In this blog post I decided to tackle a pertinent question: What is conceptual portrait photography?
Conceptual portrait photography is basically a portrait session that starts with an idea behind it. It is usually a process that is born out the imagination which will then lead to a final image.
My perfect allegory for this, is to imagine there were are two types of painters. The first painter just paints what he sees in front of him, whether it is a person, object or a landscape (i.e. wedding, event or standard studio photography). The second painter thinks of an idea first and then paints what he/she sees in their mind, this is what conceptual photography is.
In conceptual portrait photography, the main subject of the photograph will be the person(s), and its through this subject that the idea comes to life; that the story is told.
In this kind of situation, you and your photographer, should discuss your main idea/concept for your own dream shoot and plan/prepare the make-up, hair styling, the props, the location and your wardrobe all before your session date.
Is a conceptual portrait session the right thing for you?
As much as I would like to say "yes" to everyone that comes my way, the truth is that a conceptual portrait session is not for everyone.
Thus, before you invest your time and money in this kind of portrait session, it is important to consider some factors.
Here, I tried to break down these factors into 6 main points:
- Your look
Are you looking for portraits where you can simply just wear/use your everyday clothes/make-up? Or are you looking for something different, where your look and style is similar to that out of a storybook or magazine? If you said “yes” to the latest question, than this is a good cue that a conceptual portrait is exactly what you are looking for.
As mentioned before, conceptual photography usually is born out of an idea or concept. This will impact the kind of posing in this photography, as it needs to be more “theatrical” in a way. If you are a person whom moving in front of a camera does not come as naturally to you, a good photographer should be able to direct and assist you all the way through the shoot.
In conceptual portraiture, the location is a very important part of your session, as this will ensure your ideas are brought to life. Depending on the photographer you choose, he/she may or not photograph in studio. For example, in my case most of my sessions are done on an outdoors location, not only because of my connection with nature, but also because the location helps the client and viewer imagine the story behind the picture.
Editing plays a bit part in this kind of portraiture too. Different photographers have different styles and skills. Some photographers might have a more painterly look, others make their photographs really vibrant or moody, some are even really skilled at adding or removing backgrounds, objects and other subjects.
The best thing is always to discuss your needs with the photographer beforehand. A serious photographer should be able to tell you what they can or are willing to do, and be able to direct you to someone else if it is something they cannot fulfil.
- Quality over quantity
Due to the amount of preparation, planning and editing involved in this kind of portraiture, your conceptual photographer might provide you with a smaller number of photographs when compared to other professionals. However, you are more likely to get a more precise quality of portraits, that you are proud of. I rather give my clients 10 photographs that will make them eager to display it all over their house, than 100s of photographs that will be sitting in a computer and rarely looked upon. Only you can say what is best for you.
Due to all the planning, editing, team involved and props, conceptual portraiture is a style that will also incur some costs, not only for the client but also for the photographer. Thus it is important to keep this in mind when asking for a quote.
Important: If the quoted price of a photographer does not fit your budget, it is always better to discuss this situation first with him/her, than responding with insults or comparisons between other photographers. Not all photographers are the same, and for many this is their only income. Also some photographers may offer monthly payment plans, which will assist you achieving your dream photoshoot.
That’s it! I hope these 6 points will help you decide what is best for you and your needs, and especially advise you on what to expect if you were to book yourself onto a conceptual portrait session.
If after reading this you are feeling intrigued and would like to discuss how a conceptual portrait session could look for you, I would love to chat with you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a FREE consultation.
Next blog I will be sharing my"Queen Bee" photosession, which is also part for my personal Project: "The Many Faces of Gaia". Stay tuned!
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