A great portrait conveys something intangible about the subject. Imagine doing that without including your subject’s face? Exactly that was the task our grads faced last week when they got the theme of Faceless Portraits for their regular challenge.
It forces you to think outside the square. A faceless portrait needs to rely on other elements to tell a story in a compelling, engaging way that makes the viewer want to stop, study, think, and, hopefully, even be moved.
And we think our grads nailed it. Browse through this fabulous collection of inspirational faceless portraits, all of which variously reveal a piece of the subject through sharing or capturing mood, a story, daily routine, a moment in time, physical characteristic, a love, a preference, a habit or all of the above!
Those tiny details of our babies and children change in a heartbeat! You might think they’ll be imprinted in your mind’s eye forever, but trust me…the days fly by, other mental images take over and before you know it, it’s hard to remember exactly what those tiny surprise peas toes looked like.
So, take a picture. It costs nothing.
Related: Macro Newborn
Those curls, those sweet dimpled elbows!
These faceless portraits tell the story of something the subject loves. One day it will seem they’re inseparable, and the next, it seems they’re forgotten. But you can’t remember when it happened. For that reason, especially in the case of children, photos like this make a beautiful memory keepsake.
We love the low key light in this photo, taken during the UK’s notoriously dark winter. If you’re dealing with low light yourself, don’t despair. Embrace it, look for teeny pockets of soft light, and create beautifully low key imagery like this one.
Related: Embracing Winter Light
Related: Low Light Photography
This shot conveys personality in buckets! How? That wee girl, walking that huge dog, is on the front while he’s trotting along behind. That’s confidence, and this is not her first rodeo!
Capturing a routine, a moment in time or a day out is a fantastic storytelling tool. It might seem a small thing today, but your children and future generations will love the faceless photography that shared a peek into your family’s daily life back in the day, as opposed to only knowing about the milestone moments.
Use a wide-angle lens such as 24 or 35mm to include the environment whilst still getting up close to your subject. This helps the storytelling element by including context and layers.
Related: Wide Angle Fun
Capturing your subject doing something they love…is there any easier way to convey some of your model’s personality?
In these faceless portraits, the stunning locations create a dynamic natural backdrop for your subject to pop. Just add your subject, and you’ve got a surefire visual winning combo!
And, if you truly want to elevate your shot, try shooting during the golden hour. That’s the hour or so after sunrise and before sunset when the sun is low, soft, glowy and golden. It’s flattering and hugely impressive in all types of photos including faceless photography.
Not all faceless portraits need to tell a story. The most important thing is that it’s done mindfully. In the instance of the following photos, creativity is the purpose.
A shot like this is taken by slowing down the shutter to capture the movement. There’s a challenge in ensuring the motion captured looks purposeful and not accidental, and that creates an interesting and unique effect.
You’ll need to experiment, as the shutter speed that works will also be dependent on the speed of motion you’re trying to capture. Start with 1/30, using ISO and aperture to balance, and tweak from there.
You’ll probably need to use a tripod – unless you have a really steady hand which I don’t! Shooting handheld at speeds around 1/30 or slower will also capture camera shake, which will give you an accidentally blurry look.
Shadows are also a perfect way to get creative when shooting faceless portraits. This one was taking up another notch by intentionally blurring using the manual focus ring.
The reflection and symmetry of this shot make it a very compelling viewing!
A simple pose, made dynamic with a simple black backdrop, perfectly centred and loads of negative space for impact.
Related: When to Break the Rule of Thirds
This shot conveys love and romance. Sigh.
To replicate it, select an aperture of around f/4.5. This will capture the flowers in sharp focus whilst blurring the couple only just enough to separate the flowers well. You don’t want the couple to be so blurry you render them unrecognisable to those who know them.
Bear in mind background blur is also affected by focal length and distance between subject and lens, so consider f/4.5 a suggestion to start.
I miss those days when my daughter would wear clothing in all the colours of the rainbow, gumboots, and tiara with a fairy skirt and a pair of swimmers. Glad I took photos! It’s such a fantastic memory to savour that conveys her personality.
Are you already shooting in manual mode but craving higher level tech skills, a deeper understanding of lighting, and more artistic compositional skills?
Our Advanced Photography Course is the natural next step, and it’s starting again soon. Jump on our waitlist to be notified when we go on sale!