Portraits vs. Snapshots

Discussion in 'Through-the-Lens Club' started by MrsKitty, Feb 17, 2007.

  1. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    What is the difference?

    It is more than poses, lighting, props and environment.

    I cannot figure out how to differentiate between the two. I have taken a few incredible snapshots of people, lots of so-so snapshots and only a handful of portraits. I can tell the difference when I look at the shots afterwards but I can't figure out how to go from just taking a snapshot to capturing a portrait...
     
  2. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    Just from the terminology point of view, they are different animals altogether - different categories even. Snapshot is a "target of opportunity". Something unplanned comes up, you raise the camera and fire. That's a "snapshot".

    Portrait specifically talks about producing a likeness of someone (although, to be quite strict, it could also be "portraying something").

    Therefore, the first one speaks of the method of shooting, the second of the purpose of shooting. I would not mix them together (and wouldn't worry about it ;)).
     

  3. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    LOL! Thanks! I tend to "worry" about everything. A friend says "you think too much" and he does have a point.

    I just got to thinking about the differences the other day. The magazine I do some work for requested me to do some shots of a three-piece jazz band last weekend. The designer looked over a rough website I put together a few weeks ago and she critiqued every shot on there. She commented that my weakest area is dealing with people...then asked a few days later if I wanted to do cover the concert.

    I got her the shot(s) she wanted but I just got to thinking about why I don't do as good shooting people.
     
  4. T. Harless

    T. Harless

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    I think of a portrait as capturing the "essence" of your subject whether it's a lit studio gig or a candid. I always do a better job with candid portraits or "environmental" portraits. For me the ticket is generally a long lens. Not giant glass but an 80-200 or I've got a sweet 200-400 that does a great job. With bigger glass you can get away from your subject and let them do their own thing and forget the "oh...I'm being photographed." The other thing is to shoot tons of frames. A lot of my assignments, I know the client is going to use one photo. I do try to give them many options but before they see those two dozen, I may have edited two hundred. Good people photography is hard.
     
  5. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    I think even with shorter glass you can get them to relax and forget about being photographed if you make it seem natural. It may be harder for the photographer than the photographed. ;)
     
  6. T. Harless

    T. Harless

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    I can't disagree with that, I was just adding the $.02 that works for me and the folks that pay me.
     
  7. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    And it is impossible to disagree with what works. :)
     
  8. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    When shooting people, I like to back off and use a longer lens and no flash. They don't notice when I am shooting then and the shots turn out so much more relaxed and natural.

    Overall, I am just not happy with my people shots. It seems like less than a fourth of them are OK to me. Other people aren't as picky but it really matters to me. The shots I have that I do like were candids, ever single one of them.

    This weekend, I did all shots of the musician with my 50mm 1.8 as it was the only thing fast enough in that low light resturant. Also, he knew I was coming to shoot him. He is used to it and expected it and did not tense up when I started shooting. In all but a few shots, he completely ignored me. The others in the band were laughing and asking him "who is featuring you this time?"

    I have captured a few people shots that I love. I did some studio/portrait work in class. Everybody loved my shots but I wasn't happy with them. They were all shocked to see me shooting without flash most of the time.

    I think the problem is that my heart lies in abstracts and you just can't get all that abstract with a person.
     
  9. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    To a degree, it is a fault of the equipment. SLRs make such a racket when shooting that you cannot casually squeeze off a few without alerting everyone around. In some situations when long focal length is impossible because of the environment (people surrounding your target, for instance), you have to get in very close. This photo of a recruiting muslim cleric on Edgware Rd in London would have been impossible with an SLR(1). I know the quality is sacrificed, but it's a tradeoff. If I could get a fixed-lens APS-C sensor-equipped non-reflex camera with a 20mm-70mm lens, I would be ecstatic (with a speed of an SLR, so Sony R1 does not qualify).

    One in four? That's an incredible ratio. You should be bursting with pride.

    Then why are you forcing yourself to do something you have no interest in? Just as an exercise?

    (1) BTW, it was shot just about 2 weeks before the bombing of the London underground, including the Edgware Rd station.
     
  10. lakota169

    lakota169

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    Found some old photos in a box that I did in the mid 60's. The first is my only published one. My wife's niece on her 1st birthday. was used on a booklet for an orphanage.
    [​IMG]
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  11. Litespeed_67

    Litespeed_67 LnL operator

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    Seems like you want almost the same camera as I do. An EOS 1N-RS or even EOS RT in a digital format. The pelicle mirror is fixed so there is very little noise (just the shutter and the motor drive on the film cameras). I have both of the cameras I mentioned and in normal ambient noise you would expect at a public gathering, you can't hear them working, even at the 10fps rate of the RS. The biggest advantage for digital would be the fact the sensor could then be installed in a sealed chamber.
     
  12. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    Seriously? Maybe I am being too hard on myself...

    Two years ago my ratio was about 1:20 so I have improved, even by my standards, but I would like to get to where almost all shots are keepers. I did a friend's wedding last Christmas. Out of over 600 shots, about half of those were keepers by my standards. I wanted better than that...

    Starting to shoot some film has really helped me (with all shots) because I take a minute to stop and think instead of thinking if this is crap, I will just delete it.



    Money! :)

    I want to do weddings and maybe go far enough to open a studio one day. Get some money back out of this hobby. I have to get the people shots better before I would consider either as anything more than a hobby...

    If I had a second body, I would already be doing weddings. I know most people think they are a headache but the pressure doesn't bother me at all. After working in a family owned greenhouse during spring, it is almost impossible to stress me out from pressure :supergrin:

    Last fall a friend got married. His wife's family hired some high-dollar pro. I shot a LOT of candids and a few posed shots alongside the pro. My shots were a lot better than those in the album the pro did.

    Maybe POSING is my problem? Candid, relaxed shots don't seem to be a problem for me...
     
  13. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    Perhaps we have crossed wires when defining "keepers". To me, when you shoot a scene, you pick the best and unique few. Those are "keepers". It doesn't mean that others couldn't be used, but they are not unique and are not essential to the story.

    I do not hope for all unique shots. I hope for all good shots, but I won't keep them all, only a small percentage. There are good shots, and there are better shots.

    Don't tempt me. :supergrin:

    For that you need attitude and repetition. The former will come with the latter. Now the question is how to get the latter.
     
  14. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    Let me try again, I had over half of the shots that were more than good enough to go into her wedding album. Of those, I had favorites but all the "keepers" from that night were technically good shots. Now out of all the good shots, I have four or five of them in my portfolio. Those are the best of the best... I want to up the best of the best ratio.

    On the other side of the spectrum is that damn lock on that damn masoleum I have taken over 800 shots of and I still haven't gotten what I see when I look at it! Technically, almost all of those shots were "good" but I am not happy with them because I can't capture what I "see" when I look at it. How do I make that jump and capture what I "see" when shooting?

    I print very few shots which is what I consider to be my keepers. If I print it to show it to somebody, I consider that to be a GREAT shot unless I am sharing it for criticism only. I save all of them, especially the worst ones, because I learn from them. I can look at the EXIF and think a lower f/stop would have been better or wonder how a slower shutter speed would have worked... I have learned TONS from reviewing shots I blew. I may never look at them again, but the original images are archived where I can go back if I want.

    My favorite images are stored in a special folder of my "Favorite Pics" and there are not that many in it. There are even a few in there that are horrid pics but for some reason or another, I really like them. I don't share that many of my shots with people because I don't feel they are that great. Only the best of the best is shared.

    Am I making sense? Or have I succeeded in confusing you, too? :supergrin:
     
  15. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    :tease: :notlistening:
     
  16. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    Actually, you are making sense. I operate similarly. I wouldn't worry about the ratios.

    What mausoleum would we be talking about?
     
  17. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    Nothing special. I can't even tell you who is in it. I just really like the old rusted bolt-style lock on it. The iron grate is nice and full of textures but it is the lock that draws me.
     
  18. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    Well, in case that mausoleum does not work out for you, here is a list of all the famous mausolea around the world. ;)
     
  19. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    Oh, now you have given up and resorted to trying to get rid of me :supergrin: :rofl: :wavey:
     
  20. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    I just figured after all that greenhouse stress, you deserve a vacation. ;)