Presence. That’s what I’m going for. I want you to feel as if you’re standing in front of the person in the photograph. I want them to feel real. I want you to feel as if you could just reach out and touch them. People worry about how they look in a photo but it’s not how you look, it’s how you feel.
That feeling is the difference between a stiff, sterile portrait and one that conveys a true sense of you. Not the whole you obviously, but a whiff of you, a flavor. There’s a certain essence that comes through. That essence is, I guess, spirit, or maybe even soul. I don’t know. I certainly don’t want to over-analyze it, or even think too much about it. But you either feel it or you don’t.
I have found that natural light and natural backgrounds work best. They compliment your natural qualities. I have also discovered that serendipity - chance juxtapositions of texture, color, and light - plays an important role. You just don’t get this in a studio or with a plain, uniform background element.
I like to shoot outdoors but to some degree this effect can be created indoors by bringing a textural element inside. A slab of wood, a tapestry. I’m pretty good at sourcing material that matches the aesthetic of a person or a brand. Something organic. Something that has its own soul.
So whether you’re getting your portrait done by a photographer, or just doing a selfie, consider a dark, uniform, textural background so your face will really pop. Go with natural light but not direct sun. Seeing you is not enough. We want to feel your presence too.