It would seem that the perfect blend of beautiful lighting, an intriguing location, a well balanced composition and a captivating subject is all you would need to be able to create a pleasing portrait but if you're studied portraits long enough you would quickly realize there's always that intangible element that elevates a great portrait from the rest. From experience, I would say it’s been one of the most challenging type of photography to experiment with because there’s always that constant possibility of having it come across cheesy.
The type of portraits that immediately resonate with me are the ones that have a certain stillness and realism to them. I have to believe what I see regardless of how contrived the production behind it may be and when there’s this steady flow of high-quality work coming from someone you draw inspiration from you can’t help wonder what their thought process is for creating it. Portraits very much like any type of good art is composed of many little things and like Timothy Archibald once said, “trying to really pinpoint what makes a great portraits is almost like trying to figure out why it feels good when someone smiles at you.” This is exactly how I feel about Benjamin Heath’s work.
He was recently featured on a series entitled How I Shoot on the Instagram Blog where they have Instagrammers provide insight on the process behind their photographs. I was unable to suppress a giggle when I read the portion behind his planning process because it’s a practice that I do very, very often:
"Finding a good location is important. Sometimes I’ll find something wonderful when I’m out and about and will make a mental note to come back when the light is right. Sometimes I see something online that I like and will add it to a running doc that I keep. And, you know, sometimes you stumble onto something terrific as it is and you’re fortunate to have a friend with you.
If by any chance you've stumbled across my profile on Foursquare and you've requested to be friends and months went by without me approving, please don't take it personal because in all honestly, I don't use the service the way it's intended to. At least not the social aspect part of it. For me the app functions as a digital itinerary of places I plan to visit to potentially shoot with friends. As I had mentiond a while back, I spend an insane amount of time scouting locations and very much like Benjamin mentioned, I feel like "finding a good location is very important" to the overall feel of what you want to convey with your portraits.