Setting up a portrait can be tricky. As photojournalists, we usually spend our time trying to blend in and go unnoticed so that we can gather the moments in a situation without influencing the scene. When it comes to portraits, we have to peer out from behind the camera and make things happen.
Earlier this week, I spent some time with a World War II veteran making a portrait of him in his home. He had lots of newspaper clippings, old photographs, his Purple Heart, and even the piece of shrapnel that hit him.
I had the task of finding a way to make a good photo of him that had that content, good light, and a composition that would draw someone in. Phew.
There was a lot of delicately moving things around, trying to find the best way to get a display of the items and layer them with him. I ended up with this photo.
Although I like the layers of information in this photo, it just wasn’t quite working. It’s an angle that I’ll revisit the next time I have a similar opportunity, but this one just wasn’t there. I decided to try laying things down across the table and doing a wider shot.
This time, it was just too wide. He gets lost in the photo, and I want him to be the focal point. So, I decided to simplify things a little bit more.
This is the photo that I ended up going with. It’s cleaner than the others, and it draws you in to get to know more about him. The Purple Heart is still there to add an extra bit of information, and I included a secondary detail photo of some of the other articles.
The lesson for this one: sometimes, less is more.