We interrupt my usual cynicism and gear rants to enjoy a portrait of a beautiful woman.

©2011 Kirk Tuck Photography.  Austin, Texas.

People who don't do portraits have odd ideas about the process of making portraits. They seem to think that you can meet, greet, develop instant rapport and slam out a masterpiece all in the first session with a complete stranger.  Might work sometimes.  But rarely for me.   Here are all of my secrets.  Practice, practice, practice.  My best portraits generally happen on the second or third session with a sitter.  WHAT?????  Multiple sittings?????  Yes.

There's a difference between a retail portrait sitting that conforms to both a standard style and a standard expression, and a portrait sitting that's done because you want to do portraits as art.  When I photograph some of the people you see in my blog posts the best photographs come from long term relationships with models.  Not romantic relationships but shooting relationships.  We both enjoy the process and we collaborate and creating images.

I photographed Renee Zellweger off and on for nearly a year and every session looked and felt different.  Now I have a three ring binder full of images and it's easy for me to narrow down and find the expressions that resonate with me.  I photographed Lou Ann probably once a quarter for several years and Michelle at least four times before I got the images I liked.

While this might not be a workable solution for "enterprise" or even just good business, it's a great way to get images that stand the test of time and of which you can be proud.  And it's a great way to fill each other's portfolios with work that speaks to something more than just commerce.

The image of Amy, above, came from a fun, long session with Amy and my dear friend Renae G.  While this image didn't jump out at me in the year after I created it I was looking through old files today and came across this take again and made a scan.  I like it.  It took time for my tastes to catch up to my intuition.


Bernie Greene Photography said...

Great portrait. There is real connection there that is hard to look away from.

I must say this last line "It took time for my tastes to catch up to my intuition" has so far been the curse of my career to date. It takes far too long to see the best images from a session. There has to be a way to better this. There just has to be. Doesn't there??

kirk tuck said...


Frank Grygier said...

The way you connect with your subjects is the essence of your art. Priceless.

Anonymous said...

Can you tell us the lens you have used, please. It's very clear and sharp - Zeiss?

Nacho Cordova said...

Great portrait, and you've highlighted two things I find quite compelling: First, the notion of letting "tastes" -- or for me disposition, inclination, "catch up" with our artistic sensibility. That takes a bit of opening and letting go, not of clenching hard to this or that. Second, taking the time for that artistic sensibility to emerge, and be nourished (non-commercially). What is of interest to me primarily is that artistic sensibility. Growing, nourishing, and exercising it. That for me speaks of a move from craft to art that has nothing to do with the lens you used, etc.

Thanks. The portrait above has such a contrast in the rounded, almost droopy eyes (at the corners), the soft cheekbones (light making them look a bit softer and more rounded), the sharply delineated but soft lips, and that strong jawline. Love it. The head's soft tilt to the side just brings me right in to wonder along with the subject. I would add that the amount of sittings, the time you take, is probably necessary for a model to just feel at ease and comfortable enough for the best to emerge.


William Souligny said...

Exactly! Hard to see at first, sometimes, what the heart feels. Art can only emerge from craft through caring, consideration, and connection. (I might echo, with a liberal dose of time, as well).

You have all three here. Lovely girl, a classic beauty that will endure with or without being photographed. Thankfully, your art assures that everyone who sees her portrait sees what you saw and felt during your sessions. Thank you.

Dave Jenkins said...

Kirk, it upsets me to think the nitpickers and ankle-biters have beat up on you so much that you would characterize yourself as cynical and your posts as rants. I hope you are just being sarcastic, because I assure you that this is not the way I read you. I see you as having an ongoing love affair with photography and an optimistic view of its future.

I think most carpers and critics have no idea how very difficult it is to have a long-term, successful, career in photography. Their uninformed scribblings are not worth reading, let alone heeding.

kirk tuck said...

Thanks Dave, It's interesting, I used to get a lot more critical mail when I moderated the comments. But now it seems that most people are genuinely interested and very polite and sharing. Maybe when I gave up trying to be in control and just focused on the writing they gave up on being overly critical and focused on the reading. It's a tough way to earn a living but I wouldn't trade it. Been an amazing ride so far. And it seems to be getting better and better by the day.

Nacho Cordova said...

I don't visit as often as I'd like to, but when I do I'm always pleased and enlightened in some way Kirk. I appreciate your blogging very much. Thank you.

sey said...

yes, please keep on interrupting!