I don’t know about you, but my skin crawls at the thought of a “JC Penny” style portrait. No matter how interesting a person may be, that basic head shot / studio type of image simply drains the life right out of your subject. Even if your subject look simply perfect, what have I learned about them by looking at a photograph like that? Does that cookie cutter portrait tell me who they are, what they enjoy in life, what they do for a living? Does it expose their personality, their dreams,,, anything? No, no and no…
A good portrait should mirror in some way, the person whom you are photographing. It should tell a story whether directly or through the mood of the image. When you look at this cowboy portrait do you feel you have an idea of what this man is about? (I hope so).
With that in mind I offer you the idea of working with textures and compositing to produce a stylized portrait. The compositing aspect is straightforward enough. By splicing together various images that represent a person’s background (literally and figuratively) you help to place a person in a world that represents who they are. That could mean a rustic and gritty outdoor scene (as I used in this particular image), to something that represents the occupation of the person (imagine what you might do with a fisherman), to a fantasy dreamlike scene incorporating books and characters (think a young girl who dreams of being a writer). You get the idea. Sky’s the limit.
Now, simple compositing is great for subject matter, but often does not do much to convey mood. That’s where the texture comes in. By layering and blending abstract textures into an image you can easily create an overall impression for the portrait. Just imagine if I’d used playful shapes and textures with bright happy colors in this image. Would I be saying “rustic/gritty/tough…. a man who lives off the land” like we see here? Hmmmm I’m thinking not.
As you can see from the source images (below), this composite was made with only three images (not including about eight texture images that were used to produce the blend). If you are not familiar with how to texture images, keep your eyes on my blog. I’m currently in the process of developing a 4 to 6 hour instructional video on the subject which I hope to have available by the end of the year. I will also be posting some basic tutorials here as well.
Another great advantage to this style of portraiture is accessibility. Imagine if I had needed to actual shoot this photo “on location”. It would require a heap of work to scout and find the appropriate location (if even possible). Then there is scheduling between nature (for proper lighting) and the client (they have a life you know). And that’s just with a simple image like this one. More complex imagery only complicates the shoot (and increases expenses). With a composite portrait the actual client photo can be taken anywhere at all at any time, the rest of the imagery can be dealt with on your own schedule.
Want a portrait like this for yourself? If you’re in the Denver/Colorado area give me a call.