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  #1  
Old 11-22-2004, 11:26 AM
maciekda maciekda is offline
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Default cropped heads

I was just looking at one portrait done by Curtis - this one and I read some comments there.. it was about tight composition...
I also like tight crops, where forehead is cropped and we focus our attention on eyes....
but what about portraits taken by Steve McCurry? and other famous photographers? why do they never crop heads? why do they always leave some space around?
recently I was browsing on Magnum new pictures from Mexico by Martin Parr, and his portraits there were really badly composed for my taste ;) centered compositions, lots of empty space around... see those pictures there
I know the most important thing in portraits is "that something" in eyes or a special expression, but what about compositions...?
to crop or not to crop? the person in the middle or on the side?
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  #2  
Old 11-22-2004, 01:06 PM
MKING MKING is offline
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Default Re: cropped heads

One thing you have to take into consideration, Maciek, when dealing with photojournalism is the constraints that editors place upon the way their photographers shoot their photographs. There is a very good reason why so much space is left around the head to the sides and top; if a picture is to be published in a magazine or such then a lot of text is going to be printed on top of the picture and you need the space around the head or whatever so that the text doesn't overlap and destroy the picture.

Without the text they do look odd (and I agree with you about Parr's latest portraits but what bugs me most is the rather ordinary flash work here-- they look like deer caught in headlights).
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  #3  
Old 11-22-2004, 01:53 PM
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Porteplume Porteplume is offline
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Default Bonjour Maciej

You have begun a thread which I want to know more about the answers... Let's begin to say I'm not a very good photographer and I have not made many portraits beside of my husband of my daughter in the past, and now with digital camera I can make much more portraits of my grand-daughter.

I always tend to get as close as possible (exemple) but I get very often the question "Why did you frame her head that tight?" but I don't see why I should.
On this particular picture, Josetu wrote: "Very well framed, even if we miss a part of her head..."

But, in "Sisters"by Curtis, I may have chosen a less tight framing just because of that particularly beautiful hair style?

So now I'm very much interested by the answers of the experts and more talented people. So thank you for starting this discussion.

Amicalement - Viviane
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  #4  
Old 11-22-2004, 01:58 PM
Midnight_sun Midnight_sun is offline
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Default Re: cropped heads

parr loves using the flash! I think he's probably dissappointed if when he uses the flash you can't tell. I think it adds to the kitchness of some of his shots. He uses it as a tool, his photos do have a very tourist-snap-from-the-50s feel to them some times.

Cutting heads? It does look good to do this, well on 800 pixel photo, but i wonder how good it will look in a gallery when the image is 1 meter wide? I recently saw an exhibition by mary ellen mark and she had lots of portraits, and she had left space around them and it worked really well.

I guess the other arguement against cropping the head in the original, is that you can always crop later.
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  #5  
Old 11-22-2004, 07:39 PM
Luko Luko is offline
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Default Re: cropped heads

Yes indeed Parr looooves his annular macro flash, used with a slight magenta cast that gives britishers that either gringo sunburnt or wino style skin tone (see “Brighton, the Last Resort” for instance)… if you remember his previous portraits and bold compositions, you might suppose something has suddenly gone bananas in his brains (other masterpieces such as hilarious “Boring Postcards” or “self portraits round the world” are also hints of the bats flying in his belfry, if you ask me…) .

I do think this is a kind of photographic message that Parr sends us : the guy has long ago thrown the usual aesthetics in the dustbin and is now sitting on the lid… Parr uses people like things to set up a crusade against bad taste and/or silliness and wishes to use the same weapons… next step is Parr dressed like Jango Edwards, I believe. Unfortunately he has lost a bit of my support, and got bored a little after “Boring Postcards” (perhaps was it his plan?) though I still think that “Small world” is one of the best and most hilarious photobooks ever made.

It seems that Parr wants to show the stupid part and the aesthetics that comes with it (honestly did you ever think his images of frankfurters and fries were on purpose of beauty? I think that the guy is more clever than most plasticians, he wants us a reaction of disgust even if that’s make you think he’s a crap photographer. How do you feel about the Dolphins’ hat the mexican guy wears?)), therefore I guess you have to take it the exact opposite way : Parr shows what you’re never supposed to do photowise with maximum tacky effect.

Hence never or barely center a portrait…

The semiotics square theory would explain what most photographers want to show : I remember I promised Gal I had to write something about it in his reality/photography thread. I have to do it but later on…

As for good portraits Maciek, I don’t quite agree with the statement that “the most important thing in portraits is "that something" in eyes or a special expression” : my personal feeling is that better portraits comes from “the storyboard” or the small details that can recall their own lives, I don’t think a simple expression can recall that by itself (Do you remember Picasso by HCB, the important features where the hands, the misty bridge behind Sartre etc.). There even a very good portrait of Giacometti where’s the sculptor is totally blurred, only his sculptures defines him.

You would entitled to ask me “then there are no good close portraits to you?” That's pretty right, unless it’s a command where you have to shoot the bride at her wedding, or you put in your head that you could economically compete against photo portrait booths and give better quality (which I’m sure), I don’t really see the point in very tight portraits. (As a matter of fact, you can thumb Magnum’s website and eventually tell me how many tight portraits you see, I can predict it's close to nil…)
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Old 11-22-2004, 08:15 PM
maciekda maciekda is offline
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Default Re: cropped heads

hi Luko,
talking about portraits I meant close portraits, not environmental portraits, portraits where we see only a face, portraits without "the storyboard"...
and Martin Parr was not a good example... there are many other photographers making portrais with plenty of space around the face - and Steve McCurry is the easiest example - see here. and his portraits are mostly vertical.
Michael made a good point about publishing portraits in magazines, where text is going to be added on the photo... but is it the olny reason? and i know cropped heads bother many people, maybe it bothered me before too, but now i like this kind of portraits a lot.
anyway.. so, to crop or not to crop? ;)
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  #7  
Old 11-22-2004, 10:02 PM
Midnight_sun Midnight_sun is offline
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Default Re: cropped heads

...but now i like this kind of portraits a lot....so, to crop or not to crop?

Sounds like you've already made up your mind : )

I would conclude from my huge experience in portrait photography (close to zero) that it is easier to get an engaging portrait by cropping the head i.e. getting close, and that environmental portraits are much harder, because there is more to balance with the subject.

So if you want easy 'great' shots, then crop, but if you want to push yourself try not cropping.

A <a href=http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/India/photo87947.htm>compromise</a> perhaps?
Although i now wonder what this shot of yours would be like with the complete head...

Regarding Parr, he is the anti-example! Clearly makes it up as he goes along.

I was just thinking about composition and the so called 'rule of thirds', why does this look better then a central shot?
It must come originally from the ratio of the Fibonacci series, known as the golden section, which occurs widely in nature and has been used in architecture, paintings and sculptures since they first figured it out. The ratio is 1:1.618. For more on this see <a href=http://ccins.camosun.bc.ca/~jbritton/goldslide/jbgoldslide.htm>here</a>.
I guess we are just so used to seeing this natural ratio everywhere, it feels natural to include it in photography. Cropping heads perhaps doesn't obey this rule ..
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  #8  
Old 11-22-2004, 11:10 PM
Luko Luko is offline
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Default Re: cropped heads

Close portraits? I didn't know it was a genre yet (...except in TE, perhaps) but I better know the portraits genre for which I still stand on the opinion that a few steps back are better...
Would you like your portraits closer? my fault when I wrote you won't find many in Magnum, here's some uninteresting pieces from Luc Delahaye a former Magnum member...Dunno what's the interest of that, I'm not the only one apparently, you can find many Delahaye books discounted on the streetside bookstalls, I once found it for 2USD... See, I wasn't kidding you when I was writing about a photo booth enterprise... ;0D...

It happens that I also own "Portraits" from S.McCurry which is IMHO far from "Monsoon", "South-south East" or "Temples of Angkor" level. I believe I bought it because it was cheap, however I must have thumbed it a few times and it's now gathering some dust in a bookshelf... I must say that rather than the full blown center portraits, I have in mind double or "environmental" portraits that are to my taste the best out of this book because they either play on duality or are a little more sophisticated on the compo part... unfortunately the ones you're refering to have nothing to compare with what you call "environmental" masterpieces such as this one which btw is also in "Portraits" or this other.

As for myself, I would conclude that if there are only two genres in portraiture, I'll do a distinction on the good ones and the not so good ones, I simply think the fact of cutting the head or not doesn't relate to a golden rule but more to what you expect to show the reader (again semiotics, the grammar of signs and images...).
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  #9  
Old 11-30-2004, 07:13 PM
clodreno clodreno is offline
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Default Re: Bonjour Maciej

Bonjour Viviane.
Je pense que tu ne dois pas trop te préoccuper de ce que disent les gens. Moi,en général, je n'aime pas les portraits qui ne coupent pas les visages.. C'est, je pense une question de goût personnel, rien de plus. Je ne crois pas en des règles précises à ce sujet où en photo en général.
En effet, je crois que c'est le sujet qui impose ce que tu feras. Parfois, il est possible de shooter toute la tête, parfois non, cela dépend également du fond..
J'ai regardé le portrait en question , l'exemple, et je le trouve très réussi.
Bonne soirée,
Claude
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  #10  
Old 12-01-2004, 12:05 AM
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Porteplume Porteplume is offline
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Default Bonsoir Claude...

C'est vraiment très gentil de réagir à mon posting. Je me suis aperçue un peu trop tard que mon intervention n'était peut-être pas vraiment à sa place sur le forum Photography - Je réflechirai avant de parler la prochaine fois! :o)))

Mais je suis bien d'accord avec toi -(maintenant je laisse tomber le vouvoiement)- et il suffit certainement de suivre son intuition pour la photographie de portraits. Je me suis aperçue, en regardant à nouveau toute ma collection, que je me rapprochai le plus souvent de ce que j'aimais... Et donc dans l'exemple cité, ma petite-fille.
Et quand on me demandera pourquoi je lui ai "coupé la tête" je dirai simplement que c'est "par amour"! ;o)))

A bientôt sur TE Claude et encore merci.

Amicalement - Viviane
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