As early as toddlers, people can recognize fake facial expressions. People just know somehow when an expression is genuine or not, without even trying.
So when taking portraits, it’s very important not only to capture certain positive expressions, but to capture them in a way that YOU believe them. The difference between fake smiles and genuine smiles is something we feel immediately. When creating something for the long-term, like a portrait that will hang on your wall, it’s worth spending the extra time to capture a real emotion that will make you feel the way that only real emotions can make you feel.
What’s most important in a portrait?
When you look at a portrait that you don’t like, it’s easy to see why you don’t like it. But when you love a portrait, it’s hard to explain why. You see it and like it as a whole.
So what are the key ingredients that make a beautiful portrait? Knowing them will help you get one of your own.
• Facial expression and body language
Now, there are different opinions among photographers as to what’s most important and what can sometimes be compromised. Often, that’s what separates different styles and approaches.
When photographing landscapes or products, lighting and composition convey the artist’s vision and message. With portraits, facial expression and body language are crucial.
If you look at the work of different portrait photographers, you will notice what things they emphasize and what they can allow to let go to get a successful shot.
For me, when it comes to portraits, if I had to compromise it would be lighting or composition. Facial expression is my number one key ingredient.
A photo can be gorgeously lit and perfectly composed, and yet if the subject of the portrait has an unflattering or fake expression, I can’t deliver that photograph.
That’s the reason why sometimes a simple phone shot with bad lighting and a garbage bin in the background can be so special, if your kid has an amazing smile that shows her truest self in that moment.
Do you have a shot like that, that makes you wish for a well-composed and well-lit photo of a similar true moment, to print big and display on the wall? It’s possible.