Faceless Photography Tips
If you follow me over on Instagram you may have noticed that I never share photos where you can see my Children's faces. The decision to keep my account faceless was made from day one, and I did wander if it might hold me back in being able to grow, but have found quite the contrary, and for me the additional creative challenge of faceless portraits has been one I have relished and has helped me to grow in ways I couldn't have imagined.
I am often complimented on my faceless portraits and have been asked on numerous occasions to share some tips and advice, so I thought I would put it all in one convenient blog post for all you budding photographers keen to learn, and any parents keen to keep their children's faces off the big old internet.
Tell a Story
Probably the most important factor in your faceless portraits is to tell a story. Since you won't be able to see any facial expressions giving clues to what is going on and how people are feeling, you will need to find other ways to tell your story. Think about what you want to communicate in your photo, and go from there. Every detail counts, from the positioning of limbs, to where you choose to crop, and even down to what is being worn.
This image may seem like a candid capture, but it was actually planned in advance. I knew on our walk we would pass this view and it is one of my favourite dramatic coastlines. I wanted to convey that the weather was a bit wild and a sense of adventure. So I dusted off Morgan's winter hat to give clues as to the weather. And whilst this view would be impressive with her just sat there, her hair doesn't tell as much of a story as the hat. I popped her seated near the edge (but always a safe distance away) and put the focus on her hat, I used a wide aperture (F2.8) so the dramatic landscape would be a blur in the background, helping add to the wild feel to this image. That stray hair blowing in the wind though, that was just a happy coincidence.
Guide your Viewer's Eyes
We are lucky here in South Wales to be blessed with a multitude of stunning landscapes to photograph. As much as I love landscape photography I am always much more comfortable adding at least one person into the mix. You see, for me, that way, what could just be another beach-scape can also tell a story, like I mentioned above, but can also add some guidance to your viewer's eyes as to what you want them to see.
This photo of Tor Bay on Gower, would still be a lovely photo without my daughter walking across the scene, but the way she is walking and her positioning to the cliffs guides the viewers eyes. There aren't any leading lines to speak of here, so she does the job for me. Similarly if her legs were together or pointing a different way they wouldn't guide the eye in the same way. The fact that she is wearing a summer dress helps the story telling element of this photo, and what could be just a blue sky day becomes a summer's day. Information the viewer doesn't have otherwise. And like the photo above, neither of these photos would be improved upon by adding in their faces. It would be lovely as my daughter is very beautiful, but all that I want to convey in the photos is done so successfully with no need for faces.
Anonymity = Interpretation
This lack of identifying features is an underused tool for photographers trying to engage with their audience. In a faceless portrait the viewer can fill in the blanks with their own interpretation, making it quite likely they will form a connection to the image. If you could see my daughter's face it wouldn't be anything other than a photo of her. This way the viewer can see a loved one of their own, or their own self, or even feel a connection to their own childhood.
A great tool if you want to convey emotion in a faceless portrait is to incorporate movement. Drooped shoulders can convey sadness, jumping and dancing can convey joy, clenched fists can convey anger. The options are endless. Movement is one of the easiest ways to make your viewer feel something without having to reveal anyones identity.
The movement in her hair in the photo below is all that disguises her identity, but in doing so it creates a compelling faceless portrait that conveys joy through movement.
Outfits Outfits Outfits
I've touched on this already, but I can not stress enough the power the right outfit has to change your faceless portrait. I always try to guide my clients to dress their best for their photos, for the same reason I often try to guide my children with what they wear too. This photo below would not be anywhere near as pleasing to the eye if my daughter's dress wasn't the same colour as the flowers, or if it didn't twirl as much. Likewise, the hat adds to the image too, helping add some feature to a faceless mop of hair. However, if the hat had blue in it rather than pink that could add even more to the image. Unfortunately I can't afford to buy endless outfits for my children, and as minimalists I don't want to either. But if you are serious about wanting to improve your portrait photography, faceless or not, the right outfit choice can be a game changer.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention light in this blog post. Not just in faceless portraits, but in all aspects of Photography, light is one of the most important aspects. The right light has the power to completely change a photograph, and where time allows, it is well worth waiting for. It is also crucial if you are looking to create a silhouette (as pictured below) which can be another great way to create a faceless portrait. Silhouetting your subject easily creates some anonymity without taking away from the dramatic element of your photograph.
I hope you have found this post helpful. The decision whether to keep your photos faceless on social media is a very personal one, but regardless of your motives, creating faceless portraits is not only a great creative challenge, it can be a lot of fun too.
I'd love to hear your favourite tips for creating faceless portraits in the comments below. If you've enjoyed this post please feel free to share this post using the buttons below.
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