Developing a Personal Portrait Style

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

In my book Studio Lighting Anywhere I quote Richard Avedon who once said, “I think all art is about control—the encounter between control and the uncontrollable.”

That’s what a dedicated studio, no matter what size or where it’s located, offer a photographer. Your own shooting space becomes a safe haven from the real world where, like the Outer Limits voice says, you can control the lighting, the background, and subject. Even my small 11×15-foot home studio, where many of the images—including today’s— is safe haven for creativity and the best place to develop your own portrait style.

One of my stylistic foibles is the use of simple backgrounds and I like to shoot models, such as Pam Simpson shown at right, wearing black dresses on black backgrounds. The portrait was shot with a Canon EOS 60D and EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens (at 50mm) with an exposure of 1/80 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 800.

When working in this kind of environment, I control everything from the subject’s pose, clothing, and make-up and the resulting photographs tend to be as much a portrait of myself as of my subjects. What emerges from all that control is a style.

Photographic style is not something I’m conscious about when shooting but the truth is that over time we all develop a signature style of working. The danger, of course, is that we keep shooting that same way for the rest of our lives so any style you develop must grow and change as you learn to make newer, better images.

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If you’re interested in shooting portraits and how I use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere, which is available from with, as I write this, new  copies selling for $25.13 (Prime) with used copies at $17.47 as I write this.