Portraits – tips for maximizing impact and exposure

Portraits can vary greatly in style, content, and emotion depending on the end goals for the use of the photographs. I’ve put together this checklist with descriptions and examples to help identify which style preferences is right for you – environmental, action, beauty, character, attitude, or group.

ENVIRONMENTAL PORTRAITS

Environmental portraits are most commonly used in editorial publications. The content of these photos tell a story – the background, props, or action is inexorably intertwined with the subject. Context is key, and the caption of the photos is usually the first thing read and most remembered. This is the type of portraiture I most enjoy; with my educational background at Northwestern journalism school and over 15 years of working with publications I’ve photographed hundreds of environmental portraits for magazine covers and feature stories. Capturing unique sense of place portraits can also be one of the most challenging styles – creating an engaging story in one photo takes more time and consideration than capturing a portrait with a generic background. However it can be the most valuable for exposure – with editorial space shrinking there may only be space for a single image to tell your story vs a series of photos. And a portrait with a lot of information included is more likely to run large so the reader can view the details, and lead a story if there’s room for type over part of the image.

Kyle MacLachlan with Pursued by Bear winemaker Dan Wampfler for Wine Spectator

Kyle MacLachlan with Pursued by Bear winemaker Dan Wampfler for Wine Spectator

Environmental portraits also give insight to a more authentic side of the subjects personality. People tend to be most comfortable in their natural environment, and this energy reflects back to the camera. Effectively using natural and portable studio lights on location, determining the the most flattering angle for the face & body, and finding or creating the most engaging scene are all equally important.

Celebrity portraiture can often be highly stylized in controlled studio settings, however overly retouched photos can be unbelievable and make the subject seem unapproachable. Once the portrait is captured minor retouching is ok, but the strength of the image is captured in the camera. While filters and highly processed retouching effects maybe fine and fun for instagram or personal prints, most non-fashion style publications want the personality of the subject make the strongest impact, not the style of the photographer or retoucher’s effects.

Kyle MacLachlan with Pursued by Bear winemaker Dan Wampfler in Walla Walla for Wine Spectator

Kyle MacLachlan with Pursued by Bear winemaker Dan Wampfler in Walla Walla for Wine Spectator

Actor Kyle MacLachlan has been beautifully photographed by the most famous portrait photographers and stylists in the world, and can can easily take on any character or personality. So we decided on a more natural approach to differentiate his Pursued by Bear wine label in magazine articles; it was important to show Kyle’s connection to the vineyard and relationship with winemaker Dan Wampfler with a sense of place photo. For his own Pursed by Bear label, we could be a bit more playful and include the product – who wouldn’t want to join Kyle with the second glass of wine?

Drew Bledsoe with Doubleback winemaker Chris Figgins for Wine Spectator Magazine

Drew Bledsoe with Doubleback winemaker Chris Figgins for Wine Spectator Magazine

Former quarterback player Drew Bledsoe stands at 6′ 5″, and renowned winemaker Chris Figgins is a fit but compact 5’8 – so to capture a portrait of them together minimizing this height difference I chose this angle of the vineyard, giving Drew a pole to lean against and Chris a rock to place one leg on – the angle of the clouds further complement the subjects and creates a dynamic background. And sometimes portraits are non traditional, without the subject looking at the camera – this lifestyle scene focuses on emotion and intimacy, and has been widely used in promotional publications for the Washington wine industry.

Drew & Maura Bledsoe at his McQueen vineyard, Walla Walla, WA

Drew & Maura Bledsoe at his McQueen vineyard, Walla Walla, WA

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Nicaraguan surf & yoga retreat

View from my beachside cabana this week at Magnificent Rock, Nicaragua. Sun, surf, yoga, salsa, repeat. It’s been a week to challenge myself in new adventures – learning to surf over a reef has been one of the most challenging sports I’ve experienced. Successfully pushing past the fear to the exhilaration of riding my first wave to the shore, the magic of watching the sunset over the sea as the full moon rose, & the adrenalin of successfully catching a larger wave were rewards well worth the effort.

View from my bed at the beach cliff hut at Magnificant Rock, Nicaragua

View from my bed at the beach cliff hut at Magnificant Rock

Pelicans hunt for fish as the sun sets over the pacific ocean at our private beach in Costa Dulce, Nicaragua

Pelicans hunt for fish as the sun sets over the pacific ocean at our private beach in Costa Dulce

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Wine Spectator Christophe Baron feature story photos

Honored to photograph Harvey’s Steinman’s “A Vigneron in Walla Walla, Christophe Baron turns rocks to Gold” feature story in the Wine Spectator May 31, 2016 issue – http://www.winespectator.com to subscribe for digital or print copy

Christophe Baron, Cécile Randon and their dog Hélios at Hors Categorie vineyard

Christophe Baron, Cécile Randon and their dog Hélios at Hors Categorie vineyard

Christophe Baron inside 10 foot pit next to his Tribe Vineyard, showcasing soil and depth of vine roots.

Cayuse winery studios adjacent to Aramata, Pacienca & Sur Enchalas syrah & granache vineyards.

Christophe Baron & Trevor Dorland walking through the Cailloux vineyard

Christophe’s vineyards are cultivated biodynamically,; draft horses plow many of his vineyards

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Cuba

Cuba, the energy of this place captivated me. The openness of the people, the rhythm of the music and dance, the layers of art, history, and culture. I’ll return, and write more impressions in the future – in the meantime here’s a few photo highlights of my visit in Jan 2016 leading a photo tour for http://lumariaworkshops.com

A beautifully restored red cadillac with driver wearing Cuban hat, Havana.

A beautifully restored red cadillac with driver wearing Cuban hat, Havana.

It's not just tourists in the classic cars.  According to Chris Baker's "Cuba Classics' book, "About 60,000 cars - one in every eight cars in contemporary Cuba (compared to one in every 400 cars in the USA) - is a pre 1960's American model."

It’s not just tourists in the classic cars. According to Chris Baker’s “Cuba Classics’ book, “About 60,000 cars – one in every eight cars in contemporary Cuba (compared to one in every 400 cars in the USA) – is a pre 1960’s American model.”

Washing the car in a backstreet of old Havana

Washing the car in a backstreet of old Havana

Boxers train at Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym (Rafael Trejo Gimnasio al Aire Libre), an open air ring with stadium seating in old Havana, lead by Cuban Olympic coach Nardo Mestre Florez.  Boxing is perhaps the second most popular sport in Cuba, behind baseball.

Boxers train at Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym (Rafael Trejo Gimnasio al Aire Libre), an open air ring with stadium seating in old Havana, lead by Cuban Olympic coach Nardo Mestre Florez. Boxing is perhaps the second most popular sport in Cuba, behind baseball.

Cuba_Havana_20160111_030

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Wine Spectator Oregon 2016 Feature tearsheets

Congratulations to all of Oregon’s Willamette Valley wineries featured in the Feb 2016 issue – my photos from the current issue:

Wine Spectator Oregon Feature photos 2016, Maggie Harrison, Antica Terra

Wine Spectator Oregon Feature photos 2016 -Maggie Harrison, Antica Terra

Wine Spectator Oregon Feature photos 2016, Jason Lett, Eyrie

Wine Spectator Oregon Feature photos 2016, Jason Lett, Eyrie

Wine Spectator Oregon Feature photos 2016, Domaine Nicolas-Jay

Wine Spectator Oregon Feature photos 2016, Domaine Nicolas-Jay

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