Part II of my musings on what my theory and approach to portraits is. This segment is about "Simplicity"
Keep It Simple Stupid - KISS.. something I try to live by in general...and also something I try to apply to my portrait work. I love simple, yet powerful photographs, and I think that translates particularly well to portraits.
Simplicity allows for your portraits to really get to the core point/element of what you're trying to get across, if anything. You don't want the viewers eyes to be wandering aimlessly all over the image, and even if there is physically a lot of gorgeous detail (see blue face below!), the idea or the feeling needs to be simple. People, especially the non-photographer or client, need to be able to 'get' something.. or at the very least feel your image.
Simplicity allows for basic elements of any person (or concept) to come out in the image, especially personality (PtIII coming soon) and allows the viewer to focus on those elements with little to no distractions. And how do you get someone's personality to come out.. anyone?? Yep, confidence! That same confidence we talked about in Pt. I of my theory! Keeping a portrait simple often allows for more power to exude from the subject (and his/her personality). Think on the most powerful portraits you've ever seen, I bet all of them are simple in that you don't get lost in complexity. I'm not saying those masterpieces are easy to take, just simple and straight forward in their concept.
Poses, if you have to pose someone instead of letting it come out naturally (with some guidance), it should be simple.. or at the very least, natural. No need for distracting elements like weird angles of joints for emphasis etc.. we're talking portraits, not fashion here. ;)
In the "floating" image seen above, I was really pushing for an idea of simplicity. I dulled the colors. I kept her face expressionless (as much as possible while jumping!), I captured her at the apex to minimize the hair motion and kept her pose simple.
The photo with the green wall above, though a bit contrived in the pose, to me fits a uniform and simple 'feel' of the subjects and allows for you to simply feel them and the image as a whole. I think it allows for the wall to call out to you. There's nothing deep here, nothing you have to think about, but hopefully something you feel, something that impacts. Simple. Powerful. That's it.
Not only that, keeping things simple (ie single-light set-up) makes it so you don't have a million factors to think about, especially if you're fairly new to portraits, and allow you to focus on the shot and pulling out their personality.
And finally, by keeping it simple I the subject is better able to come out and show you their personality... which is the next part of my three pronged theory.... stay tuned!