Pretty Picture. No big manifesto.

A significant portion of my business is spent shooting portraits.  I shoot all kinds.  I have fun shooting corporate people because they always have a story or an agenda they are anxious to share with you.  And the higher up the ladder you subject is the more time they've spent in front of cameras.  That makes them easy to work with.  They know how to move and what expressions to make in front of the lens.

I shoot portraits of kids for two different reasons.  On the lighter side, I take photos for my son's swim team.  It's just a Summer league program at our club but they get a bit competitive and the coach is a recent Olympic gold medal winner.  This is fun and easy.  I know a lot the kids, especially the older ones and I know most of the parents.  I've been doing this for ten years.  My big goals are to make images where the light is nice and the kids are unposed.  I like to capture happy, interactive moments between the kids.  Just for fun I like to try getting each kid mid-dive (or mid-jump, depending on their skill level). They look so exuberant frozen in a highly kinetic maneuvers. Their anticipation of contact with the water is so clear....

The other reason I shoot portraits of kids is for a couple of non-profits I work with that deliver educational support services to under-served children.  Here we're making portraits that are a kind of short hand that says, "I'm a great kid,  I have lots of potential,  I'm worth spending resources on, and I am a metaphor for thousands of kids just like me."  That's a lot to say.  Fortunately, the kids are up to the task.  I am there as the conduit or transmitter but they put in the effort that makes the fundraising work.

A lot of the portrait shoots are for advertising projects.  We attempt to show an archetype of a demographic.  In some cases the archetype is aspirational ( you want to become like her ) in other cases it's purely representational (she's just like you and her life was improved by our product.....yours may be as well....).  When we shoot for the agencies we listen very hard and try to reflect everything we here in the model selection, the propping and the wardrobe.  But mostly we listen to hard to understand the look or expression that everyone is trying to express.

The image above is of a model named Kara.  I've worked with Kara on a number of projects and I really like her look.  It's softer than a fashion look and more animated than a "soccer mom" look.  I asked her to do this image with me as a possible book cover for my second book.  I liked the image a lot but my publisher chose another image for the cover.  At some point it is all just personal taste.  I like the image they chose just as well.  It was just different.

We used soft, directional lighting and balanced it with the light in the room behind Kara.  I used an older 14 megapixel full frame camera and an ancient (but yummy) Nikon 105mm 2.5 lens.  I cropped this image to a square because I like squares.

It was all good, clean fun.  I like the crisp blue of Kara's shirt against the warmth of the Saltillo tiles and warm walls of the background.  I like the large aperture setting of the lens because of the way it puts the background out of focus.

There's no manifesto here.  Just a nod to every day portraits.


Murray McMaster said...

Hey Kirk,
I just got a 105 f/2.5 in a thrift store 2 days ago. Cheap. It doesn't meter with my camera but I figure it'll be a good learning tool. And I do like the results I've gotten so far.
Thanks for the Blog.

Curt Schimmels said...

Very nice portrait. I too, like the active look of your model, Kara. I'm wondering though, when I looked at the image up close, was there some touch up done on her cheeks?

Dave Jenkins said...

Lots of terrific writing today, Kirk. If you want to do another book, it's right here in your blog posts. Just organize, categorize, and do a little editing. I would buy it in a heartbeat.

Radu said...

Posts like these makes me realize again one of the main reasons I follow your blog every day: because I like shooting (and looking at) portraits. Both the carefully executed ones (like fashion, advertising, magazine covers) but also everyday portraits like the one above.

Your posts about the main lighting rigs you use is at the top of my mind for several weeks. I also restarted to consider the expression of the subject (and getting or helping create an interesting one) before pressing the shutter (I spent a quite some time considering and practicing lighting, so I have to remember it's about the subject, not the lighting). I also liked the post about using that bridge as a location for portraits and how you can create different looks by changing the position, lighting and time of day when you shoot.

Keep them coming, and continue to describe both the idea/feeling and some technical details.

Ezequiel Mesquita said...

Beyond aspirational (how much I'd like to achieve such levels of mastery and eye) and representational (how I identify with your way of thinking about photography) your pictures and writing are always deeply Inspirational.
BTW, I like Kara´s portrait much more than the one that finally made your book cover. Maybe it's the joyful and reassuring mood... Thanks for sharing it!

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Ezequiel, Thanks! I pitch the images I like but in the end the publishers own the cover and have their own marketing reasons for making the choices that they do. They have a much better idea of what all is in the market and what might overlap, etc.

That being said, I really, really like the image of Kara. Kara is very sweet and nice and I think it shows right through in the photos.