It often seems that wedding photographs are more full of detail pictures than they are portraits of family and friends. And for good reason: Successful wedding photographers know that the detail pictures balance the portraits and fit beautifully in an album, which is a terrific service and a great way to make a profit.

The same goes for newborn pictures. Pictures of tiny feet and hands remind parents of the contrast between their growing child and the first weeks of their life when they fit in the palm of the parent’s hand.

Details describe the whole

Details illustrate the parts that go into a person. They help show all the things that have led to this person to be the way they are, who they are. Details are inseparable from the whole, and you can use photos of details to describe the whole person.

But details aren’t only for weddings and newborns. If you work on it, if you ask for it, you can find the details that have built all your clients into who they are and you can use them to build the portrait you are trying to make.

Sometimes it’s easy

In this case, the details that go into this group are plain to see. Father and sons have all served in the military but in various branches and roles. Since this portrait was made, the younger son has also served in the Air Force. Their uniforms illustrate what that work has been. Photographing the details helps paint a picture of their heritage.

Rich portraiture is yours for the asking

Everyone you photograph has a heritage that has made them who they now are. If you ask about those details in your planning and pre-shoot meetings then you will have a richer understanding of who you’re looking at and what your portrait can become. A richer portrait and a richer experience for your subjects are awaiting if you just ask.

Maybe even ask them to bring objects that have meant something in their progress. Even in a headshot, a small token of their progress is useful — in nothing else it gives them something to do with their hands!

Build on a detailed foundation

Knowing details will help you in your conversation with subjects, and photographing them can help you craft a portrait that depicts the whole person. Both you and your subjects will appreciate the experience and it will be truly memorable.

Plus, you can deliver a richer product for your client, and that makes everyone happy.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.