What Makes A Good Portrait?

Since someone had the bright idea of putting a camera into the cell phone, the number of photographs has exploded. Daily there are something like 1.8 billion photos taken. To put it in context every two minutes the world creates more photos than existed 150 years ago.

At a recent concert in Philadelphia the organizers did not bother to get a professional photographer but asked the audience to snap away to their hearts content and then crowd-sourced the images. Nowadays everyone is a photographer.

What makes a good portrait?

people photographer

Once you look into what makes a good picture, you learn that the picture has a story and it is the story that is the interesting part. The picture of you propping up the Leaning Tower of Pisa is much more interesting than the tower on its own.

It is this ability to catch a story which makes the difference between a people photographer and someone who catches a reminder of the moment on their cell phone. It is the story which causes the emotional reaction in the viewer; and it is the reaction which makes the difference between a snap and a portrait.

What makes a bad one?

Interestingly, the professionals will tell you that what makes a bad photo is usually technical things. It is the lighting, or a blurry subject or too much action in the picture.

A good portrait is about the story it tells and the reaction you have to it. A bad photograph is because the technique was wrong. There has to be more to it surely, and of course there is. That’s why some people can make a living at it and others will always be a taker of snaps. But start with the basics, work on your technique.