I went to the Orlando Meet and Greet last Sunday with a specific objective – to force myself to shoot more intimate portraits. Turns out it was harder than I thought.
Looking back on my portraits, I have a tendency to shoot wide. I'm trying to get the subject and the environment in most of my shots. Nothing wrong with that, but I've decided that there are two things that I want to change.
- I want to shoot more in landscape orientation than in portrait orientation
- I want to get closer to my subject to create a sense of intimacy
My idea of intimate portraits isn't about lingerie or such things. It's about trying to create a connection between the viewer and the subject.
Studying Intimate Portraits
Before the day of the shoot, I signed onto 500px.com to check out some portraits. I found myself drawn to images like this one, this one, or that one. None of my portraits are that close or intimate, though.
To be fair, I looked at my other favorite portraits and there are a fair amount that are more of an environmental portrait. You see, I also like the idea of putting a person's portrait in context with a place.
There has to be a happy balance between environmental portraits and intimate portraits, though. I figured all I had to do was just decide to get closer and that would be that.
Old Habits Die Hard
Without even thinking about my goal, my first shots are automatically 3/4 and full length shots. I'm still trying to get it all in the frame, rather than thinking about my goal to fill the frame. It's automatic.
It took half a dozen shots before I remembered to move in on the model. Even then, I still wasn't quite that close, as you can see from the shot above of Amber.
It occurs to me that this habit is like muscle memory. The only way to change it is through repetition.
So I start taking more shots. More models. I'm struggling to decide how I want to change their poses to get closer. I hate awkward crops on arms and legs. On the other hand, I decided I'm OK lopping off the top of a subject's head. On the bright side, that saves time in post processing. Fewer fly-away hairs to remove.
I have friends who naturally push in the camera much closer for portraits. Makes me want to kick their camera. Then I realize that it's natural for them because they've done it for a while. I have to do the same until it's natural for me.
It occurs to me that the key to the image I want isn't really just because the camera seems closer to the subject, although that helps. It comes down to the face, and more specifically, the eyes. If I'm happy with the light on the face and the eyes, I'm happy with the image.
Even if it seems a bit far away.