Already in the Renaissance period the great painters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer or later Rembrandt wrote several treatises on human anatomy, having also a special interest in the subject of portraiture. They were interested in any kind of knowledge that could help to represent a person in a more exact and natural way, in different positions and from all possible points of view.
For today’s photographers this is still topical. Every change in the position of the head of the portrayed person already changes the contour and the movement of the lines. At the same time it can change the reflection of light on the textures of a face. Every movement of the head modifies the forms, the composition and, what is even more important, the relationship between the facial elements.
Before we start taking pictures, a lot of preliminary work must be done. Examine in detail the face we are going to portray. Each person is different. We must first understand what kind of face we have in front of us (round, square, rectangular, etc.)
- What are the proportions of the forehead, the nose, the lips, the cheekbones, the chin, the eyes)?
- What is the distance between all these elements?
- What camera position (at eye level, higher or lower) in relation to the face should I put so as not to spoil the face and to take a picture that favours it?
- What is the good and bad side of the photographed person?
- What lighting scheme should be used to make a teaching portrait?
- What type of lens should I use?
All these questions must be asked by a real portrait photographer before starting to take pictures. We will answer all these questions little by little in the articles of this blog.
Today, in particular, we will devote ourselves to the head positions in the classic portrait.
The whole variety of head positions can be reduced to the five main ones:
1.From the front
The totally symmetrical position, when both ears are visible.
2. Slightly tilted
The person turns his head a little bit so that one of the ears is no longer visible. It is very important to be aware of all the contours you are creating in your images. The lines should not be confusing, but clear. So be very careful with the hair and especially with the ears, which have to be well visible or not visible at all. The small pieces, which are not understood, only create confusion for the viewer’s eyes.
3. Classic half profile
We place the tip of the nose in the centre of one of the cheeks.
4. Half critical profile
We place the tip of the nose right on the contour line of one of the cheeks.
5. In profile
It’s the projection of one side of the face.
There are two more positions that are usually used less.
6. Less turned profile
It is the position between the critical profile medium and the profile position. This position in the classic portrait is not too popular because in this case when the nose comes out of the contour line of the cheek, the farthest eye is covered a little bit by the line of the nose, which deforms the face. Not all people are favoured by this type of profile.
7. More turned profile
It’s the last position that follows the normal profile. It is considered not to be one of the most common ways of portraying because it already deforms the shapes and volumes of the person portrayed quite a lot. But I repeat, that’s talking about the classic portrait. Nowadays in photography it is often used.
The use of all these positions depends on many factors, both objective and subjective. Above all, before experimenting with any of these profiles, we must ensure that they favour the type of face and head we have in front of the camera. For example, not all round faces are recommended to be photographed from the front, moreover with the frontal illumination scheme, as this way, this type of face will appear even wider.
On the contrary, by using the critical profile for this type of face, we can create a much more adequate image. The subjective factor is each photographer’s personal way of seeing. It is well known that the same person can change a lot depending on the photographer who has taken the picture.
Let’s go over again all the head positions we have seen today: