What constitutes a great portrait?

Every photographer I have studied and every photographer I have worked with would give a thousand answers to the question. The Professional Photographers Association of America judges images in the International Photographic Competition on various criteria. Although these criteria are used to judge a competition, they easily translate to traditional portraiture.

Impact. When viewing an image, the first time, it should evoke feeling. The more powerful the image, the more powerful the emotional response of the viewer.

Technical Excellence. This is the print quality of the image. It includes such qualities as retouching, sharpness, exposure, color correction, and printing.

Creativity. This element speaks to the artistic vision of the photographer. Portraiture involves a collaboration between the photographer and the client.

Style. This is the way the photographer uses light and subject manner to create a spectacular image.

Composition. All the visual elements of an image should come together to express the intent of the artist. A great composition should capture and direct the viewer’s attention.

Center of Interest. This is where the photographer wants a viewer’s attention to focus.

Lighting. The use and control of light have an effect on every aspect of the image.

Storytelling. What does the photographer’s image evoke in a client’s imagination? Creating art is a personal endeavor and the act of viewing the image is part of that endeavor.

What keeps “good” portraits from looking the same is style. In my portraits, I like classic lighting, complementary posing, genuine expression, and a technically correct image.