We have all seen the standard portrait; face forward, smiling, soft focus maybe. While the standard portrait formula works well and produces nice images, it’s often a good exercise to think outside the box.
This grouping of unconventional portraits (including self portraits) is creative work by photographers willing to take the risk to produce something memorable. While you might not find them all pleasing, they do offer a fresh take on an old format.
A shot within a shot, this image uses technology to enhance the picture. This image was first shot with the iPhone in the foreground and then shot with strobes aimed at the background to give the silhouette effect. I like how it shifts focus from the foreground to the background and back again, searching for the main subject.
Copyright *** Steph ***
Reflections are a great way to present the ordinary in a new light. They can be tricky however as lighting needs to be considered for two subjects. In this case, the hand and mirror as well as the woman’s face. This image appears to be from a single light source and is taken with a point and shoot camera, showing that simplicity works well.
Copyright Kevin N. Murphy
Another example of unique framing using a real frame. If you click on the image you will be able to explore a number of Kevin’s other photos where he experiments with the use of a frame within the frame.
Copyright Sukanto Debnath
I love the action and stillness in this photo. This shot was taken with available light and while the image might have been touched up in Photoshop, it is easy to see how the light streaming in from behind the woman is reflected off the ball of wool to help illuminate her face. This photo also does a tremendous job of relating the reality of the work the woman performs.
While this is an HDR image, I feel the artist does a good job of using it to highlight the captain and not overdo it. The timing of the photo is key here to relating a sense of what it must have been like on the water that day. The subject’s total uninterest in the camera also solidifies this portrait.
Copyright Ben Chau
Everyone has their vices and it’s a good idea to use them in a portrait to help describe the person in a non-verbal manner. In this case, a self portrait of Ben with a nice isolating light engrossed in his MacBook. If you look closely at his right hand, you can see the wireless remote used to fire the camera. Using a grid on the beauty dish (a particular type of flash reflector) helps isolate the light and keep it concentrated on the subject.
Copyright Mike Halsall
While Mike’s portrait is not that unconventional, the story behind the shot is, which I believe adds to the value. Click on the photo to get the whole story. I like what he’s done with the contrast and general ‘grainy’ feel of the photo to help tell the story of this homeless man.
Copyright Mike Halsall
Another of Mike’s photos, completely different from the first showing his versatility. And again, it’s perspective that makes this portrait unconventional. This type of shot requires just a bit of planning and an eye for perspective. Set the camera on the floor, get the camera focused, pick a nice f-stop of cover the needed range and set the self timer (or use a wireless remote).
No one says you have to light the entire face in a portrait. Or open your eyes and smile. This shot does a great job of adding mystery to the photo by removing what we are accustomed to finding in a portrait. Taking the image black and white is a fine choice for this shot.
For the life of me I still can’t figure out exactly how this portrait was shot. Is the subject falling out of the tree? Did he really jump about four and a half feet in the air as his pointed foot suggests? Either way, the photographer’s decision to abandon the conventional strobe and backdrop while still including them in the photo (and the tents as well)is wonderful.
This image is a perfect example of the saying, ‘Don’t try this at home.’ As the photographer notes, this is a self portrait with a high power flash and not something that leaves a good taste in your mouth. But it is a very unique photo and a great tutorial on how certain cavities of the head are connected. Unconventional indeed.
The focus on this could have been a bit tighter on the photographer, but I alike the approach to once again using a reflective surface to mix the main subject with another.
Josh obviously put some forethought into this fun self portrait. It’s a relatively easy setup (except for finding the Superman shirt) and adds a lot of energy to what could be a boring shot. He also employs a radio remote, or sometimes referred to as an infrared remote, depending on the model. As the picture is obviously shot into a mirror, the bounce on the flash helps illuminate without overpowering. Nice work, Josh.
An unconventional portrait can take place when you swap traditional gender roles. Take for instance this shot by eXe_Qt.
Not all portraits need to be happy, smiley photos. In this case Chris does a good job of mixing available light from behind the subject, placing her in an unlikely spot and then balancing the scene with a fill flash that helps add catch light to her eyes.
Changing perspectives again, this shot from above, with the spin thrown in, and the general lack of expression on the model’s face makes this an interesting photo for me. None of these elements alone really would have had the punch all three together can bring to a shot.
Copyright Daniel Zanini H.
Most people would not dream of having their children’s portrait taken in front of armed guards. But that’s what this shot pulls off fairly well. Having one of the guards looking towards the child also adds some attachment to the photo. While the lighting is a bit harsh, the port-production work done to minimize it and draw attention to the child through the use of color appeals to me.
Copyright ELENA LAGARIA
I like this shot for the fact that it does hide the subject but not completely. With the hands making a dark contrast against the screen, the eyes are almost completely hidden, adding a bit of mystery to the scene. Using available light also helped soften the image in a way a flash could not.
Another shot by Derrickt which also uses a number of the elements from pictures above. First, the model is out of focus. Second, the ring in the foreground is used as a frame. And third, the ring is also used to draw attention through the photo. Leaving the model’s face with just enough definition for us to recognize it as such, but blurring it beyond recognition leaves a lasting impression on me.
Silhouettes make excellent portraits when done well. I believe Steph has done an excellent job of providing both a traditional silhouette while letting it define her self portrait. There is clear definition in her facial features and the pose is very elegant. The use of available light from the left makes this a simple setup with great execution.
Copyright Tiago RÔbeiro
Tiago ran a Photo365 project, taking and posting one photo a day for an entire year. Near the end of that project he started a series on phobias and I really like what his did with this image depicting, in a comical way, the fear of being photographed.
A portrait within a portrait within.it takes a while to get this one straight. The shot is not edited in Photoshop (except for some sharpening of the inside image, as noted by the photographer) and is a great exercise in truly thinking out a portrait before it is shot. While this shot borders on portraiture, because of the mixed subject matter, I believe it still pulls it off because of the attention drawn to the photo holder.
Copyright Evil Erin
Self portraits are helped by the fact that it’s fairly easy to be spontaneous. In this case, Erin describes her photograph as ‘I was planning on being productive and clean the kitchen but got distracted’. Placing subjects in their everyday life settings, but in a different manner, helps make a portrait unconventional.
Another picture in a picture, this time using two different expressions. Fairly easy to set up and execute, there is a lot of room for experimenting with this type of self portrait.
Most people would be upset if a shot was taken of them crosseyed. Kim uses the look to add some comedy to this self portrait while grabbing an unlikely prop.
Copyright Hamed Saber
Unconventional can also mean frightening. As with the previous photo, most people would not volunteer to have their photo taken with their mouth wide, wide open. Shot at f/2.8 with a Sony DSC-H1, I’m impressed with the depth of field. I’m also thankful he clipped his nose hairs.
Copyright Anthony Cain ©
Anthony’s self portrait borders on conventional but what I believe takes it outside the norm is his decision to cover most of his face and crop off the rest. Eyes are key to most any portrait and he has chosen to make them the focus, almost exclusively, in this photo while experimenting with lighting the table from below.
And then we have this example from Kapungo where the focus is more than obviously on the eye(s). Exaggerating any part of the portrait easily takes it out of the conventional realm. As with many of the images here, this is also a self portrait.
There are also times when removing the eyes from the picture works well. As gerlos explains, this photo took a number of tries to get it right, as it is a self portrait. With some vignette added, as well as contrast and saturation, the photo is well framed while exaggerating the size of the binoculars.
Lastly, we end with another self portrait taken with the help of a tripod and self timer. This shot is taken nearly directly at the sun to fully silhouette the model while the forced perspective gives him a larger than life feel. I can only imagine how many shots it must have taken to get this portrait.