Rules For Professional Portrait Photography – For the Love of It!

Without a doubt, the easiest subject for me to express my feelings about and to write about is this one: The Love For The Job Of Making Portraits!

First, let me just say that I believe that for every occupation, profession or career path there is a personality that is perfectly suited to it. It is my prayer for humankind that everyone should find that occupation that perfectly suits them. I believe that if everyone had the job they loved to do that the world would be a better and much more peaceful place. And really, I thank God that there are people who are happy to do the things I just couldn’t be happy doing! For instance, I couldn’t be an accountant, or a physical therapist. I actually thought at one time I would love to do physical therapy, but I quickly discovered that I couldn’t be happy being around severely injured or sick people every day!

I grew up in south central California, and was never really all that fascinated with Hawaii, or struck with a desire to go there. However, as is often the case, as a result of certain events and circumstances I found myself in Kekaha, Kauai, Hawaii in the June of 1976.

I arrived in the late afternoon, and the drive to the end of the road, Kekaha, where the friend I was visiting lived took nearly an hour in his little Toyota truck. By the time we got to his house, I’d had enough adventuring for that day! I had come to Hawaii with the intent that I would stay for about 3 months, then go back home to California. With that thought in mind, I had determined to go first thing to the post office and sign up for general delivery.

The post office was about a mile from my friend’s house, so I set out to walk it first thing in the morning. I had a much unexpected and nearly spiritual experience on that walk! As I traversed the little residential streets of Kekaha town, past huge colorful hedges, open, unfenced yards, big, sprawling mango trees, past the sugar mill to the post office, I actually experienced a very vivid feeling of welcome coming right up from the ground, and from the very vegetation all around me! It was an experience that I will never stop enjoying! It was like coming home for the first time in my life!

And what exactly does this have to do with portraiture? Well, it was very much the same for me when I discovered photography. Except that when I found photography, I was much younger.

For me, art has always been a passion, and people have always been my favorite subjects. Ever since I could hold a crayon or pencil I’ve been sketching and painting. I’ve always loved looking at books on art, going to art museums, copying famous paintings, and drawing pictures of statues. To me, people are art. And creating portraits that people of all walks and cultures can appreciate for their sensitivity and artistry is the highest form of art.

When I was introduced to photography by way of a twin lens Yashica camera, I was in Junior High School. At first, my fascination was simply for making photographs to see how they would come out. Very quickly though, I became enchanted by the near magical influences one could obtain by altering perspective and adjusting the camera’s controls.

Then I took a class in school and was introduced to the darkroom! What a revelation that was! Talk about influencing and altering the outcome of a photograph! And by no means did it escape my notice that, when you carried a nice big camera around with you, pretty girls were nearly always willing, indeed eager to pose for you! I was completely hooked!

For me the study of art and developing my skills for creating photographic art is a lifetime project. There will never come a time when I will say, “I now know everything there is to know about making beautiful portrait art”! There is and always will be something new to learn or try, and always room for improvement of skills and techniques.

Very simply stated, if you don’t love making portraits, and if you don’t enjoy learning and improving your craft so that you continue to grow in the art, and in the value you give to your clients, then you are in the wrong profession. If you don’t love making portraits, find something else to do, for you are doing a disservice to yourself, your clients and the profession.

As I stated at the outset, for every profession, career, vocation, there are people who are particularly well suited. For portrait photography, the personality traits that contribute to the ideal for this art are:

1) A love for people,
2) A love for the science and technology of photography, and a natural affinity for it,
3) A love for making sensitive, meaningful art, and,
4) A desire to continuously improve.

In my humble opinion, love for the craft and art of photographic portraiture, and a love of people are the most important qualifications for entering the profession.