Emotions beyond pictures: Portrait photographers on their most intimate shots

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“Photo courtesy of BJ Pascual”

Portrait photography is more than just capturing a snapshot of a subject. This style of photography revolves around the idea of capturing the essence of the subject’s identity and turn it into art; a creative representation of the human subject to tell a story.

This requires the photographer to have an intimate bond with the subject, and a connection to be able to portray an attachment with the camera.

We’ve asked today’s most sought-after portrait photographers and Sony Alpha Professionals: Pilar Trigo Bonin and BJ Pascual on how they connect with their subjects to evoke an emotion, and what camera features they require in order to deliver high-quality materials?

Communicate with your subject
The subject is the hero story when it comes to portrait photography. “As a photographer, I have to relay the vision to the subject. Having a mood board helps the subject visualize the feel of the shoot and the rest is really just about chemistry.” BJ said. It’s when the subject becomes comfortable with the photographer when emotions are easier to capture.

Pilar Bonin on the other hand says that the subject’s mood is dependent on the photographer’s disposition. “Come to your shoot with great energy! Energy is contagious”, Pilar mentions. She also advised to learn how to adjust your tone, “Learn how to talk to anyone about anything. From a shy little 2-year-old to a top honcho of a corporation, as a photographer you have to make your client feel comfortable no matter what age they’re in.” Pilar added.

“Photo courtesy of Pilar Trigo Bonnin”

Resolution is Key
As portrait photographers, they only want to use the best quality camera one can have. Pilar’s work usually gets blown up from table top print to billboard size. “I need to make sure that I have enough detail and information from the megapixels and full framed sensors,” as for Pilar. She also mentioned that she uses the 85mm f/1.4 and the 100mm f2.8 STF G-Master lenses.

BJ also mentioned that resolution is important. “I’d say 80% of my work, which I usually don’t post, consists of commercial/advertising jobs, and these involve billboards/large prints, so resolution is key.” Both agree that the 10fps capability and Eye autofocus system of the Sony Alpha series enable them to take high-quality pictures even when the subject is moving. Bj also mentioned that he is keen on using the 47-70mm f/2.8 G-Master lens for work shoots and the 35mm f/2.8 G-Master lens for travel shoots.


Most memorable shoot
Pilar Bonin says that portrait sessions are the most enjoyable for her. Although the most precious ones to her are those of her kids and loved ones. “Looking back at all their baby photos and milestones in life captured in photographs, totally priceless. I’d like to hope that all my clients feel that way of their photographs as well.” she shared.

BJ’s Bondi beach photoshoot is the most memorable one yet, “We were chasing the light, and towards the end the sun had already set. The subject and I had to produce something, and we only have a few seconds to do it. Luckily, I was shooting with an A7III at around iso32000 and the focus was still sharp!”

In doing portrait photography, remember to go skin deep. Capturing genuine emotions and unfiltered personalities, and portraying this through your photographs is how you will be able to give story to your work. Considering what camera gear to use is just as important as capturing true emotions. The Sony A7III is equipped with 35 mm full-frame image sensor and the Eye Autofocus feature giving you more detailed image quality.

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