Portraiture vs. Headshots

Portraiture vs. Headshots

Chiaroscuro (light-shadow) is a printing technique that dates back from the 1400s, but was elevated to a full artistic form of expression by the 17th and 18th century painters of Flanders (e.g. Rembrandt, Rubens) and France (such as George Delatour). This dramatic lighting technique was fully embraced by cinematographers and photographers in the 20th century.

Portraiture photography is not the same as ‘doing headshots’. The latter work has a functional purpose, the former has an artistic intent.

Headshots require correct lighting and exposure, a discreet background and giving a few instructions to the subject. Sometimes, some quick photoshoping work to remove less flattering facial features (zits, spots, fine or deep wrinkles).

Portraiture on the other hand is the art of showing the soul of the model, in the studio or in action. This is a full artistic discipline which often requires complex post-processing (in Lightroom or Photoshop), and some significant knowledge of painting and B&W techniques.

There is a world of difference between the two. You could not pay me to do a headshot. In this example, I created a portrait in action of Pastor Scotty Gurulé, one of my favorite models.

This is the explanation of my workflow.

Color processing in Lightroom: I boosted Highlights on the face, and sharpened the shot (Amount, Radius, Detail) to extrude maximum details. I corrected the extra noise somewhat using the Luminance and Color filters. To obtain richer colors than the original shot, I used the Split Toning filter and brought up Highlights in the green. This tweaking enabled me to get an event better definition of the fine structure of the face.

The background was already pretty dark in the original shot but I vignetted it some more to magnify the bouncing off of light on the Pastor’s face.

Using the brush to create low exposure, high contrast areas, I hid some of the details of his hoodie to avoid dispersing the viewer’s attention onto extraneous details.

On advice of my friend photographer Jim Harris, I cropped the portrait a bit more.

Equipment: Canon EOS 5D MkII, telelens Canon 70-200 mm, Lightroom 4.4.