Studying famous photographers, painters, and graphic artists is a source of inspiration and knowledge. There’s always something to learn from their style and workflow. Many of them travel or get to know isolated communities very well before telling their stories. Others look for a specific aesthetics and constrain their choices to a single pattern. Some photographers work with models and celebrities, or try to compose a special mood.
Portrait photography is the subtle art of mixing aesthetics and stories using a single face. People are hard to read and even harder to tell. Still, many photographers turn their lenses to portrait photography and catch human essence in a frame. Moreover, photographers manage to have their own style and exhibit unique works of art. Here are the stories of five influential portrait photographers with very different styles and the secrets behind their success.
Terry Richardson has been working for lifestyle and fashion magazines since 1994. He does fashion campaigns for famous brands like Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, and Tom Ford. And he’s almost every time criticized. Nevertheless, critics seem to make him even more famous and published.
Terry Richardson became known for a courageous and erotic style. He’s not afraid to put celebrities in ordinary situations. Sometimes he makes them look like himself and even includes himself as a character in their pictures. He provokes and his attitude has its fans: a book with Lady Gaga, videos for Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus, and a covershot of Barack Obama for Vibe magazine.
Daisuke Kiyota is web designer and photographer, and the graphic intuition can be seen in his fine art portrait works. He mixes people’s personality with a big doze of imagination and a touch of poetry. His compositions are complex, playful, and thoroughly constructed.
As a graphic artist, Daisuke Kiyota uses post-processing extensively to complete his artistic vision. He’s a Skylum ambassador and uses Luminar because it allows him to work with original colors in a natural and delicate way.
Daisuke Kiyota thinks that photography is only the tool he uses to express himself. He says that in a picture you can see the photographer’s perspective on life, people, environment, religion, and aesthetics. And in portrait photography he finds the quintessential beauty.
Stanislav Puchkovsky alias Sean Archer bought his first camera in 2012. He didn’t take any photography course. Just bought a camera and started to photograph his friends. He’s a self-learner and thinks he’s a beginner who learns from his mistakes. Still, in just a few years he became a sensation on 500px and Instagram.
Exclusively dedicated to female portrait photography, Sean Archer improvises his compositions and uses only natural light. He has a seductive and natural style, and many want to know if he does any magic in post-processing or simply chooses beautiful models.
Sean Archer is a Skylum ambassador and uses Luminar, a Mac photo editor known for its realistic approach towards photography. He recommends considering any situation (model, light, location) a good one, taking advantages of any moment, and shooting a lot.
With a long and rich career in music photography, Anton Corbijn creates atmospheric black and white portraits. He works with U2, Depeche Mode, Coldplay, Nirvana, and other musicians, and does covers for their albums, photographs their tours, and produces music videos.
The secret of Anton Corbijn’s success isn’t the fame of the musicians he photographs. The secret is the ability to show their life behind the music, their true selves. He uses soft lights and long exposures. His pictures are intimate, dramatic, and alive. He undresses his characters of fame and glamorous life, and photographs them for what they are: people. Using black and white photography helps him achieve a deeper dimension of intimacy.
Mert Alaş and Marcus Piggott, alias Mert & Marcus, is a couple of fashion photographers known for their outstanding portraits. Their subjects are mostly women, usually models or celebrities like Madonna, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Julia Roberts.
Mert & Marcus do realistic portraits, appealing and elegant. They say they care about appearances and spend many hours with makeup and styling. Most of their pictures are taken in the studio. As a result, they usually use a plain and simple portrait background. For them there is nothing more important than the person in front of them. Mert & Marcus show women that are strong, fresh, and sensitive in the same time.
Whether they produce provoking, elegant, or dramatic pictures, portrait photographers have one thing in common: they care about the people they put in front of their lenses. Photographers may use different techniques and have different workflows, but in essence they are storytellers, deeply engaged with their subjects. Artistic means matter less. What truly connects the public with their pictures is the love they share.