Ruth A B Clegg | The Value of a Pre-Portrait Discussion

The Value of a Pre-Portrait Discussion

May 16, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Visioning, discussing and focusing on an idea can be very exciting and rewarding. Sharing thoughts, expanding concepts and deciding on the final outcome are so important to any art project or for that matter any project. Moving ahead to the actual capture phase in a photography project truly demands a bit of time spent on discussions as to what, where, how and when. Visioning the final destination and how the piece will fit into the surroundings is vital to a comfortable resting place. Look for some great help here!

In the case of a portrait, final destination can determine the style, color or lack of color, clothing, orientation and the framing. If a family portrait is the desired outcome, it is important to determine what the location is for photography and how it relates to the family’s life style. Also the quality of light will be an important ingredient and the quality of natural light can be affected by the time of day. Early or late light will have softer and more muted tones while the midst of the day will have contrast and strong white light. An additional thought is the family members might be more comfortable in the cool of the morning or evening rather than the heat of the day.

Clothing is also important as a descriptor of personalities, and how the coloration will fit in the portrait’s final destination. If the wall that the portrait hangs on is red and the group is dressed in a version of orange it might not be a good fit. If the clothing is casual and the room is formal, again it might not be a good fit. It is also very important to look at body types and select the clothing that enhances the beauty of the subjects. Additionally, it can be very distracting if one family member wears a strong pattern such as bold stripes and another wears polka dots. The viewer will be constantly looking at the clothing and not the subject's faces which are the most important. Clothing harmony is an important ingredient to create a pleasing portrait. Although, tensions of multi patterns may be indicative of the family’s lifestyle and could be a rich ingredient for a successful portrait and in that case would be important to include.

Finally, the substrate that the image is printed on and how it is presented or framed is imperative to the enjoyment of the image. There is such a variety today of papers, metals, glass, and wood to print upon that can enhance your image. Possible proofing on some surfaces might be a great way to proceed in order to be sure of the final outcome.


Framing is another decision that can make or break the piece and should be carefully selected. It is best to select your frame after the piece is printed and ideally the selection should be made in the location that the image will hang. I am happy to bring selections of moldings to your home or office. My favorite moldings are from Roma and Larson Juhl. I also prefer to use acid free mats and UV glass. Once you have made the final wall portrait selection there may be images that you absolutely must have. An album is a wonderful medium with which to enjoy those images and a design can be created to artfully tell the family’s story.
The mission and goal of the pre-discussion is to make the entire process a smooth and enjoyable event, thus creating an image that imparts beauty and satisfaction for years to come.