All the Pretty Faces

When I think of portraits, I don't visualize the standard, studio shot of a family or a high school grad or

even a scion of the business world. I think in stock pictures, so I see an image of a person or animal or an illustrated

character that looks like he/she/it is asking me to buy something. The portrait is probably the single most popular image

in stock photography used for marketing, promotions and advertising.

© Kurhan

For these spokesperson or testimonial portraits,

the face needs to have a strong expression that can evoke a message. The character may be looking directly at the

camera or perhaps gazing off into the distance as she/he (it) contemplates something they are extremely pleased about

or in an editorial context, something the article wants you to consider.

© Minpin

At thumbnail size, full frame faces have a huge impact. See the shot of the gorilla here. But also

remember that tight crops limit the use of the image. Try to strike a balance when shooting portraits between tightly cropped

images that provide maximum impact at thumbnail size and those images that leave space for copy. Or use a long

lens focusing on the facial features and position the face to one side of a horizontal frame. The background will drop out, leaving a nice

place to overlay copy. The portrait-cropping dilemma was complicated over the past five or so years by a stylistic demand. How many portraits

are there now that only show half a face? The style of cropping a face right down the middle had visual impact although now it is overdone.

And while chasing that style, we forgot that the usage of the image could be limited by radical cropping.

In the most effective testimonial images, the image should "speak" to the viewer. You should be able to almost

write the words that the person or animal is saying. They want you to listen up!

Since you want the model to relate to the person

looking at the image, it's important that they relate to you, the photographer. Chat up the person. Get them talking about

themselves as a sure way to get genuine emotions and relaxed features. Distract the object of the portrait from the realization that

their photo is being taken. This applies to animals too. Otherwise unlike most people, they will simply run away.

Take care when using the keyword "portrait". Don't identify an image as a portrait when it isn't.

It's very frustrating to search on "portrait" when some of the returned images are silhouettes of figures far in the distance.

Remember a testimonial portrait should be primarily facial features.

You can take lessons from the great portrait photographers. Study the work of Yousuf Karsh, Philippe

Halsman, Arnold Newman, Richard Avedon and Annie Leibovitz. These are masters in the art of capturing the personality of their

subjects. And the subjects are generally very famous. Your task is to allow the personality of a non-celebrity model to emerge

from your images so that they become a believable spokesperson for a variety of products. You can place them in an environment

that alludes to a special career or endeavor but that will limit the usage to only that subject.


Spend time with the model before you pick up the camera.

Build trust and camaraderie

between you and your subject.

Images of women sell more often than those of male models but then pretty

women are the most photographed subjects so branch out, creating portraits of children, older generations, and a variety of









Photo credits: Kurhan, Minpin, Moodville, Yuri_arcurs.

Your article must be written in English

June 20, 2007


You'd think I'd get the spelling right when the correct spelling was in the link! When I was a professional writer, I had a sign over my desk that said, "You didn't hire me because I knew how to spell!" You can imagine how grateful I am for spell check. thanks for pointing out the error. I have asked that it be corrected.

June 20, 2007


It's spelled Leibovitz. :) Just thought I'd let you know.


June 20, 2007


Very interesting article! Thanks :)

June 19, 2007


Ellen: I feel honored that you chose one of my images to illustrate your
article on portraits. You are such a great addition and motivator to our DT.
Thank you!

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