What makes a photograph beautiful?


What makes a portrait beautiful? Is it the gorgeous afternoon sun streaming through the window behind the subject? Or maybe it’s the flattering outfit or well-coiffed hairstyle of the photograph-ee? Perhaps it’s the confident poses of those being photographed?

Of course, all of these are really important considerations. Especially for all of us who love to photograph people.  But they’re not the only consideration. In fact, none of them are important at all.

So what makes a portrait beautiful? It’s beautiful if someone you love is in it. I bet of all the things you own, and cherish your family photographs are your most prized. I know mine are. That’s one of the reasons I love photography. I have beautiful black and white family photographs taken by my grandfather. They’re mostly posed images of my dad, my aunt and my grandmother and various cousins and family friends. Many of those people are gone now. But those photographs will live on as long as I take good care of them and cherish them as I much as the people I love in the photograph. Whether taken by a professional or by Uncle Bob family photographs tell us who we are and where we come from.

A Portrait of FannellaBut too often we women would rather stand on the sidelines and out of the picture rather than be in the photograph. And when we are in the picture, we’re complaining about the way we look.

The photo of my mom was taken in her upstairs bathroom almost 15 years ago. She really wasn’t feeling it that day and I had to beg her to pose for me. Her hair wasn’t “done” and her makeup wasn’t on. I convinced her after much prodding to slap on some lipstick and try to look elegant. Well, I think she pulled it off with aplomb. She’s now 83 and still beautiful. And I’m so glad I insisted.

Come on ladies, admit it. We will go to great lengths to alter our appearance supposedly for the better but refuse to be in a photograph because we’re too fat, too old, too wrinkly, too whatever!

Remember that pair of three-inch Manolo Blahnik heels you wore to your niece’s wedding and could barely walk, let alone dance to the Electric Slide? Not because you’re so done of with that line dance, but because your feet were killing you!

And let’s talk about that crash diet you went on for your high school reunion. You know the one where you ate only grapefruit for two weeks?  My 40th is coming up in August and I may consider it. Have you ever had your upper lip or eyebrows waxed? Girl. You know the pain, if not, trust me… you don’t want to!

So the next time Uncle Bob wants you in that family photo, stand up straight and smooth your hair. Then slap on some lipstick and smile.

Know what makes a photograph beautiful? You.