Looking Good Doesn’t Mean It’s A Good Picture

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Most actors are hard to take good portraits of. You have access to the biggest actors and think, great, a chance to do an intimate portrait. Then you look at the contact sheet and you realize that they totally played you. They are aware of the camera in each single frame. They raise an eyebrow just so. They are very good at making it look natural, but then you look back and nothing is off-guard.

via Martin Schoeller’s Tips on How to Take the Perfect Portrait – WSJ.com.

There Are 8 Comments On This Article.

  1. scott Rex Ely

    An intimate portrait of an actor, especially a good one, seems to be a rather mutually exclusive event to begin with.It’s sorta like behavior of particles and molecules as we observe them. How do we know that particles and molecules really behave naturally while we observe them?

  2. Just like looking “bad” doesn’t mean it’s a bad picture. It’s even often what makes it good. Like Antonin Kratochvil’s celebrity portraits–very extreme by most people’s standards, but so much deeper and significant than yet another plain old portrait. And somehow, I don’t think it’s hard for him at all–it’s just what does.

  3. I shoot a lot of non celebrity actors and also models for headshots and stuff, and I always find the actors over think every move and are so busy questioning how they feel, they often have little control of their exterior image and can be painful to shoot!

  4. scott Rex Ely

    I’d love to see some specific examples of people’s favorite “Intimate Portraits” of actors.
    I really like Brian Smith’s William Macy with a band aid on his nose.
    To me intimate means the actor giving up a little control of their own.

  5. Intimate portraits of actors? Well, some people are good at making what look to be intimate portraits, but they are feigned. That’s a secret collaboration between the actor and the snapper, as they make a “still movie.” What is intimate? Is it fly-on-the-wall observational, docu work? Jean Howard ( http://articles.latimes.com/2000/mar/23/news/mn-11897 ) did it, but she was part of the clique. It only works if the actor gives up some control, and the actor’s agent doesn’t demand photo approval. Doesn’t happen too often in my experience shooting stars for 15 years (though the LA Times never granted photo approval, the PR flacks and agent reps were a pain in the …) The closest I got usually was when the star was alone with no agent/rep/flack hovering, and collaborated with the idea. Then you sometimes got something good. Actors often hate posing for the stills camera is one big obstacle in my experience.

  6. Being a portrait photographer there are challenges already noted when photographing celebrities. I think celebrities have double duty when doing portraits for a publication or ad campaign. They have to promote WHO they are and do this within their publicist’s eye of scrutiny. But if you’re lucky enough to have an assignment where it’s just a candid intimate portrayal between you (photographer) and subject is a rare moment.

    I came across a recent article shared on FB about John Schneider (“Dukes of Hazzard” fame) who received unexpected tragic news while on a photo shoot. This is a perfect example of how the actor opened up to the photographer. Very real and heartfelt. http://jeremycowart.com/2014/01/john-schneider/

  7. A good picture seems to me to be the picture the photographer presents him/herself to take. If you market and take money to deliver the actor acting, that’s different from taking money to deliver the actor being “natural”, and different again from selling an unflattering shot as a paparazzo. A few photographers get to dictate the context because the client is interested enough, or fearful enough of some inferior alternative. But it’s a subtle question of specific contexts for both taking and reception of the image.