Portrait photography is the foundation of my business. Everything else – Boudoir, Glamour, Model photography – stems from it. The goal of Portrait photography is to capture, if not the essence of the subject, then an essential aspect of who they are, while also commenting on the subject photographically. Yousuf Karsh is one of the true masters of this, helping to define the art form along the way. It is astounding to study a gallery of his work and realize he never had tools like Photoshop to lean on. His Photoshop was a darkroom, and judging by the comparative limitations of this “tool,” it appears he did most of his work with the camera itself. By this, I mean composition of the image, film stock and Lighting.
Karsh was not driven by the goal of beautifying his subjects; the goal of the image seemed to be determined by the uniqueness of the individual person. Many photographers measure the “success” of a portrait by the degree to which it engenders emotion in the viewer. The term “emotion” is used broadly here. For instance, if I look at a photo of a woman smiling, does it illicit a kind of warmth and happiness in me? And if it does, why? What makes this particular image do that? I’ve seen five images of the same woman, taken seconds apart, next to each other, and only one has had that sort of effect on me. The difference in that particular picture could be a slight change in the angle of the camera, a slight change in the position of her head, or the way her eyes look in relation to the lights, and so on.
Feel free to offer comments on what makes a portrait special to you . . .