Portrait Photography

What Portraiture Taught Me About Street Photography

What Portraiture Taught Me About Street Photography

Street photography is a weird genre... There's really no blueprint when it comes to the "sport". Sure we have the greats, who kind of set the tone for us, but the rules we gained from them are all speculative and not really facts. Most of us are shooting off instinct, another group of us are shooting based off what we learn from blogs like mine or Erick Kim's. Ever wonder where my instinct comes from? From portraiture. Not many of you know this, as I've now hidden the tab, but I started off this website talking about confidence and portraiture work. It was my goal to be a freelance portraiture photography, in fact, my first project was entitled Places & Spaces, a 52-week portraiture project that involved a new subject in a new location every week.

I thought it would be interesting to share what I've learned from this experience of mine. Hopefully, the lessons below provide you some context, I also hope they open your eyes to some things to look out for during your next street session.

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Over and Over Again: Rieli @ Allen Park, MI

Over and Over Again: Rieli @ Allen Park, MI

I took 913 shots during this session... 913! Out of those 913, I came away with 5 edited images. That means for every 182 pictures I came away with about 1 image that I liked... Honestly, 2 of those pictures almost didn't make the cut, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt so I can document my growth.

For whatever reason, this location + idea didn't work. This was my 3rd time working with Rieli, so the chemistry should have been there. By this time, I would assume that she knew what I wanted out of her when it came to possess, but perhaps that was my fault for assuming. I've learned over this year that photography is more than posing, I've touched on how an expression is a major factor when it comes to creating a beautiful image... I'm now starting to see there is a 3 factor that needs to be involved and that's experience for the one in front of the camera

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The More You Practice, The Worse You Get? | Imani @ Lafayette Park

The More You Practice, The Worse You Get? | Imani @ Lafayette Park

If I told you I've shot over 50 portrait sessions and I still don't have the slightest clue what I'm doing would you believe me? To the more experienced shooter, probably so, but for those of you who have yet to break into your profession then you're probably saying "no way". That statement, however, isn't all the way truth. A more accurate statement would be, I've shot over 50 portrait sessions and I'm just now getting better. 

Have any of you ever heard the phrase practice makes perfect? Of course you have. We've heard it during our adolescence and we've heard it in our adult years. It's a phrase that will forever be around and a phrase that will forever be told improperly. The truth is, practice doesn't make perfect... Practice makes you consistent, but it doesn't make perfect. Yesterday I was shooting in the gym and I had the entire court to myself, I was shooting layups, going behind the back, 30 footers... I was all over the place. In fact, I do this a few times a week, but I've seen no real improvement. I can play longer, my stamina has increased, but I'm still missing those same shots... You know why? Because while practicing I didn't take my time, I didn't follow through, I didn't do reps, I just practiced wildly... Thus, I played wildly.

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Amber @ Belle Isle Casino

Amber @ Belle Isle Casino

I once read that hands were the most important part of a portrait. It's the hand that tells the viewer where to look. It's the reason why in most fashion editorials you always see the model force their hand near their face. Every since reading that I've tried to implement that rule of thumb into my portraiture work. I try to ensure that the model has their hands in an area that I want the viewer to look at. If I'm focused on their face then I'll try to place it there, if the shoot is product based, say a bracelet or purse than I'll likely have the model place their arm in a position that highlights the item best. 

For the most part, it made sense, but recently I realized that hand placement, though important, is not the key component when it comes to making a portrait. In fact, the key component is facial expression. It's the facial expression that gives the photo life. It determines what vibe the photograph is giving off. Rather it is sad, happy, or simply just emotional.

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Rieli @ Palmer Park

Rieli @ Palmer Park

Many of you may be confused about what I actually do. If you're new to this site you see all these tips about street photography and shooting with confidence and then randomly there are a few sporadic post featuring portraiture photography. If you had to label me, perhaps I would get the moniker street photography, but unknowingly my photography venture actually started with shooting still portraits...

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Mextures... My New Favorite App | Rieli, Lafayette Park

Mextures... My New Favorite App | Rieli, Lafayette Park

In 2015, I started a 52-week project based solely on portraiture. It was entitled Places & Spaces. The concept was simple, each week I'd shoot a new client, in a new area. But I never actually made it to the 52-week mark. If I'm not mistaken I believe I stopped the project around week 36. I simply just didn't have the passion for partaking in the project anymore... Or portraiture work period for that matter. I wasn't 100% sure why I no longer enjoyed this aspect of photography, but after months passed I came to the conclusion that I wasn't producing work that I actually enjoyed looking at. I learned this from Gary Vaynerchuk, in one of his videos he mentioned that you need to market the same way you are sold. By that he meant, don't invest in billboards... If you don't fucking look at billboards. That's essentially what I did with my portraiture work, I shot a lot of urban styled shoots that didn't really satisfy my needs. They were more hipster based, I tried to incorporate clothes and looks that I thought would appeal to a larger audience... When that didn't work I tried removing almost all clothes too. I was shooting the Tumblr-esque shot when I really wanted to create something more dreamy and angelic.

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