FACES is a Photographic Exploration of Personalities

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All images by Taylor Jones. Used with permission.

Taylor Jones is a photographer from Tacoma, WA and has been shooting for over 15 years. Though he’s mostly a wedding photographer, he also shoots other things like landscapes and even does personal projects to keep his creativity fresh. These personal projects are how FACES was started–which Taylor tells us is a project that explores people’s personalities and telling as much as you can about them in a single portrait. Very different from Environmental Portraits, FACES focuses on the face.

We talked to Taylor about how he brought out everyone’s personalities in each photo.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

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Taylor: My father picked up photography when I was around 13 years old. He had been interested in photography in High School but didn’t pursue it much after that besides shooting most of our family photos on his Olympus OM-10. When he decided to dive into photography he purchased a Nikon F2 and that’s the camera I learned on. My father taught me the basics of shooting (ISO, Shutter, Aperture) as well as some basic composition rules. We would go out and drive around and find things to shoot and he’d let me fire off a few frames and that eventually lead to him giving me a few different cameras over the years.

Most of my early shooting was on a Nikon FG body. Later in my teens my dad built a darkroom in the corner of our garage and I spent a lot of time in there learning how to print. My love affair with photography was cemented early on, I eventually got a DSLR (Nikon D70 was my first) and I’ve been working on my craft ever since. I still shoot film btw 🙂

Phoblographer: How did you get into portraiture?

Taylor: I think it just kind of happened. People are such great subjects for photography. We’re ever changing and full of a range of emotions and with 7 billion people on the planet there is certainly no shortage of subject matter. Ultimately I think I really enjoy interacting with my subjects and doing everything I can to make the best image possible with them. It’s a team effort to get a good shot of someone, they need to trust you and relax and let me guide them.

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Phoblographer: Faces is about photo shoots of 50 people and picking an image that best personifies that person. This method is used often with headshots, social media photos, dating photos, etc. But you were specifically focusing on faces. How much of a difficult task was this and how did you go about choosing the specific photos? Were there questions that you asked yourself?

Taylor: The most difficult part of the project was simply finding people who were interested in doing it. Trying to coordinate schedules and people’s availability is like trying to herd cats, that issue alone is why there’s only 50 photos instead of something even more ambitious like 75-100 photos. As far as the selection process I just sorted through the photos from the session in Lightroom and picked the images that had feeling to them.

I try not to overthink things to much, I focus more on my gut instinct about an image more than anything else. The photos I picked of each subject either fit that person’s personality perfectly or I captured a look, or a smile that you might not get from that person upon first meeting them. For instance my friend Scott isn’t much of the smiling type, he’s typically pretty serious and straight forward when he speaks and I managed to capture him smiling so I had to use that image.

Phoblographer: How did the picture taking process go? Was there posing involved?

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Taylor: Each session was done exactly the same in terms of setup and workflow. I would invite my subjects over and chat with them a little before I threw them into the hot seat. Once they were seated in my “studio” (my living room) I just tried to make conversation happen. You have to keep people comfortable since studio photo sessions are very unnatural feeling to most folks.

I just tried to get them on a subject they could be excited about and I shot while they spoke, looking for the opportune moment to trip the shutter. As far as posing goes I kept it loose and natural, I didn’t move them around or tell them how to sit besides making sure they sat straight. I opted to move the camera around them while they spoke instead.

Phoblographer: What subtle features in a face are the most telling about people? We’re guessing the forehead, mouth expressions, etc. But can’t lighting also give off a specific look and feel?

Taylor: The eyes are the windows to the soul, they say the most about someone. I feel it’s an animal instinct that’s been carried along the evolutionary path. But of course a mouth expression can give you a more direct interpretation of someone’s mood or feelings.

Lighting can skew our interpretation of a photo, it can change so much about a scene or how someone looks. I also try to light simply and go for the classic Rembrandt look when possible since I feel that it’s a fairly honest looking light setup (high and to camera right is my go to setup).

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.