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Rebellious Portrait Photography That Goes Against the Grain Like You Wouldn’t Believe

The world’s major fashion magazines are plump with advertising images of the size-zero models, with their flawless complexions and perfect bone structures. Much to the everyday girl’s dread, these images can also be found pretty much everywhere, especially in portrait photography.

However, imagine for a moment if these models weren’t perfect? Would the images have a greater impact? Would people engage more with what they were seeing?

A photograph has a message for the viewer, beauty is easy when conveyed with the usual

A photograph has a message for the viewer : Beauty is easy when conveyed with the usual. By Solve Sundsbo

Photography, like I have stated in pretty much every blog post I’ve ever written on the subject, is art. But unlike art, when it comes to selling a product that is considered to be fashionable, the value of the image is lost to that of either the product or the model. Both can take center stage within the image, drawing focus from the overall skill of the photography.

As photographers hunting for the praises of people admiring our photographs, we should strive to make the beauty reside within the entire photograph. The photo should be the work of art, particularly in portrait photography, not the model.

Going Against the Grain

Almost every starting professional fashion, artistic and portrait photographer will go for the safe option that obvious beauty delivers. Yet if you really want to get your own voice heard in an overly saturated market, you must always go against the grain and become unorthodox.

Here some ideas on ways that this can be done.

Light and Shadows Are Your Friends

When auditioning your models for your next shoot, look for unusual body characteristics, such as being overweight or other defining bodily physiognomies.

old age and malice can be a great combination

Old age and malice can be a great combination. By Andrze Dragan

As with life drawing, the light and shadows will find far more interesting contours to explore in a body that has many, giving you the ability to use the shadows as artists would their charcoal, defining intrigue and beauty in an otherwise overlooked form.

Composition

Facial features are often chosen based on the symmetry of the model’s face, using such points of balance as the cheek bones, the hairstyle, eyes and so on. In fact, many a philosopher has argued that a person is defined as beautiful when they have such defining and prominent features that are perfectly symmetrical. But that’s another blog post entirely…

the arrangement of the features often tell their own story

the arrangement of the features often tell their own story. By Andrze Dragan

I disagree. I think that beauty can be found on almost any face, and certainly a skill that can separate a good photographer from one who is excellent is the ability to execute exactly that in their photography.

Back to Black and White

Grainy black and white images always work well when an unconventional model is being set within the frame.

A skill in post production can also help you to get a great image that has real impact on the viewer

A skill in post production can also help you to get a great image that has real impact on the viewer. By CG Hub

Black and white photography is excellent and generates a mood, especially when the studio has been blacked out, and you’re lighting your subjects with spotlights.

Conclusion

Make no mistake: Photography of this nature requires a keen eye to be able to pick out the interesting details of a person. Not everyone will find this type of photography suitable for him, but you should certainly give it a go.

Feel free to post links to any of your images you’d like to share with us in the comments below. You’ll also find some further examples below to help get your creative juices flowing!

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman

Often it's good to over etherize features, this can make for a rather disturbing addition to an image. By Cindy Sherman

Often, it’s good to over-etherize features; this can make for a rather disturbing addition to an image. By Cindy Sherman

Sometimes you don't even have to use real people to get everyone talking about your photography. Cindy Sherman

Sometimes, you don’t even have to use real people to get everyone talking about your photography! By Cindy Sherman

masks can offer another fun way to give your photo impact

Masks can offer another fun way to give your photo impact. By Cindy Sherman

Zed Nelson

Zed Nelson

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman

Mary Ellen Mark

Mary Ellen Mark

Robert Bradley

Robert is a surrealist visual artist, photographer and journalist. Many of his photographs are exhibited throughout the world in private and corporate collections.

  • Bill Fuller

    Andy Warhol is reputed to have said, “Art is what you can get away with.”

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