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The Portrait as Fine Art

Traditionally crafted portrait images are timeless. There are times, however, when something more unusual is warranted. Crossing almost into fantasy, composite images of textures and backgrounds can bring an added dimension to a simple portrait.

I had several images like these of Natalie en pointe inspired by some of the work Jennifer Hudson does. The inspiration came from the outfit (cheesecloth top and a crown of twigs and leaves).


It’s a simple, stylized image. But that crown kept nagging at me.

I tried several textures, which I liked, but it never quite felt complete to me. So taking a cue from the crown (again), I thought of adding forrest elements – trees and bushes – to what I had constructed.

Nope. Not quite.

 I then started looking for alternate backgrounds. I downloaded some from Deviant Art, but they were a little too much.

Then I started looking through my own images, coming across this one from Cong Abbey in Ireland:


Compositionally, the image worked as I wanted foreground elements to offset the hero of the shot. The lighting in the image also worked: Natalie was shot against a white cyc, which had considerable wrap (by design). This scene also has a backlit element to it, especially where she would be placed, along the walk roughly halfway up the image.

Scaling and coloring the image – matching hue, luminosity, and saturation – placing shadows and applying the textures (which actually was the start of the project) – completed the image.


Fine Art looks can be applied to any portrait session; if you have a vision, talk it over with your photographer and retoucher (if not one in the same).  Getting a special image is worth it.

And, for the photo nerds out there, I put this together as well:

NB: The shadow under her I was uncomfortable with (too strong) so I modified it subsequent to the video being created.

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