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Thread: Thoughts on composition in portraiture

  1. #21
    Sean Mac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Dublin. Ireland.

    Re: Thoughts on composition in portraiture

    Quote Originally Posted by Ulophot View Post
    Sean, I certainly agree with you on scale, though my prints never approach life-size. My printing set-up allows up to 11x14 paper, so a print with a fair amount of environment keeps the figure scale well below that. Other discussions here and elsewhere have taken up this subject over the years; it's interesting to hear or read how others think about the issue.
    Hi Philip,

    Portraits are one of the great subjects of visual arts. John Singer Sargent studied the work of Hals and Velazquez the same way we might look at the images made by Karsh. Velazquez went to Italy on the advice of Rubens. We follow our paths now but the questions are sort of timeless.

    The thought that struck me reading your original post was that I recently wished for the opposite of cropping.

    I am lucky that reshooting will be possible with that subject but it was a lesson on the dangers of cropping too tight with the camera for me.

    Perhaps a bad habit acquired from tiny format cameras

    11x14 is a good size. I make digital negatives on a A3 inkjet. The ULF camera will take another few years.

    I work bigger with oil on canvas.

  2. #22
    Drew Wiley
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    SF Bay area, CA

    Re: Thoughts on composition in portraiture

    I'm certainly no portrait professional. But I've found out that, at least for me, the most sincere and spontaneous, or "inner" expression I get from a sitter, is ironically with the slowest, most deliberate vehicle of 8x10 format itself. The "decisive moment" might be for just an instant, but a Lecia doesn't necessarily give you any advantage in that respect. It's more a matter of intuition.

    Otherwise, successful pro portraits studios tend to develop their own special look and appropriate workflow. I'd much rather study the classic old masters at it, like Stieglitz, Steichen, and Cameron. Too many "how-to" formulas would just kill the real deal. Composition has to be felt and not just strategized. I normally charged per print, mounted and framed, just like any other darkroom "fine art" print of mine, and not by the job or session. But that's what they expected from me all along, or they would have inquired elsewhere.

  3. #23

    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Purcellville, VA

    Re: Thoughts on composition in portraiture

    Drew, thanks for your comment. I' with you entirely on studying the masters, in art as well as other fields of exploration, and I'm sure we'd agree on including painters in our studies. Your comment on the 8x10 capturing the decisive moment caught my attention. 4x5 is my only LF, but, leaving my powerful strobes out of my kit as I have since I returned to photography, the challenge becomes shutter speed. I have been investigating how others have handled this matter, and are doing so today, which has given me a better sense of how to engage with my subjects in this respect. Since I am seeking combinations of pose and expression that, generally, will suggest the person's talent or area of interest, as well as personality, the "instant" may be one more prolonged than that requiring a movement-freezing strobe pop. Strand's work, among many others', testifies to the possibilities.
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)

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