It has been a while since I posted something here, mostly due to time spent going through the 5500 photos I took at CONvergence. Since almost all of those were of people, I thought this might be a good time to talk about portraits.
**Please note that all of the below portraits were taken at CONvergence this year. I have not talked to the people about using their picture in this posting and do not intend to identify them. They are used strictly for illustrative purposes. The rest of my favorite shots are available here: http://www.pavellephoto.com/p817444870
Starting with the obvious, there are two ways a picture can be oriented: Horizontal (landscape) or Vertical (portrait) [**square is not an orientation, since all sides are the same, and panorama simply changes the proportion of the sides, not the orientation]. It is not a hard and fast rule that portraits must be done in portrait orientation, but that is how they are done classically because that is how people best fill the available space while sitting or standing. Go with whichever works best.
The next consideration is the circumstances in which the picture is taken. How conscious of you taking the photo is the subject. Are they actively participating (posing, as in the above photos) or is it a candid image (as below)?
The last thing to consider is how can you go beyond simply capturing a picture of someone. How can you make the image special? How can you show the character of your subject, the inside as well as the outside?
I want to first say that it is much easier showing character when people are in costume, because they are playing a character at that time and know how that character acts and thinks and are showing that to you.
This is also why I prefer taking candid shots. You can capture the emotion in the moment it occurs. They say a person's face lights up when they laugh and it is certainly true that the amusement and joy can come through in a picture.
Even thought can come through. Shoot people talking and listening to each other and you can see the interest that is generated.
I have one final thought that I want to share with you. I was told this in a class I took many years ago that was given by John Gregor of Coldsnap Photography. We were out shooting flowers, and he said that there is a difference between making a good flower picture and a good picture of a flower. The former is pointing your camera and clicking the shutter. To make the latter, treat it like you are making a portrait. Find the character or essence of the flower and make that your subject. It's a piece of advice that I use whenever I'm out shooting. It works for flower, birds, butterflies, and anything else. Capture the character of your subject. Make a portrait. The results are worth it.