David Pahmp Photography

Portrait photography gone bad

Because I not only work with photography, but graphic design as well, I come across a lot of portrait images that are not mine. For conference and convention agendas, the speakers and representatives send their portraits to be used on websites and printed material. Although some are taken professional and matches the desired criterias, a lot are not.

More often the problem isn't bad photographers, but the person in the picture just doesn't realize or care how they are being portraied. So as a photographer you need to try help educating your clients, getting them to realize what is a goor portrait and the importance of it.

Miriam Aïda foto David Pahmp

A fairly created portrait


So what are the most common pitfalls? Here are some:
(I resorted from using clients images because yeah, that wouldn't be nice now would it? Also copyrights.)


Portraits gone bad - lowres

Low resolution. I often get pictures pulled directly off their website, which does not work for print at all. It's just too small. Sometimes it's the opposite, you get a really huge file, but that's managable of course and not an issue.


Portraits gone bad - Too much contrast

Over- or underexposed, too much contrast, dark shadows etc. In other words, poorly executed photography. Most often it is not done by a professional photographer. So please, speakers – hire a pro for your photo shoots!
I imagine some just ask their co-worker to snap a picture of them in the office, and then it's all up to chance if it will be any good.


Portraits gone bad - too cropped

Too much cropped Add space around your face! Even add shoulders and stuff. Then it's up for the designer to choose, instead of having an array of mixed cropped portraits that makes the layout all messy.


Portraits gone bad - wide angle distorted

Wideangle distortion Because yes, who wants to look all distorted?


Portraits gone bad - artistic freedom

Artistic freedom gone too far. Sure, if your client (or you as a creative, groundbreaking, never-seen-before photographer) prefers a black and white picture, or a messy background that represents them or their work, you'll have to abide. But please make sure that they get some more "normal, useable" images as well.

Portraits gone bad - artistic freedom 2

Even this is in my opinion a bit too artistic.


Portraits gone bad - background

Background and/or environment
Yes, when you sit at your desk and your office chair has a headrest, it will look kind of like a pair of drooping mouse ears coming out of your head. Your bookshelf might not be a great background either, it will only make for an disruptive image. If you shoot against an empty wall, don't stand too close to cast a shadow on it.

Maybe you want to show off what you do for a living. But trust me, wearing a diving suit or no shirt at all, or a big winter jacket with the fury hood covering half your head, will not give the impression you're looking for.


Portraits gone bad - black and white

Black and white
"Now you're going too far!" Not really. Black and white can be very flattering and beautiful, but if there are 9 images in color and 1 in black and white, it just looks odd. Let the designer choose whether or not to use all or none in grayscale instead. What you can do is supply both versions – that way you still have control over the conversion to black and white.


Portrait photography gone bad - OK

So how do I want to see it? Something like this. Now it aint pretty or sophisticated, but I'm just pointing out the specifics: neutral background, spacious crop with enough background and person, properly exposed. Now follow those guidelines and go make something stunning job!





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