A great portrait is one that conveys something intangible about the subject. Imagine doing that without including your subject’s face?
And that’s the task our Grads faced last week, when they were set the theme of Faceless Portraits for their regular challenge.
It really forces you to think outside the square. A faceless portrait needs to rely on other elements to tell a story, and to do it 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. Check out this fabulous collection of inspirational faceless portraits, all of which variously reveal a piece of the 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’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 shots 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 shot, taken during 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
This shot conveys personality in buckets! How? That wee girl, walking that (relatively speaking) gigantic dog… she’s on front, he’s trotting along behind. That’s confidence, and this is not her first rodeo!
Capturing routine, a moment in time or a day out is a fantastic story telling tool. It might seem a small thing today, but your children and future generations will love those images 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 something of your subject’s personality?
In these shots the stunning locations make for a really dynamic natural backdrop for your subject to pop. Just add subject and you’ve got a surefire winning combo!
And if you really 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 on the horizon, soft, glowy and golden. It’s flattering and hugely impressive in photos.
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 is creates an interesting 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 (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 great 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 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 all the colours of the rainbow, gum boots and tiara with fairy skirt and a pair of swimmers. Glad I took photos! It’s such a fantastic memory to savour, and really conveys personality.
Are you already shooting in manual mode, but craving higher level tech skills, a deeper understanding of lighting, and more artistic compositional skills?
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