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?
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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!