Artist Portraits

As an artist or maker, the most important thing is getting word out about what you create. You need people to see your pieces to entice them to buy or hire you for a commission. But that doesn't mean that you as the master behind the work aren't important. People are far more likely to care about handmade when they know more of the story that you have authored. Your work exists because of you, and plenty of people will want to know you. So the question to consider is whether or not you're sharing enough about yourself with your potential supporters? They simplest way to create a personal connection in the online marketplace is a quality, representative portrait of yourself!

I've heard many artists say that they want their art front and center, but don't let that create distance between yourself and your buyers. The more they know you, the more likely they are to support you, and that connection can turn into repeat purchases as well as recommendations to others. This is especially true if you work on commissions and custom requests. People who meet you at events will get the personal touch, but remember that photography is the best way to do this online. A handful of good portraits can help your customers know you and feel more comfortable connecting. Think also about exhibits and gallery representation. They'll likely choose based on examples of your work, but that choice is to feature and promote you as an artist. Would you have a well shot photograph of your professional artist self to share if they ask? The word Professional here is key. If you want to look legit, your portrait must say that. No snapshots of a night out with friends cropped out or spur of the moment selfies. That's not to say you can't take your own images, but be sure to put as much thought into the photos you use to represent yourself as those of your work.

Types of Shots:

  • If you're asked for a Headshot, that means a photo of your face. You can usually crop with your shoulders included, but our head should take up more than half the frame.

  • Traditional Portraits are simple like a Headshot, but they show more of the body. You may opt for waist up or full body, depending on what posing feels natural.

  • An Environmental or Lifestyle Portrait should include you in your studio or workspace, surrounded by tools and projects. The idea is showing you in your natural habitat. 


Photoshoot Attire:

  • As an artist, you have a lot more freedom than other industries. Professional doesn't necessarily mean business attire. It just means put together.

  • Wear clothing that represents you and your work. For Environmental Portraits, you should likely be dressed in what you wear while you work, or at least a tidy version of that.

  • If you can include your branding, that always helps; for example, a characteristic color.  


Setting:

  • Headshots and Traditional Portraits should be set very simply; just you and the backdrop. Any props should be limited and only included if they are part of the portrait like a piece of your work for example.

  • Other types of portraits all for more creativity in where you pose. Your studio may be the best place or at an exhibit of your work. The focus is still on you as the artist, but the context is created by what surrounds you.


Lighting:

  • No matter what type of portrait, your photographer should pick lighting that flatters your face. More often than not, this is soft or diffuse lighting, above and to one side.

  • Unless you want stark shadows for effect, avoid direct lighting or bright sunlight. You also don't want dappling created by the mix of sunlight and shade.

  • Professional photographers will usually have several sources of light to balance out the scene while making sure the focus is on you. 

  • It's also important to make sure the light doesn't create an unreal color cast on your skin so you look like yourself.


Posing & Expression:

  • The most important aspect of posing for any portrait is picking something that looks natural. While being in front of a camera may make you feel awkward, try to relax and be yourself so people viewing your images aren't equally uncomfortable.

  • Angling your body slightly to the side instead of facing the camera head on tends to be more flattering for the average build. 

  • The type of portrait will also determine whether or not you should be looking at the camera. For headshots, you should, but with the others you don't necessarily have to. In terms of expressions, a smile is the most welcoming, but again, think about the tone.

  • Any additional touches you want to add that fit with your personality can make the portrait more dynamic. Just be sure to avoid what might come off as contrived or uncharacteristic.


I hope these tips help you think through the different aspects of portraiture. The goal is to capture yourself as you are and how you want to share yourself with the art world. If you have questions or would like to learn about a portrait shoot, let's talk!

© 2020 Photo Annie ATX | Austin, TX | annie.winsett@gmail.com

Please do not reproduce images without photographer's permission.