Portrait Shmortrait


“Portrait shmortrait. All my portraits look the same, why do I want to have another one done?”


I have written on this blog before about how often it is recommended that people get their portraits done in the articles “Has Your Company Lost Its Face,” “Putting Your Best Face Forward,” and many others. But that seems almost like useless information if each time you get a new portrait it looks just like the last one. That can happen if you go to a place that is creating images en masse and all they focus on is bulk; lots of people with a simple formula that gives consistent results every time.


The last time I looked 99% of the people I meet are multi-faceted, unique individuals who have a lot to who they are and how they look. How can one cookie cutter approach capture those complexities in one image? Simply put, it can’t. To be honest, it shouldn’t. To capture more of who you are the people you work with should understand that there are parts of you that are hidden and others that are out there for the world to see. Perhaps you don’t want those hidden parts captured, not a problem. At the same time you aren’t a light switch – you don’t go from one extreme to the other. Well, most of you don’t. 😉



A good photographer is going to work with you and get to know you. We are going to take the time to realize which parts of your personality you want to express and we will strive to capture them. That usually can’t be done in a single image or by using one background. This is where the creativity and experience of a good photographer comes in.


In the images here my subject, Lauren, wanted to get a few different looks all in one session. Although I had only spoken to her on a couple of occasions I was able to learn enough about her to know that she has a soft side to her as well as a side of mystery. For me as a creative, this just made the shoot even more fun!


When she arrived at the studio she was nervous but not terribly so. We had some coffee and talked and I took the time to make sure she was comfortable. I told her some of the ideas that I had in regards to backgrounds and spaces throughout the building that we could use if she was comfortable with it. She was and the resulting shoot produced some images that she really liked. In fact I believe her response was, “LOVE THESE!” That is a reaction I like to get.


The images here are just a couple of the final images that Lauren received. I think that these images show more than one side to Lauren’s personality and I am willing to bet she has a few more inside her.


So how many sides of your personality do you want to show? Are you ready to get creative with me and how many we can bring out?


5 replies
  1. Kerry
    Kerry says:

    You have included some beautiful portraits in this post, thank you.
    A little bit off-topic but food for thought, I think. At the high school my kids attended it is becoming more common to forego purchasing (at a ridiculous price) the canned cap & gown and formal shots of a senior portrait package created by a photographer contracted with through the district.
    Some parents are instead opting for more artistic photo sessions, often more than one, done on location, indoors and outdoors, with local photographers recommended by word of mouth. The results I’ve seen look like models’ portfolios. A lasting memory of youth that will be treasured, not cringed at, in years to come.
    Why not take a similar path when professional portraits are required?

  2. Daniel Pozner
    Daniel Pozner says:

    Great information. It is the other side of know your audience, know your subject. I remember one portrait I shot maybe 30 years ago because it was so different then anything I had done at the time. I arranged to meet my subject in the morning for breakfast. I took my camera with me not intending to shoot anything but because i never go anywhere without one. We spent the day together and while frolicking in the park as the afternoon became cloudy I did what photographers do, I captured a moment in time. I spent all day, 12 hours , for a 125th of a second of time that showed what she felt like when she would walk into a room. She loved it and none of my other portraits looked like this one and i believe none will ever will. I know that i have the image somewhere in a box here but we are moving soon (Just a little too close to the front line for my home). When i unpack again in our new house i would like to show it to you and get your opinion.

  3. Donna Harding
    Donna Harding says:

    Perfectly stated, Michael. I completely agree that everyone has many facets to their personality and one headshot just does not do a person justice. Great take on why everyone should have regular photo sessions. Great images, too!!

    And yes, Kerry, more and more seniors are opting for real location photo sessions that capture who they are at that stage of life, rather than the traditional, and very boring, cap and gown shots.

  4. Keith
    Keith says:

    All these statements have been said before.
    As a portrait photographer I worked with a large “bulk” company that photographed kids (all grades) for customers with different reasons. Some of the reasons the parents bought from us was that they wanted to record what they thought their child looked like at that time in their life and so they dressed them to that likeness. Another was just because they liked the image while yet another was, yes, we were the only photographer in town!
    As a company we never sat on our laurels and let the business pass us by. We held formal focus groups, went to professional seminars and listened to other photographers, developed equipment to fit our needs and over the years got pretty good at making our business profitable.
    All that while many excellent photographers won awards and yet still quietly fell to the sidelines. Having a business is not just about having fun, although I certainly did and with each customer in front of me.
    I always felt that even though I may have had a splitting head ache or my feet were killing me, that I had an obligation to that family as well as to the child that I make their day the best I could…. who knows what kind of life this kid may have away from my camera! As the kids got older we spent more time getting to know them more. Or I should say that we offered to do that. Most didn’t take up our suggestions to “personalize ” their sitting. They just plain didn’t care are the time and were usually pleasantly surprised at our results. Basic business doctrine states that if you aren’t taking pictures, you aren’t making money. And THAT is what professional photographers are supposed to do. It’s hard to decide when too much talk relates to lost income.
    Most of the photographers that I personally knew that wanted the more glamorous, creative approach spent so much time being creative, they forgot that they needed to make money just to pay for their overhead! Those that did make money have to charge the “big bucks” that one commenter disparaged.
    I would always remind myself that photographers that don’t charge the money that it takes are called amateurs.
    That said, we did/do very well. Even when you consider that every person with a digital camera and a few hours of playing with PS wants to have their own business and be the best, most creative photographer in the area.
    I figure that I’ve touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people young and old, some famous and some not so throughout my career. I had a great time doing it. Did the best that I could and grew the business as well.
    I retired at 58 and am living well in an expensive metropolitan area.
    I have no regrets that I worked for a volume photography company. Just the opposite!

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