Orthodoxy and Originality in Portrait Photography
Portrait photography requires both orthodoxy and originality. Orthodoxy, in this context, refers to the essential conventions—etiquette, skill, technique—necessary for every photographer, their craft, to capture the unique personality of the subject photographed. Originality speaks of the creativity behind personalising the photographic image itself, the art. Both are crucial, and both speak to the calibre of the photographer.
However, too often originality can be to the detriment of orthodoxy. The photographer can be tempted to aim for an eye-pleasing, ego-tickling image that speaks more of her own originality than the subject’s personality—essentially choosing style over substance. Allow me to fuss with the issue a little more.
Orthodoxy and Originality ~ Both/And
It goes without saying that it’s never an issue of “either/or” but “both/and.” We want both orthodoxy and originality; the craft done well and the art off the charts. We want to capture the beauty of the subject in all his or her glory, and create a product that grabs the attention and pleases the eye. However, we don’t want to compromise on orthodoxy in the name of originality.
Why does this happen? Why the imbalance between orthodoxy and originality? For various reasons, I guess. The photographer can become too familiar with her craft. Doing the right things right can become boring and old hat. Or she could be swept up with prevailing trends and fads, forgetting what’s essential. Alternatively, she could get lazy, leaning too heavily on post-process editing rather than the work required in the photographic session itself. Or, in the competitive world of portrait photography, she might prioritise originality over orthodoxy to stay on the cutting edge.
Whatever the reason might be, it behoves us as professionals to keep a healthy balance between orthodoxy and originality, our craft and our art. At the end of the day, we’re not just artists who can do as we please—in our own time, of course, we can—but integrity and pride, and the customer, matters too. Here’s a question to ponder on:
If I remove the bells and whistles, the frills and tassels, does my work stand on its own?
Trends and Fads ~ Here Today, Gone…
A fad is something that has a brief moment in the spotlight but fades away relatively quickly. Trends are more enduring; some last forever, other trends morph into better versions of themselves. A fad might become a trend, and naturally, fads might differ from continent to continent, from one photographer’s niche to another.
What do you consider trends and fads from this list?
Newborn on the platter? In the drawer? In the stork’s cloth? In a tiny bed? On a little chair? Box, or crate? A bucket? Fake flooring? Fake backdrops? A host of props? Newborn with a big flower on the head? Hats and hoods? Or a crown? Or Dad’s favourite footie team? The froggie pose? Other composite poses? Images of just the feet, or hands? A baby in the flower pot? Tea cup? Antique carriage? Victorian furniture? Bee costume? Fairy costume? Pirate costume? Angel wings? Puffy skirts? Cake smash? Colourful candy? Colourful blankets, balloons or umbrellas? (Phew! And this is just what came to mind now.)
Some are clearly fads that have thankfully had their moment and passed away with common sense. Others have prevailed as popular trends. All of them get our creative juices flowing, and as artists, photographers wisely keep their eyes open for ideas—even if your experiment on your daughter’s doll remains for your eyes only.
Portrait Photography: Making Moments That Last
So, when it comes to orthodoxy and originality, it’s not an “either/or” issue. It’s “both/and.” Committed to doing the essentials right, making sure we capture the unique personality and beauty of our subject, the sky’s then the limit when flexing our creativity muscles.