Portrait – what does it mean? It means different things to different people but the dictionary definition is ‘A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person.’ And that last bit for me sums it up perfectly, likeness, personality and mood.
Back in 2012 I photographed a lovely family in Stockton Heath, near Warrington in Cheshire. Mum and dad, their fourteen year old son and eleven year old daughter, and their golden retriever, Jasper. Like most of my family portrait photography sessions, we did the shoot at their home using natural light and real backgrounds, producing s selection of photographs including full family groups with and without Jasper, mum and dad, son and daughter, mum and son, dad and daughter, mum and daughter, dad and son and then individuals of each of them.
In September 2019 I was asked to return to do a new family portrait session. I took number of natural light portraits as an update from their previous portrait session in 2012. But seven years on their son was 21 and their daughter was 18, and we all wanted to create dramatic portrait photographs that summed them up as young adults with all of the energy and emotion that goes with it. So I took a completely different path and used my Profoto studio lights and a charcoal background which I normally use for doing corporate headshots. One of my favourite light modifiers is a 3’x1′ strip box reflector which is brilliant for a dramatic portrait but not so good for most corporate headshots. I like the angular light and the mood it creates. We set up a backdrop and the Profoto B1 main light with strip box to the left of the camera. Although digital cameras shoot everything in colour as a default these photos were always going to be black and white. Profoto’s lighting system costs an arm and a left but the quality of the light is superb and they are battery powered so they can be used anywhere. Indoor or out they are brilliant to work with and flexible. I’ve used them on the beach, for urban portrait shoots, in fields and forests. You name it, they’ve been there with me.