What Makes a Good Portrait?

I stumbled across this video online a week ago and thought it more than worthy of a share. The video highlights what we get lost in as photographers and what is really important in making a great portrait.

Portrait photography is perhaps one of the most popular genres in our art form, from weddings to headshots and family portraits through to commercial ad campaigns. However, there seem to be trends that a lot of us find ourselves falling into as portrait photographers. If you look through the images in the galleries here, you will find a great deal of them being portraits. You will also be able to group them into a few genres that are trendy right now as well as those that have more of a classical approach to portraiture. 

In this video, Richard Bradbury really digs down into what makes a great portrait and what you need to both creatively and technically understand in order to produce an image of merit. He also goes on to look at the fads and short-lived trends that a lot of us end up falling into. I also think that this video's topic can be used for pretty much any genre of photography. As a food photographer, it is certainly something that I can relate to. 

What do you feel are the most important aspects required for a great portrait?

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14 Comments

Richard Bradbury's picture

That has nothing to do with it at all.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Your sorry and deplorable ass is still here??

Richard Bradbury's picture

Thank you for the post Scott Choucino

Mr Drizz's picture

Some valid points there pal.

Pratik Dhakan's picture

Platon & Richard Avedon would be good reference on the topic.

Richard Bradbury's picture

I keep meaning to pick up a book on Avedon's work and watched a talk from Platon last year which was great. Can;t find it online now though.

Maciej Wontorowski's picture

Sounds very ambitious - not very sellable and a photographer would need some extreme luck to get noticed. I guess people post photos here to get noticed. I've just scrolled down beneath this article to look at portrait images. 18 out of 20 look filled with sex&beauty as the essence wrapped up in fancy setting, clothing and fake poses. Your article points at something else and thank you for that.

Richard Bradbury's picture

Thank you for you input.

I don't think it its as down to luck as we may think. More marketing and finding the right clients for such work.

Portraits today do seem to have gone down a path f fitting a certain style, look or theme rather than focusing on the person in front of the lens and their story. Everything has its place no doubt though and I think that us photographers have to also find ours in this craft.

Ken gervais's picture

Interesting..good points...i would like to know some techniques..for example phrases, events, etc...how do you illicit the emotions?

Richard Bradbury's picture

Hi Ken,

That's a good idea for a video. Leave that with me.

Timothy Gasper's picture

Hmmm.....what makes a good portrait? I'd have to say hearing these words from a client....."Hey, that's a good portrait!"