Insert Human Here.

Burt Bacharach’s sun room

Chelsea Handler’s balcony

Lydia’s bedroom
All of these luscious Polaroids by Emily Shur
A good portrait begins with a good picture.  When setting up for a portrait, I always try and find something that visually appeals to me, with or without a person in the shot.  Ideally, I look for a picture I would take on my own time, and it’s just an added bonus that I will soon be throwing someone super fascinating into the frame.  Or maybe it’s not a bonus.  Maybe the picture is better without a person.  Maybe I already “got it” when I was setting up, and I should have just quit while I was ahead.  Somehow I don’t think a photo editor would be so understanding of that theory.

Sometimes, we don’t have a lot of options in terms of where we set up…especially if you’re shooting someone at their home, office, whatever.  It’s all the same to me.  What I hear is “Go to this place you’ve never been before.  Find somewhere amazing to do this portrait.  Make it great.  Oh, and if it’s a location completely devoid of personality or looks that says nothing interesting about anyone, let alone the person who lives or works there, you still have to make it great.”  I think a good portrait says something about the subject, something that is unique to them.  Although, I’m sure all of us portrait photographers have our bag of tricks we go to if the subject is uncomfortable, non-expressive, or just plain boring.  I know I do.

4 comments to Insert Human Here.

  • nina

    i love these polaroids!

  • Emily Shur

    Thanks buddy!

  • max s. gerber

    emily, i’m so glad you said this. first, of course, the polaroids are beautiful, and good for you for using polaroid while we all still can. i think this approach is really good – not polaroids, per se, but i often feel that just finding a PLACE for your picture to be is so important, even sometimes without knowing what the subject looks like beforehand. and you’re right, we all have our tricks to pull something out of a boring place or a boring person. for me, i know if i can find a good wall or a curtain or window or something i can make it work, even if all holy hell breaks loose.