The Truth About Portraits

Photography is something that I have grown up being extremely familiar with. I am used to a camera with a shiny lens being pointed at me every since I was born.

I remember playing with cameras at an early age, the memories stimulated by the pictures of my own innocent childhood, which ultimately led to me to take my very first photograph at the age of four.

I have learnt much of my photography from my dad, and the rest by personal experience. One thing I very much noticed about my dad’s photography was what I believed to be his unique approach to portraits.

I always noticed that he liked more to take portraits discreetly, than with the person in the frame striking a pose for the same. Quite obviously, many were uncomfortable with this “odd practice”, often even scornful.

He had a logic for it. And I believed in it. I followed it, and I still do. I have no intention to budge from that in the near future.

Perhaps you have already noticed that most of my portraits are taken discreetly, with the person in the frame either not bothered, or perhaps he or she has not realised that I have pointed my 18-55 mm lens at them.

A discreet portrait, with the person totally unaware that I am taking her picture.

Another discreet portrait of my friend of my brother. She was totally unconcerned about me taking her picture, much like I am now totally indifferent to a camera pointed at me.

Another one such. Perhaps bro was totally unaffected, or perhaps he didn’t notice me. I won’t speculate.

That’s done with more or less some samples of my “discreet portraits”. Now then, let’s compare them to the “indiscreet portraits” which I have in my photography collection.

In fact, I, the photographer, was stimulated to take this photograph above when he looked at me in this way. And the next one too falls in the very same category.

Having gone through both the categories of portraits, which do you think are better. Alright, maybe not “better”, since that is an extremely relative term.

But I think the discreet portraits are certainly much more natural than the posed ones.

That was the philosophy my dad followed, and still does. And I too do.

I do not despise photographers who make people pose for their photo sessions. I actually like much of their work. But the truth is, if I am to make a choice, I would go for discreet portraits rather than posed.


Having said that, let me introduce you to the problems I often face since I follow this “out-of-the-world” policy.

Some people have a (crazy) habit of posing every time a camera is pointed at them, even when no one is asking them to.

You may be a stranger, a family member, a friend, an acquaintance…. doesn’t alter anything, at all. 

I find this especially irritating quite often, since many do not budge from their pose even when I request them to, for the sake of sticking to my principles.

Others are disappointed when I refuse to take portraits with them posing. They feel like that it is good to be self-conscious and put up a nice image of oneself to be documented to the world, which I feel lacks a bit of respect towards how an artist wants his or her piece of art to turn out.

At the end of the day, if you ask me which is better, I'd definitely 
say portraits taken discreetly, without the person in the frame 
being self-conscious of this appearance. 

We ought to respect everyone’s principles, even when they are antagonistic to ours.


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