Snapshots, Portraits, and Fine Art Portraits

What is it that separates a ‘Portrait’ from a ‘snapshot’? What makes a Portrait a Fine Art Portrait? There’s a lot more to it than simply making a number of exposures!

First, I’d like to address some of the misconceptions about what constitutes a Portrait. Some insist that a Portrait must have a vertical orientation. Or that a Portrait must be in Black & White, or that the subject must not be looking directly back at the viewer.

Portraits may be either vertical or horizontal, color or B&W, and with the subject looking back at the viewer, or not. These are not the criteria for determining whether a picture is a ‘Portrait’ or a humble ‘snapshot’.

Let’s talk about what a ‘snapshot’ is. Generally, snapshots are photos made on the spur of the moment, with little or no forethought or planning. Snapshots capture moments of reality, usually with no artistic intent, no thoughtful composition, and no special lighting.

Portraits can be made by accident, but that is certainly the exception rather than the rule. There is a whole creative process behind the making of Portraits. For a Portrait Artist the creative process begins with the first moment of contact with the client. That may be on the phone, via email, or in person. Ah! That’s the best…In Person!

I always prefer an in-person interview before creating portraits for anyone I don’t already know personally. Telephone and email can substitute, but there’s nothing like a face-to-face interview to learn about a person. You can experience their mannerisms, body language, and determine if you have “chemistry”, or at least whether you can work well with them.

Sometimes the first meeting or contact with the client is at the time of the actual portrait session. Definitely not the most optimal, but possible to deal with. Portraits can be made, after all, without having to be art pieces, and still have merit as portrait art.

Portraits, as opposed to snapshots, are realistic renditions of the subject(s), in the most flattering presentation. This is achieved through posing, lighting, camera technique, and rapport.

Yes, rapport! The photographer-artist must be able to draw out the personality of the subject. Of course, that’s easier to do if you’ve had a couple or more meetings with them prior to making images of them for portraits. But certainly possible on a short notice, one meeting scenario.

This one meeting/planning/portrait creation scenario, in fact, is by far the most common. Think Mall, or chain-store studios. Can an ‘Art Portrait’ be created under such circumstances? Certainly it is possible, but it would require exceptional ability on the part of the artist.

A much better environment for creating Art Portraits is developed by interviewing the subject, and learning about their interests, motivations and beliefs. What is important to them. With this information, the artist can begin to construct conceptions for portraits, which will evoke the personalities of their subjects.

For individual portraits, the goal is to portray the person in such a way that the viewer of the portrait will get a sense of what the person is about. For family, or group portraits the goal becomes to show the relationships, love or friendships within the group or family.

In all cases, Portraits require “finishing”, or “post-production” work. In the majority of cases, (think Mall, or Chain studios), post production is limited to color and density correction, processing and printing. Now that most all studios are ‘digital’, some light retouching may be included, but usually at an additional charge.

When a portrait has been properly prepared for with an interview/consultation, properly lit, posed and exposed, then it is in post production that the “art” of the portrait is brought to life.

Before digital changed all our lives, retouching was done on negatives and prints. Vignetting by dodging and burning, and “sandwiching” images was all done in the darkroom with enlargers, paddles and screens, and smelly chemicals!

In today’s digital workflow, the photo-artist does all the retouching, dodging, burning, highlighting, blurring, and other effects via computer software. And while creating many of these effects are easier digitally than they used to be with film, it still requires planning, artistic vision, expertise and plenty of time to execute. Typically, I’ll spend 15 to 30 minutes working on an image of just one or two people to prepare it for printing. Longer for more people, or if I’m collaging images, or making special effects etc.

So what does it take to produce a Fine Art Portrait? Knowledge of your subject(s), usually gained during the interview/consultation; Thoughtful planning and preparation, utilizing the knowledge gained in the interview, and your personal artistic vision; Skill in the use of your lighting and camera; Care in guiding your subject(s) into poses that convey the mood sought, or that add to the portrayal of personality; Time and Pantience and Expertise in using the tools at your disposal with which one prepares the images for final printing; And lastly, the media that the prints are made on, and the finishing and mounting of the prints for delivery to the client.

In the end, Fine Art Portraiture begins with the intent. It requires cooperation on the part of the subject, and relies on the vision and skills of the artist.

Life is Full of Snapshots When Facing a Health Challenge

The newest phenomenon to become a dinosaur in our culture is Kodak’s Kodachrome film. In the age of digital film is used less and less, but this film can be tagged with lots of memories you’re probably familiar with from the pages of National Geographic and other magazines. Today because of technology we choose to get our results with the push of a button, but one thing stays the same…life is full of snapshots.

Every memory in your mind is snapshot. It contains people, places, and things that are of importance to you. They represent your feelings, thoughts, and emotions and those memories surface every time you call them to the foreground of your consciousness.

When diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness many choose to push the personal photo album to the far places in their mind. You are afraid that recalling what once was has no bearing on the life you’re living today when in fact it is the cornerstone of every new snapshot you take.

We all live life looking through a lens. Following the diagnosis your lens may alter slightly, but who you are is still the same. Your memories are the same as are the stories you’ve told for years. The new photos are not simply images, but reflections. Following your diagnosis you begin to shift from simply taking snapshots to creating your personal photo-journalistic point of view. It’s not simply about the picture, but the story that is filled with light and shadow that allows you to reinterpret your new life.

You get to choose the lens you will use for this journey. You may use a telephoto lens in order to get close up to things that are far and you want to keep at a distance. A fish eye lens may give you enough distortion to make what’s difficult more palatable. No matter the lens you use selecting it with intention is at the crux of your internal photo-journalistic journey.

It’s your choice how you see the world. After an illness diagnosis the lens you choose will impact your treatment options, your attitude, and how you live each and every day. Don’t go the way of the dinosaur; keep your snapshots in the present and glory in each and every frame of your life.

Credit – The Snapshot-Frozen Scan

Information in a bureau’s repository is always changing. This is due to the internal factors inherent in the database itself, such as items automatically dropping off after the data-retention period expires or closed accounts dropping after 10 years. (Credit bureaus are not required to keep positive information any longer than they do adverse, yet their common policy is to retain non adverse closed accounts for 10 years.) Database information can also change due to external factors, including the direct modification of the data by virtue of deleting or changing existing entries or adding new ones.

Since a credit report is a living record that is constantly in flux, bureaus need a way to go back and view the report the way it was at a specific point in time. Using this archival system of data retrieval, often referred to as a snapshot or “frozen scan,” assists them in discovering the source of errors and other problems and is particularly useful for rooting out identity theft or file merger mistakes. There are at least two types of snapshots.

The monthly snapshot is created every 30 days automatically. This data has actually proven extremely valuable in lawsuits against the bureaus, where it has served to demonstrate systematically how bureau mistakes and shoddy database management have negatively affected large groups of people. What I refer to as a general snapshot is generated any time an inquiry is made on your credit report-including one you make when you run a credit report on yourself, either directly from a bureau or through a third-party credit report provider. Should discrepancies arise, this enables the bureaus to go back in time and look at the exact report that existed at the time of the inquiry if necessary, in order to deal with any problems. However, when you pull a report for yourself through a third-party credit report provider, such as FICO, a snapshot is not taken.

This is a shame, since it’s the FICO score that matters most because it’s the one most lenders use. FICO is closely associated with the Big Three, providing the national bureaus’ reports directly to consumers and tying in its software scoring model to those reports in order to generate a FICO credit score. You also want a snapshot in the bureau’s database because it can be very useful when attempting to have changes made to your report. It will also prove helpful in any legal action that you may embark on later. For this and other reasons, always get your Big Three reports directly from FICO, but also obtain the individual reports directly from each of the Big Three at the same time. It may seem redundant, but the creation of a snapshot in the bureau’s database is important in light of common bureau errors and identity theft.