This photograph, by professional portrait photography studio owner Alex Saville, shows Tammy taking a selfie.

portrait photography studio vs the selfie | self portrait

will selfie kill the professional portrait photography studio?

I see alot of photos. Not just my own but lots of other people’s. We all do, exposing ourselves to the world of social media. Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you can’t help but be aware of the rise of the “selfie”. The immediate assumption would be that this is slang for “self portrait”. Is it? Maybe, but are the two the same thing? What are the similarities and differences between a selfie and what comes out of a Portrait Photography Studio?

Both attempt to capture the essence of what the person is about. So I’ve got to admit, that the answer is that fundamentally, yes, they are the same.

However, there is then the question, why then, do we need professional portrait photography studios (and by “professional portrait photography studio”, I include all professional portrait photographers, not just those with a physical portrait photography studio)? Why not, after all, just let the world get on taking selfies, and no longer have dedicated portrait photographers? What do you get from a professional portrait photography studio that a selfie won’t get you?

using the right equipment for the right job

One bad selfie of Alex Saville, representing what you should NOT get from a professional portrait photography studio.
Yes, it’s a selfie. You can tell from the reflection in my glasses where you can see the screen. It’s also apparent that the camera’s using a wide angled lens. My nose really doesn’t look this big. Honest.

It’s not about having expensive equipment. You can take great portraits on your iPhone or Android or whatever. Rather, it’s down to the fact that the mobile phone’s camera lens is a wide angled lens. That means that with some exceptions, it’s not the best choice for close up portraits. We’re very aware of what faces look like. Currently, athetics are such that our expectations are such that we expect portraits to look a particular way. That’s not to say that things won’t change. The artistic interpretation of the human form has changed throughout history.

But as things stand, portrait lenses live up to their name. Rather, the wide angled lens it is more useful for photographing scenery, be it natural or architectural. People are generally best seen smaller in that.

There are add-ons for mobile cameras that change the game somewhat. A portrait lens adapter, for one thing. A tripod, used with software – though arguably that’s moving away from the concept of a selfie as instant gratification. The extendable “selfie stick” that allows you to hold the camera further away. I’m sure that someone has or will come up with a way of firing flash that’s directional – though, for the average selfie taker, I suspect this would be irrelevant. But basically, anything that allows you to get closer to using an appropriate lens at an appropriate distance is making equipment less of an issue.

knowledge, vision, ideas

This is the biggie. An experienced professional portrait photography studio has hopefully got a lot of knowledge of posing. Of getting the best out of the tools they use. Of choosing backgrounds that work. Of how to turn an unfinished photo into a work of art. Just to name a few.

It doesn’t mean they know everything. Just as someone in an office job might go on a training course, we also send ourselves on training courses, so that we can learn more. We learn about photography techniques, about business, we get ideas and inspiration. We read, we listen.

I started Alex Saville Photography, a professional portrait photography studio, because I have a vision of how I see the world, and want my photos to reflect that. How well I do is down to my ability as an artist to translate my vision into finished art. In the vast majority of cases, most professional photographers would say the same about themselves, I’m sure.

a portrait session is an experience

Having a portrait session provided by a professional portrait photography studio is more than just having a load of pictures taken – whether it’s in a physical studio, or on location. It’s about having the attention. It’s like a pampering. Moments when it’s all about you. Think about it. The photographer dedicates their time to getting the best out of you. When the photo session is taking place. When they are working on your images. When they’re presenting their images to you. And when they’re finishing your final artwork. And it you’re having makeup and hair done for the session, that’s more attention from more people.

artwork is for long term.

Both selfies and artwork are destined for walls of one kind or another. The Facebook wall, or newsfeed, or other social media like Instagram is the typical place for selfies. They will stay there, as long as these services exist. The artwork created by a professional portrait photography studio may well appear on these social media platforms too.

The big difference is what you put on your wall. Your real wall. You’re unlikely you display your selfies. But real artwork, produced by the professional photographer on canvas, paper, aluminium, etc? Yes.

so who wins?

Professional portrait photography studios draw on a wealth of talent and skills to create artwork. For those who appreciate the difference between casual snaps and the artwork that a professional portrait photography studio can produce, there will always be a need for professional portrait photography studios. As for selfies, those can exist happily alongside them. They’re really about different things. Professional photographers existed alongside compact cameras, survived film vs digital, and they well exist alongside mobile phones.

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