There are no hiding places in a black and white portrait. With no distraction from color, the physical characteristics of the subject are revealed. Monochrome exposes intimate details such as bone structure, texture, and expression to a much greater level than an equivalent color image. A reputable photography course online will help you take advantage of this medium and show how to take creative portraits using a home studio setup.
Successfully capturing a quirky look or expression gives the viewer an immediate insight into the subject’s world and personality. Black and white photographs create vulnerability, and if we are able to see just who the subject is through the image captured, then this is a sign of a winning portrait. Although this all sounds a bit serious, black and white does not need to be used only to record austerity. Subtle changes of lighting, for example, can transform the mood to romantic, sultry, or even comical. Black and white can be an extremely versatile medium.
One of the joys of black and white portrait photography is that traditional beauty is not a requirement. Look for something unusual to capture in the subject. This could be using someone who is known for having a serious nature, getting them to let their hair down, and allowing the viewer to see another side of their personality. If you do not already know them, it can be difficult to get them to let their inhibitions out, but helping them relax will go a long way.
You may have a list of poses in mind that you want to run through, but also keep an eye on your subject and look out for any characteristics that may be specific to them. Once they feel relaxed, you should spot moments worth capturing, so try to take some informal shots which may be of use, as well as the more formal poses. Decide which shot suits the subject best, such as close ups of the face, shots from the side, or full body. To capture a sense of character, a close up shot is best.
Location shots are ideal for a sense of context. The focus should ultimately be on the subject, so it’s best to find somewhere that won’t impact this. It is a good idea to select somewhere that has a link to the subject, either directly or visually. If they had a favorite childhood haunt where they used to hang out, this may make for some memorable photos, because of their previous association with it. Hopefully they have some happy memories, which will show up in the final image. The link with a location could be visual, where the surroundings simply suit the subject.
These are just a handful of ideas to consider when tackling black and white portraits. Studying further techniques will make your explorations into this exciting genre ever more pleasurable and rewarding.
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