Boring Portrait Series

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Cholentpot

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I used to do colour printing for a number of professional photographers back when everything was on film.
Thousands and thousands of studio and wedding portraits.
You might have been bored by what I printed, but there were an awful lot of fine photographs of people.
Perhaps you are looking for the unique, when that isn't really what the photographers are aiming for.
The uniqueness may not be in the photograph, but rather in each subject.
And for what its worth, I think uniqueness in general is over-valued - a very fine photograph doesn't suffer because it has something in common with other fine photographs.

Agree with you here.

When it come to people keep it simple. The individual is a story all by itself. It can be boring flat and bland but it's still an entire universe in that photo.

Rule #1 of portraits is not distract from the subject itself. Isolate the subject so that the subject of the portrait is front and center and all the attention goes to the subject. It's boring and maybe not so creative but that's the point.
 
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Pieter12

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And I totally understand why the change may not appeal to you - it doesn't really appeal to me.
But are we the target audience?
Very true. I was hoping that maybe a member of the target audience would speak up and give me some insights. Otherwise, to me it is a confusion on the part of the photographer between formula and creativity.
 

ic-racer

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Most portraits are boring to me, I don't take them or spend much time looking at them (unless those few great ones by the masters).

I think the most boring and meaningless photography is stock or pseudo-stock photography. For example this random 'photography' page from the internet.
By definition stock photography has to be meaningless, because its meaning needs to be imparted on it from the context in which the end-user places the image.
Screen Shot 2023-01-15 at 9.48.38 PM.jpg
 

Cholentpot

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Most portraits are boring to me, I don't take them or spend much time looking at them (unless those few great ones by the masters).

I think the most boring and meaningless photography is stock or pseudo-stock photography. For example this random 'photography' page from the internet.
By definition stock photography has to be meaningless, because its meaning needs to be imparted on it from the context in which the end-user places the image. View attachment 326793

If they could be AI generated then that's what would be up on the stock sites. These are made to have your eyes gloss over and find the words. They're technically perfect and devoid of anything else by design. The goal of these is to be insipid. Why even critique this stuff?
 
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Pieter12

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Stock photos are a different thing altogether. A photographer or stock agency is trying to foresee what a potential client might want or need to illustrate a specific idea or situation and small variations could mean a sale rather than just a single shot. It's the nature of the business and does not pretend to be art.

I'm not giving up. I do like portraits. Even some that may seem initially uninspired, but sometimes with some time and effort I can find the beauty or interest the photographer intended. What I can't quite fathom is when a photographer publishes (on their website, or as a book or promotional piece) a usually large series of very similar portraits as a project. I have seen such work from respected, well-known photographers, too. Mostly editorial and commercial photographers who have lost touch with what might be a meaningful project. And more from those who would like to consider themselves beyond the commercial realm, as artists. Once again, does the photographer confuse repetition with art or creativity? Is the fact that the subjects all come from the same community (small town, homeless, rodeo cowboys, etc.) or that they were shot on film or with a view camera make this meaningful work?
 

ic-racer

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I guess another way to put it is boring portrait photography reminds me of stock photography. I can't tell them apart.
Screen Shot 2023-01-15 at 10.26.22 PM.png
 

Sirius Glass

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I can see that a group of headshots with everyone looking straight forward like they are at the DMV or getting a passport photograph would get boring.
 

Cholentpot

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I guess another way to put it is boring portrait photography reminds me of stock photography. I can't tell them apart. View attachment 326806

Oh I get you on this.

Clients want this though. In the end they want a clear unobstructed photo of themselves and their family to remember themselves of their event.

After I get the boring and safe shots I try to steer them to something more dynamic. Most of the time they're not interested. I don't upload most of my portrait stuff but once in a while I can get something that's done on my own time.

I was at a D-Day reenactment and this gentleman noticed my somewhat large camera. I asked if I can take a portrait and he said sure. I told him to carry on I'll be back in a bit. He went back to work and I immediately snapped this shot. Is it perfect? Nope. Boring? I don't know, but I accomplished what I wanted to do. Capture the fella in his environment.

nEDNjJw.jpg


Here's another with a different camera a different year

5VxGeKz.jpg


So maybe you don't like headshots. I find them boring too, unless there's an element of personality peaking through. Environmental portraits are harder to pull off. It takes more effort and vision to keep it from looking staged. The results won't look perfect, the might be blurry or out of focus. Can't plan too much, the photo just happens.

qmYeaVh.jpg
 

bjorke

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What is a non-boring portrait series?

Hans Eijkelboom? Bruce Gilden?
 
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Pieter12

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What is a non-boring portrait series?

Hans Eijkelboom? Bruce Gilden?

I am going to name a few off the top of my head and try to have them be different in look and approach, just including those that have been presented as a series although there are thousands of great portrait photographs that have been made by many amazing photographers, many compiled in books of portraiture but were not intentionally shot as a series. Avedon's In The American West. Penn's Small Trades. Mary Ellen Mark's Indian Circus. Timothy Greenfield Sanders' XXX: 30 Porn Stars. And so many more. It's not hard to do if you are talented, inspired and original.
 
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Pieter12

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I decided to post a couple of examples of established photographers doing portrait series. Both photographers worked in the studio with artificial lighting.

The first is Martin Schoeller, a well-known and successful editorial photographer known for his style of close-up, in-your-face portraits, usually of celebrities. He also lights everyone he same, a two strip-light set-up (I think Kino flos) that leave a disturbing (to me) cat-eye look. Here is a series he did on homeless people: https://martinschoeller.com/Ivory-Sears
The individual portraits are interesting, but the overall group becomes repetitive and monotonous, it seems like character was left by the wayside. There might be respect for the individuals, but they become just more of the same after a while.

The second is Stephend Vanfleteren, a less-known photographer who shoots almost exclusively in black and white. This is a series he did on surfers: https://www.stephanvanfleteren.com/surftribe/njrckf7p41037whw3qp1brzovnp7mh
I like this series as I sense the photographer considered each subject and decided how to best pose them to reflect something about them. Some have minimal props and the framing varies. Not all are staring right into the camera.

I don't say that is the only way to do a portrait series, but the second example is more interesting, varied and less formulaic.
 

pentaxuser

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I can see that a group of headshots with everyone looking straight forward like they are at the DMV or getting a passport photograph would get boring.

I did often wonder why so many officers at the passport control desks in airports have tears in their eyes😄

pentaxuser
 
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