The Power of the Portrait

Mastering portraiture involves more than knowing which lens to use to ensure your photograph does not show unflattering perspective distortion. It is not enough that you understand where to place strobes to create dramatic lighting. As portrait photographer Mark Mann explains in this excellent video, it is important that you make a personal connection with your subject.

Mark Mann explains that he loves faces and loves to study faces. It is socially awkward to stare at someone in public and study the relationship between their eyes, mouth, and cheeks, but once we raise a camera between ourselves and that subject, we can view and even study those facial features. It was a love of both faces and photography that led Mark to become a portrait photographer. Portraiture is not simply about studying faces. Nor is it a matter of understanding lighting. For Mark, communication skills are perhaps the most important element to utilize in a portrait session.

John Ricard photographed by Mark Mann.

I met Mark briefly at a Leica-sponsored event a few years ago where he was doing on-site portraits. The image he created of me is one of my favorite pictures of myself. In the video, Mark recounts a story of being photographed and watching the photographer put all of his attention on lighting, cameras, and f-stops. Mark was ignored by the photographer as the photographer took time to adjust all the various tools on set. Then, the photographer pointed a camera at Mark and started taking photographs.

“They might be making a pretty picture. They might be making a creative photograph because of the lighting… but they are not getting anything (out of) me. And to me, that is not what portraiture is about,” he said. As photographers, we are often only given a short time with our subjects. “Make it matter. Talk to them. Be a human being. Try to break it down into those two human beings having an interaction. If you can break it down to that level, you can start getting more power from your portraits,” he said. Check the video for more insight.

John Ricard's picture

John Ricard is a NYC based portrait photographer. You can find more of Ricard’s work on his Instagram. accounts, and

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1 Comment

Nice profile of how a photographer works with the fancy people.