Portrait Special: Going Beyond
What do you do when the obvious becomes boring and you want to differentiate your style? Start by breaking a few rules, Ambarin Afsar says.
Unconventional portraits are often spontaneous. But then, moving away from conventions can also be a studied and deliberate practice. In the quest for being unconventional, remember that your pictures should not be gimmicky.
75. Break the Rules
Know the rules, understand what they can do and then break them. You do not always need to shoot properly exposed photos. What if you drastically underexpose or overexpose?
The best camera is the camera that you have with you all the time—your cellphone. Besides, most platforms have dedicated photo apps that allow you to recreate certain effects.
77. Try to Improvise
Don’t always go with the initial plan. Spontaneous ideas that might seem harebrained at first, can actually help you make portraits that have the ability to surprise and amaze.
78. Try Faceless Portraits
Concentrate only on hands, arms, feet, the back of the head or even gestures to convey someone’s personality. For instance, you could photograph the feet of a dancer in motion, the hands of a wrestler gripping dumbbells or even a grandmother winnowing rice grains.
79. Make Portraits Without People
You can shoot the objects that define a person or are descriptive of their personality. For instance, you can capture their shadow, an instrument they play or even the tools of their trade.
80. Explore Different Aspect Ratios
Go beyond standard aspect ratios and explore square portraits. You can try spanning someone’s entire bedroom, office or even workshop in one panoramic photograph.
81. The Spirit
Each place has its own history. It has witnessed its own share of memories and relationships. And so, one can also make a portrait of a particular space, be it an empty area or someone’s home.
82. Shoot Portraits in the Dark
All you need is a completely darkened room, a torch, a tripod and a long exposure. From angelic halos and wings to showing people interacting with skeletons—you can light paint a whole new world!
83. See Two of the Same Person
Imagine having one individual talking, laughing, running and jumping, all in the same frame! You can achieve this effect by making multiple exposures. You can also shoot reflections or signboards and merge the exposure with a regular portrait.
84. See a Portrait Within a Portrait
Shoot a picture, print it, make the same subject hold their own portrait or even interact with it. You do not even need to make a print. You can simply shoot a picture, transfer it to a laptop and display it as a wallpaper.
85. Try Different Costumes
Imagine dressing up a child in his father’s shirt and trousers or having someone dress up as their favourite movie star or even their ancestors.
86. Shoot Infrared Portraits
The usual choice you have is between B&W and colour. What about shooting infrared? You will be able to capture porcelain-like skin tones and surreal background effects, if shooting outdoors.
87. Flash Pumping
Repeatedly firing the flash during a long exposure can freeze a moving subject at different stages of motion, for instance the sprinting motion of an athlete.
88. Surprise the Viewer
Frame the image in a way that the viewer does not expect to see. For instance, you can deliberately crop the face, but do not force a crop just for the sake of it.
89. Break Eye Contact
Give your subject something to hold in front of their eyes or make them wear something that breaks the eye contact between the subject and the viewer.
90. Make Props Work For You
Right from flowers, CDs, masks, lanterns, glasses, clothes, toys—every possible object can be a prop. All you need to know is what story they are telling.
91. Use Bright Makeup
Extremely vivid makeup or facepaint can make for dramatic, striking and sometimes even humourous photos.
92. More than Just a Day
Make a series of photos that have a definite stylistic connect. You can photograph a friend or even your own self, every day of the year, to create a 365-day project.
93. Shake the Camera
Shoot blurs by panning the camera or using slow shutterspeeds. Also, try experimenting with Slow Sync Flash and be amazed with the results!
94. Create Collages, Dyptichs
Combine two, three or even twenty photographs to make diptychs, triptychs and collages. You can even make fun panographs!
95. Bring in a Disconnect
Can you imagine dolphins in a desert? Similarly, what happens if you pull your subject out of his native environment and put him into a completely strange place?
96. Use Exaggeration
You can add a dose of humour by using the distortion offered by ultrawide and fisheye lenses to exaggerate features.
97. Create Illusions
You can shoot reflections, use mirrors or play with perspective to create mindboggling illusions.
From crossprocessing, pop art, cutouts, high contrast B&W images to creating kaleidoscopic photographs, you can do all of this in the digital darkroom. All that you need to do is decide the theme and make your subject pose accordingly.
99. Make a Photo Montage
Dating as far back as1857, this technique involves cutting and pasting two or more photographs in a manner that creates a new, surreal composite photograph.
100. Ultimately, Rembember…
Regardless of whether you make a classic portrait or an unconventional one, you are limited only by your own imagination. We never cease to redefine ourselves and like Narcissus, we never seem to tire of seeing ourselves reflected thousands of times.
This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of Better Photography.