtly and other times more pronounced. This test can help you eliminate some of the guess work for this lighting setup and I really like the substance of this video but, the only definitive conclusion I’ve reached is how not to title a YouTube video.

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Wendell is based in Atlanta where he shoots events, portraits, and food photography. He also supports his wife Andrea as she runs their cake design business, Sweet Details.

Instagram: Wendellwphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Drew Pluta

    This video and title is as frustrating as it is interesting.  None of this is proof of anything scientific.  What this video demonstrates is a slightly methodological approach to determining one photographers work flow preferences.  None of this addresses what would happen if the model were to correct for camera movement.  Maybe the #1 position would look great if the shoulders were balanced.  Maybe the #11 position would be best with  subtle head movement.  And then we have the subject.  All bets are off there as our subjects always introduce variables which would easily corrupt all this “data.”

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    • Wendell Weithers

      Hey Drew, I agree. There is a lot of useful information here that does not get the proper attention because of the title. This looks like Mr. Gregory traded in cred for clicks.

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