Fit for purpose

Portraits need to be fit for purpose.

Take this picture. A résumé picture:

I have shot this model clothed, nude, in studios, outdoors, traveling: every picture is different.

A resume picture needs to be professional (the jacket, the hairdo); show beauty in the case of a woman (the overall make-up, the low cut, the eye shadow), but not excessively so; be perhaps a little sexy (the white top) but not overly so (the necklace, the businesslike jacket again). The expression should be friendly but neutral. Yes, some thinking goes into this.

As it should go into every portrait you make. Always ask:

  • What is the photo for.
  • Whom is it for?
  • What are they expecting?
  • What is the person being pictured expecting?
  • What are you expecting?
  • What demands does this put on the photo?
  • What problems need to be solved? What needs to be de-emphasized?
  • What do you want to emphasize?

If you ask yourself these questions, you will come up with answers all by yourself. Answers about clothing, setting, light, expression, and so on.

But if you do not ask, you will not come up with answers; or worse, you will come up with the wrong answers.

For those of you who are interested, after the “more” break, two civilized nudes from the very same shoot as the photo above:

As you can see, these are very different, and not just in clothing. Different from each other, and different from the clothed shot.

Why shoot nudes, by the way?

Every serious photographer does, and this is because nudes are the purest form of portrait. No hiding. No distorting through clothing. No dating by fashion. Timeless and honest. And it is always about the person, not about the objects, the clothes, the accessories. You notice how in the first picture I talked about the jacket first? Inevitably, clothed pictures are like that. They are distorted; a picture of “a person as seen through clothing choices”.  And that is not the same as the person, period. Every serious photographer jumps at the chance of shooting nudes, for that reason.

Tech note: all these were taken with the 85mm lens set to f/2.0, and used flash (TTL with Flash Exp Comp set to +1.3), plus lots of ambient light. Make-Up: Melisssa T.




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