How to pose a portrait: 54 creative ideas

How to pose a portrait: 54 creative ideas

Use our posing guide to reignite your portrait photography


A great way to reignite you portrait photography is to shoot a model in your home photo studio using as minimalist a set-up as possible. By experimenting with different poses you can see what works and get new portrait ideas to apply to your next shoot.

To help you along we’ve put together our latest photography cheat sheet, a visual posing guide that you can use as inspiration.

To create our posing guide we shot our own examples of some of the more traditional portrait styles – full-length portraits, seated portraits, high and low perspectives and head-and-shoulder shots – and then some suggested poses within these genres. We’ve also included some short tips on how to achieve these shots to get the best results.

1. Full-length portraits

To capture top-quality portraits like the pros, you need to put some more thought and preparation into your shots than simply aiming the camera at your subject. Once you’ve sorted exposure and lighting, it’s really down to your composing and the model’s posing to work together for the best results.

Full length portraits

2. Seated portraits

To get the most out of your portrait subjects, you need to learn to connect with them as you shoot. Building up rapport with people is one of the quickest ways to get the best poses and expressions out of them – and it will transform simple snaps into portraits like the professionals. But don’t expect to get top shots straight away. It will take a while for you to get your eye in and for your model to settle into the shoot. So don’t be disappointed if the first few shots aren’t that strong. Build up slowly, relax, take your time, and remember to have fun and to keep the mood upbeat. Offer clear feedback for how you want your model to position themselves, showing them your shots on your LCD as you shoot, and you’ll soon get the results you’re after.

Seated portraits

3. Shoot high and low

When shooting from down low on the ground and pointing back up to your subjects, you’ll need very high ceilings and tall stands for your backdrop to go high enough when shooting indoors. Alternatively, use a flashgun and shoot outside, using the sky as a colourful background to your portraits instead.

Another top tip is to keep your studio space clean. If you’re shooting full-length portraits with people’s feet in your shots, then be careful to keep your floor and backdrops spotless – otherwise you’ll have to spend time cleaning up and cloning out footprints and dusty marks in Photoshop afterwards!

Shoot high and low portraits

4. Facial expressions

If you’re shooting in a home or professional studio, why not try shooting tethered to your computer?

Shooting this way enables you see your shots instantly on a big screen to review them more accurately – then you can instantly work out what to do to improve them, whether it’s to move a light closer, to turn it up or down, to add a reflector, or change your exposure for brighter or darker results. It’s also very handy as you can give clear instructions to your subjects to pose in a different way by showing them on the monitor what you’d like them to do differently for the next round of shots.

Facial expressions portraits


Expand Your Arsenal with the 5 Most Popular Photography Techniques Today

Photography is like anything else in our culture; it tends to hold certain trends for periods of time, then changes based on variables around us.  Some trends can reappear, such as we’ve seen with the influx of “Vintage” post processing in the last few years.


The style wasn’t imposed directly during the 60’s and 70’s, it was a result of the equipment, processing and photography techniques used at the time.  The idea became popular again in the last 5 years, and photographers began attempting to recreate those tones and colours using the more modern methods available to them.

The results of using the various techniques we’ll discuss are, of course, subjective. We have a huge number of photographers using these techniques, each formulating their own methodology. This produces distinct and differing results, which is part of the beauty of our craft.

We’ve listed five techniques that have appeared time and time again, and have proven to be among the most popular in photography today. I’ve attempted to stay away from pure post-processing techniques, and keep the scope of this article instead in the realm of physical photo-taking methods.

After we’ve finished, I’ll challenge you to tell us about your favourite techniques, and maybe even show us some of the work that you’re most proud of!

Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure photography has recently taken a foothold in the halls of 500px and the like, due to the dramatic effects produced with the technique. The advent of more advanced digital cameras have made it much easier to produce these images, since the calculations, guesswork and luck have mostly been eliminated from the process.

There are essentially two basic ways of capturing these shots; with or without a polarizing or neutral density (ND) filter. Either method requires a tripod, as these shots involve too much open shutter time to attempt holding by hand. The object is to increase your exposure time for the shot without overexposing the image.

Longer exposure times allow you to capture clouds, water, or other moving objects in a smooth, flowing manner, while maintaining sharpness and clarity on still objects. A neutral density filter essentially allows for this extended amount of exposure time, without altering the hue or color of the image. Adding the filter is equivalent to stopping down one or more f-stops, and allows you to avoid making the photo too hot due to the amount of time the shutter will be open.

Waterfalls are often popular subjects of long exposure shots.  Photo by See Ming Lee.

If you don’t have a ND or polarizing filter available, you’ll need to attempt these captures in lower light, such as in the early morning or late evening (it could be said that if possible, you shouldn’t be shooting at any other time anyway). Many photographers use long exposure to capture shots at night.

Begin experimenting with very small apertures during the golden hour (the hour before sunset or after sunrise) such as f/22 or higher, and bump the aperture up to f/8 or larger after night falls. You’ll end up with several attempts, since nailing a great exposure is largely trial and error. You’ll also need to play around with exposure times, and this depends on what moving object you are capturing.

Clouds need much longer times to properly capture their trek across the frame of the shot; 5 minutes is a good place to start. Rolling or crashing waves at a beach require much less, sometimes 15 to 30 seconds is enough to create the necessary motion in the image.

Long exposures at twilight can give dramatic results.  Photo by Michael Bolognesi.

Due to the sensitivity of the camera during exposure times of this length, a remote shutter release would come in handy. Anything you can do to minimize shake will help preserve the sharpness of the non-moving elements in the photo.

Finally, be sure to do some pre-planning before actually clicking the shutter; try to visualize what the motion of all elements will be in your composition, including flowing elements (clouds, water, car lights), and still elements (rocks, buildings). This can help you better determine what settings you’ll need to capture the image you see in your mind.

Light Painting

Light Painting is probably the fastest growing technique seen these days, and for good reason; the creative possibilities are endless, and can make for some stunningly beautiful art when done correctly. At its core, light painting is another long-exposure technique that utilises in-frame or out-of-frame light sources to create patterns within the photo or illuminate an object in specific locations.

It is possible for the artist to actually perform the painting in front of the camera without appearing in the final shot, due to the ratio of time the photographer is painting to the actual exposure duration.

LED lights + long exposure = awesome.  Photo by Beo Beyond.

How it’s Done:

Any number of light sources can be used, although generally flashlights are the most common. Light pens, candles, and various fibre optics can be used as well. The sky is the limit, use your imagination! Like with other long-exposure photography methods, a tripod must be used. Set your camera for a long exposure (30 seconds or more), and use a remote shutter release if available (or the timer function available on almost all cameras will work as well).

The actual location you shoot in should be as dark as possible, obviously working at night is best. We want the object you’re drawing or highlighting to stand out as much as possible against the dark background. Since we’re shooting a long exposure, we can set our aperture to a smaller setting; start with f/8 to f/16 and experiment from there. This will ensure crisper shots with a full field of depth.

Using a broader light source such as a torch can give much softer and even lighting across your subject.  Photo by William Cho.

If you are not painting a stationary object within the frame, you can stand facing the camera, and draw a figure with the light source on. Try to physically stay in frame for as little time as possible, this will help ensure you don’t show up in the final shot. If painting an object, you can highlight various parts with your light source, turning the light off and on as you go to target specific areas.

Spectacular results from a coordinated shot combined with an impressive skyscape.  Photo by Howard Ignatitus.

As I mentioned earlier, the possibilities are literally endless with this technique; try different light sources, locations, objects, and colours. Anything that can change the colour of the light, the speed of the movement, or the length of time painting can drastically alter the outcome. Have fun and be creative!


HDR Photography

Although not quite as popular today as it was a few years ago, HDR photography is still a relevant art form. HDR shots are finished through your post-processing workflow, but start with your photography itself. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and refers to the range of dark and light levels we see in a photograph.

Modern cameras, even the most expensive models, lack the dynamic range we have in our own eyes. We humans are able to see a much broader range of colours and light levels. This is partially why scenes in photographs never quite appear as they did when we saw them for ourselves.

High dynamic range is a technique that can help extend the range of levels beyond what our camera can normally capture. This is done by taking multiple shots of the same scene, at varying exposure levels, and combining them in our post-processing later. By doing this, we ensure that we’ll see the darker levels and colours as they should appear, as well as the lighter levels without the blown-out colours. Although many software suites (including Adobe Photoshop) offer a “one-shot” HDR tool that does not require multiple exposures, the results are usually not as accurate and dynamic as a true HDR photo.

How it’s Done:

Dynamic range in a photo is measured in EV, or exposure value, and is equivalent to one f stop; each increase of one EV doubles the amount of light captured, while each decrease of EV cuts it in half. Originally, a minimum of three images were shot, one being very underexposed, one properly exposed, and another overexposed, or blown out. However, most modern DSLR’s now have an AEB, or auto-bracketing setting. This allows you to set up a number of shots with a predefined EV range.

After being set, the photographer can press the shutter release once for each exposure, completing the range of shots in one instance. Whichever method you prefer, you’ll need to capture each image with a set EV difference between them for best results. Smaller EV values (such as 1) will result in less dynamic and drastic images than using 2 or 3 EV’s between each exposure.

A well done HDR photograph, with all interesting surfaces exposed properly, without any overcooking.  Photo by Misjad Wilayah.

After the images have been captured, the process will need to be completed using software. Adobe Photoshop does offer an HDR assembly action that layers the exposures together, but I’ve found the results tend to be poor, and pale in comparison to a proper HDR-specific software package, such as HDRSoft Photomatix. Available for Windows and Mac systems, Photomatix has become an extremely popular standard for processing HDR shots.

After loading your images into Photometer, you can adjust a few settings such as alignment (if the exposures were not taken from the exact same angle, for example), reducing noise and ghosting, as well as indicate what EV values were used. After the photos are loaded, you can use of the two methods for actually converting the image to HDR, Tone mapping and Exposure Fusion. The differences in these methods revolve around what point in the process they are applied. I seem to always have better results using the Tone mapping algorithm. After making visual adjustments, you can save the final, layered image as a flat file.

An unfortunate example of what happens when too much tonemapping is applied.  Artifacts, halos and ugliness.

One issue regarding HDR photography is its own subjective nature; as it grew in popularity, people began using it to make extreme changes to their photos, and overusing the process. It’s very easy to use too much tone mapping and “overcook” the image, resulting in unnatural tones and ugly haloing effects. This, in turn, has caused some photographers to be wary of the method altogether. The best advice is to do what looks best to you.



Panoramic photography is another example of a method that has vastly increased in ease of use over time. What was once a long, tedious process in a darkroom, hunkering over photo paper, making cuts and separations to multiple photos, is now as simple as a click of a button on your camera.

Panoramic photos are simply multiple shots of a single scene that have been stitched together to form a continuous image. Even with a wide-angle lens, we can only capture so much of a particular scene. By taking multiple shots, we can combine those later and create a photo with a much wider field of view than previously possible.

As with our previous techniques, panoramic shots are best captured using a sturdy tripod and remote shutter release.

How it’s Done:

There are many cameras nowadays that have a panorama feature; this basically gives you guides and grids on your viewfinder or screen that make it easy to line up your shots. A horizontal photo can be taken by shooting, moving the camera to the left or right (while keeping it level), and taking another shot when the panorama assist shows that you are only minimally overlapping the previous shot. This overlap is necessary to prevent missing a slice of the scene in the final image. The assist usually shows your last shot, and what your current frame looks like next to it; this helps you create a set of accurate images to start with.

Panoramic stichings allow you to capture a much wider view than any wide-angle lens.  Photo by Jeremy Hall.

Some cameras, especially older DSLR’s, don’t have this feature, and the individual photos will have to be taken manually. This involves a lot of guesswork and trial and error. Thankfully, some tools exist to help, specifically panoramic heads, or piano-heads. This is an attachment that sits on top of your tripod head and allows the camera to be rotated around a single axis (instead of the camera itself rotating on a single plane), and eliminates parallax. Parallax is a anomaly that occurs due to differing angles of viewing in a line of sight, and is not something we want in our final photo. Having a panoramic head allows smooth transitions to the next photo, and usually feature stops in regular increments to properly measure the angle of the next shot.

A pano head allows you to take level panoramics by rotating the camera around a fixed point, instead of rotating the camera itself.

Many software packages out there will help you align and combine separations for a single image, but this is also possible using Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop has a feature called PhotoMerge that will handle this for you. You can access this by going to File > Automate > PhotoMerge. After loading your images, you can select a layout mode (start with auto first) and set a few other options. I recommend checking the blending, vignette removal, and distortion correction boxes. This will help if you’re not using a high-level lens setup.

After clicking OK, you will be presented with a preview of the automatic process. At this point, you might see a bending or curving near the top and bottom edges of the photo, due to improper alignment of the photos when they were taken; simply crop the photo to the desired point.

Stiching photos together using Photoshop's Photomerge feature.

Of course there is much more to panoramic photography; vertical panoramas can be taken as well, and you can experiment with using more images to create larger and more intricate photos. It’s all up to you!


Macro Photography

Macro photography isn’t just popular now; it’s been popular for many years. There’s something intriguing about seeing everyday objects in a way that you never get to see, extremely up close and personal. The beautiful thing about shooting macro is the variety; you can shoot almost anything close up and come away with something totally different.

Macro photography allows you to capture small, fine details on a one-to-one scale.  Photo by Pyhooya.

Macro photography is a bit more equipment-centric than most other methods, meaning for the most part you can’t just go out with whatever you have as your default lens and take great close-up shots. The best results come with having the proper equipment, whether it be lenses, tubes, or reversing rings. That’s not to say you have to spend a small fortune to get the shot you want; many methods of macro shooting can be accomplished using inexpensive equipment. There are generally four categories of equipment that will help you capture those itty bitty details you’re looking for.

A beautiful and interesting combination of macro and HDR from Patrick Cartner.

Macro Lenses

If you’re serious about macro, the best way to go is by purchasing a dedicated macro lens. This is, of course, the most expensive option. These lenses are available in various focal lengths, generally from 50mm to 200mm. Macro lenses are specifically made for this type of photography, featuring a long barrel that accommodates extremely close focusing.

As a general rule, the longer the focal length of the lens, the more distance between yourself and the subject you’ll have available. To capture the details of a butterfly, for example, a 50mm lens would require you to move in much too close. For close-ups of a flower, however, a 50mm would work perfectly. As with any lens, varying degrees of build quality are available, and it’s not impossible to pickup a decent macro lens for less than $200.

Reversing Rings

Reversing rings do just that; they simply allow you to screw your existing lens on your camera body backwards. A camera lens fitted properly is intended to take what it sees and size it down to be recorded on the camera’s sensor; reversing the lens does the opposite, working much like a microscope.

One major caveat to note here, since you’ll no longer have the electronic pins aligned, you’ll lose any automatic or electronic features such as aperture control or automatic focusing. On the upside, you’ll have a dirt-cheap method of getting extremely close and capturing ridiculous depth of field; many reversing rings can be had for $10 or less.

Extension Tubes

Extension tubes are another inexpensive way of getting up close. These are hollow pieces that increase the space between your camera body and your lens, which allows the lens to focus closer. These tubes usually come in sets of three different lengths, so you can choose which lengths to use or combine them for some fairly extreme results. You’ll probably struggle a bit with the razor-thin depth of field, but it’s hard to complain when you can pick up a set for under £40.



Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism that employs images in order to tell a news story. It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, but in some cases the term also refers to video used in broadcast journalism. Photojournalism is distinguished from other close branches of photography by complying with a rigid ethical framework which demands that the work be both honest and impartial whilst telling the story in strictly journalistic terms. Photojournalists create pictures that contribute to the news media, and help communities connect with one other. Photojournalists must be well informed and knowledgeable about events happening right outside their door. They deliver news in a creative format that is not only informative, but also entertaining.

Ernest Cole

Born Eersterust, Pretoria, 1940, died New York 1990

Ernest Cole was the first photographer to expose the conditions of life in South Africa under the apartheid regime. As a black man he was defined as an ‘unskilled labourer’, so his entry into photojournalism was as a sweeper and messenger at Zonk magazine.

In 1958 he joined the magazine Drum as a design and production assistant and registered for a correspondence course with the New York Institute of Photography. Encouraged by his tutors, he started a project to record apartheid in South Africa and finally got a job as a photographer for the newspaper Bantu World, before becoming South Africa’s first freelance black photojournalist in the early 1960s.

In 1966 Cole got himself reclassified as ‘coloured’, which meant that he was able to leave country. He travelled to France and England before arriving in New York with the prints and layout sheets of his apartheid project in September 1966. Magnum Photos organised to publish the series in book form. House of Bondage came out the following year but was banned in South Africa, forcing Cole into exile. After a period working for Magnum, he moved to Sweden to take up film making, though his pictures were still published extensively, often in anti-apartheid publications.

Gisèle Freund

Born Berlin 1908, died Paris 2000

Gisèle Freund studied sociology and history of art at the University of Freiburg before moving to Frankfurt in 1931 to study with the famous sociologists Karl Mannheim and Norbert Elias. Her father had given her a Leica and Elias – noting the ever-present camera – suggested that she study 19th-century photography. Freund was also active in socialist circles and in 1933 she was forced to flee to Paris. There she continued her studies, completing what was to be the first PhD thesis ever written on photography, and started to take photographs for a living. She became known for her portraits of writers (from 1938 often taken with colour film) and published reportage in Life, Picture Post, Vu and Paris Match magazines.

On the eve of the German occupation of Paris, Freund – a Jew and an anti-fascist – was again forced into exile, first to the south of France and then to Argentina. She became a member of Magnum in 1947 and covered Latin America for the agency until 1954. She returned to Paris and continued her career as a writer, photographic reporter and photographer of literary figures. In 1974 her PhD thesis was translated into English and published as the influential book Photography and Society.

Ernst Haas

Born Vienna 1921, died New York 1986

Ernst Haas bought his first camera in 1946 on the Viennese black market, exchanging the 10 kilograms of margarine he had been given for his 25th birthday for a 35 mm Rolleiflex. His medical studies had been interrupted during the war, so he had been working on and off in a photographers’ studio. His first published photo-story, Homecoming Prisoners of War, marked a turning point in his career. It was taken with his new camera in 1946 and published in Heute magazine in 1949. When this piece was taken up by Life magazine, Haas became the first photographer to be asked to join Magnum, an invitation that he accepted.

The following year Haas started to experiment with colour film. He played a pivotal role in the development of colour photography and in 1953 Life magazine devoted an unprecedented 24 pages to his first published colour essay, ‘Shots of a Magic City’, taken in New York. Haas went on to produce colour essays for magazines during the 1950s and 1960s, including features on Paris, Venice and England. From the mid 1950s he also started to investigate the semi-abstract depiction of movement. In 1958 readers of Popular Photography voted Haas one of the ‘World’s Ten Greatest Photographers’.

Philippe Halsman

Born Riga, Latvia, 1906, died New York 1979

Philippe Halsman studied engineering in Dresden before moving to Paris to open a photographic portrait studio in 1932. There he photographed public figures including politicians, intellectuals and actors. When Paris fell to the Nazi forces in 1940, Halsman fled to America.

He received his first commission for Life magazine in 1942 and went on to produce over one hundred magazine covers between 1942 and 1971. Halsman’s sitters included film stars and celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe and artists such as Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali and Georgia O’Keefe. He stated that the ‘fascination with the human face has never left me…every face I see seems to hide and sometimes, fleetingly, to reveal the mystery of another human being…capturing this revelation became the goal and passion of my life’.

His work is, at times, saturated with humour. In the 1950s he produced a series of ‘jump’ photographs, capturing his sitters – including figures such Richard Nixon, vice-president at the time – mid air. Halsman claimed that these photographs, usually taken at the end of a portrait sitting, revealed the real character of the celebrity.

Frank Horvat

Born Opatija, Croatia (then Abbazia, Italy) 1928

When he was 15 Frank Horvat swapped his stamp collection for a 35 mm Retinamat camera. After studying art at the Accademia di Brera in Milan and working in an advertising firm, he started his career as a photographer in the late 1940s, working freelance for Italian magazines. He then had a brief stay in London, working for Life and Picture Post, before moving to Paris in 1955, where he worked as both a fashion photographer and photojournalist (he was an associate member of Magnum from 1958 to 1961).

In the 1950s and 1960s his photographs were published in Jardin des modes, Elle, Glamour, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Horvat has travelled extensively throughout his career. In 1962, for example, the German magazine Revue commissioned him to produce a series of picture essays from cities across the globe. In recent years he has focused more on book projects and personal work. In a recent piece, entitled A Daily Report, 1999, Horvat took at least one photograph every day for the last year of the millennium.

Mary Ellen Mark

Born Philadelphia 1940

After studying painting and art history and gaining an MA in photojournalism from the University of Pennsylvania, Mary Ellen Mark started her career as a freelance photojournalist in the mid 1960s.

In 1965 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to photograph in Turkey. There Mark established her signature style of combining a documentary approach with a fascination with the bizarre. She also established one of the key themes in her work: an interest in children acting like adults.

Returning to America in 1967, Mark moved to New York and worked as a photojournalist, publishing photo-stories in magazines such as the New York Times, Evergreen and Life. Mark also worked on film sets, taking production stills on films including Catch 22 and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Mark’s first solo exhibition, Ward 81, was a result of her work on the latter, when she returned to the high-security women’s mental hospital where it had been filmed.

An interest in people, especially women, on the edge of society is apparent throughout her work. Her projects include a series on prostitutes in Bombay’s Falkland Road (1978), street kids in Seattle (1983) and a study of Indian travelling circuses (1989). Mark continues to publish and exhibit her work to great acclaim and in 2001 was awarded the Cornell Capa Infinity Award from the International Center for Photography, New York.

David Seymour

Born Warsaw 1911, died Suez 1956

With the intention of entering his family’s printing and publishing business, David Seymour studied at the Academy of Graphic and Book Arts in Leipzig, Germany, from 1929 to 1931. Because of the worsening political situation in Germany, he then moved to Paris to study chemistry in 1932. Soon economic difficulties in Poland meant that he had to supplement his allowance, so he took up photography to earn a living. Adopting the nickname ‘Chim’ (a French phonetic abbreviation of his Polish-Jewish surname Szymin), Seymour worked as a freelance photographer, publishing picture stories in Regards, the Popular Front illustrated magazine, from 1934.

From 1936 to 1938 he covered the Spanish Civil War, before moving on assignment to Mexico for the newly created Paris Match magazine. When the Second World War broke out, he changed his surname to Seymour and moved to the USA, where he worked in photo-reconnaissance for the US army.

In 1947 Seymour co-founded the Magnum photographer’s agency with Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa (whom he had met in Paris in the 1930s), George Rodger and William Vandivert. He returned to Europe in 1948, commissioned by UNICEF to take pictures of displaced children, a project that helped to establish his reputation. Seymour worked as Magnum’s representative in Europe and Israel during the 1950s but was killed while reporting the Suez crisis of 1956.

Erich Salomon

Born Berlin 1886, died Auschwitz 1944

Erich Salomon was a key figure in the development of modern photojournalism. He graduated in law in 1913 before being called up for military service. When war ended he returned to Berlin and in 1925 he got a job in the publicity department of the publishers Ullstein. He bought a large-format press camera before acquiring a more compact Ermanox in 1927.

After publishing his first press photograph in the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung in 1928, Salomon set himself up as a freelance photographer and journalist. He travelled widely in Europe and America and soon became known for his off-guard pictures of politicians, sporting events and celebrities. Salomon went to such great lengths to disguise his camera that the editor of Graphic coined the term ‘candid photography’ to describe his clandestine technique. In 1931 he published a book of his work entitled Famous Contemporaries in Unguarded Moments and in 1935 held an exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society in London. However, the rise of the Nazis meant that from 1933 Salomon, who was Jewish, was no longer able to publish in German magazines, so he moved with his family to The Hague in the Netherlands. He was discovered by the Nazi authorities in 1944 and, with his wife and son Dirk, deported to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia and then on to Auschwitz.

Nicolas Tikhomiroff

Born Paris1927

After serving in the French army, which he joined in 1944 after the liberation of Paris, Nicolas Tikhomiroff began his photographic career working in the darkroom of a fashion photographer. He soon began publishing his own work in magazines such as Marie France and from the 1950s started working with Magnum Photos. Assignments took him to the Soviet Union, South-East Asia and Africa, where he spent long periods covering the wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Algeria. Tikhomiroff later worked in the film industry, documenting the behind-the-scenes activities of directors such as Federico Fellini, Lucchino Visconti and Orson Welles. He was also active in fashion and advertising photography.

Tikhomiroff retired from professional activities in 1987 and now spends his time working on personal projects in France. Although he was never a full member of the agency, his earlier work is still distributed by Magnum Photos.


My Saturday Morning

Saturday morning I woke up as I sometimes do, around 02:30am. What else is a photography crazy guy going to do? Hell yeah, drive into the centre of London and find a great spot for some light trail photography. “What’s this to do with the History of Photography?” Quite a lot actually. Back in the day at the start of taking photo’s it was all about long exposure. Getting the exposure time correct for the family portrait. How would this possibly look if it had been taken on a gelatine plate? How would I be perceived now standing on the Embankment with a massive wooden box on legs trying to focus my image on the plate with shroud from the camera covering my torso looking at an upside down image holding the cable release in waiting for the moment to work the shutter.

We take for granted how things have progressed and how easily we can take photographs now. Not so long ago in my lifetime when I got the bug for photography my first digital camera cost me maybe £400 for less the a heavy to hold point on shoot thing that ran on AA batteries and memory card that was 125mb. And I thought it was a god send over my film DSLR, yet this was just in the early 1990’s. What would George Eastman think now about how photography has advanced.

Embankment Lightspeed2

Back to my Saturday morning, something that a lot of people do not see. Thames Embankment empty of traffic and tourists. Just a lone car driving past leaving it’s light trail. I felt blessed but wary at the same time for being close to the Embankment Station, as I know very well that there are a lot of homeless people around this area. Not something to worry about, but its something to always keep in mind if your are out on your own like I was.


Embankment And Eye

As you can see the results were amazing, but I was not quite satisfied. I crave perfection! Something that will never happen but something I always try for.

Embankment and Eye3


Photographic Processes

Photographic Processes
The decades following photography’s experimental beginnings in the 1820s and the public availability of a practical photographic process from 1839 were characterised by the introduction of a bewildering proliferation of photographic processes. Daguerre’s silvered metal plate, which created a unique photographic image, was swiftly challenged by the negative-positive processes on paper, developed and championed by William Henry Fox Talbot and others. In the 1850s paper gave way to glass as the preferred negative support and the salted paper print of the 1840s was superseded by albumen and other papers. This evolution was driven by a complex interrelationship of artistic, technical and commercial needs. If individual photographers defended the superior expressive potential of particular processes and techniques, scientific attention, aware of the fugitive silver image’s proneness to fading, was being directed towards printing processes using more permanent compounds, such as carbon. The many different processes that were introduced during photography’s first half-century possessed both technical and artistic merits and disadvantages, and each contributed to the remarkable variety of nineteenth-century photography. The following selection illustrates only a few of the most significant of these, but each highlights the remarkable variety of aesthetic and technical ingenuity devoted to photography in its formative years.


Announced in Paris in 1839, the daguerreotype was the first publicly available photographic process. The daguerreotype image was created on a silvered metal plate exposed to iodine fumes, forming a light-sensitive surface of silver iodide. Development was achieved by exposing the plate to fumes of heated mercury and the image fixed in a salt solution. The daguerreotype produced an image of remarkable sharpness, but unlike competing processes, each daguerreotype was unique. This proved to be the major factor in its demise, compared to the negative-positive processes, from which unlimited copies could be made. J. W. Newland, the photographer of this portrait, had practised as a daguerreotypist in North and South America, the Pacific and Australia, before establishing a studio in Calcutta in about 1850. Although his studio remained successful throughout the 1850s, Newland himself died in 1857, one of the early victims of the Indian Mutiny.


One of the oldest and longest surviving photographic processes, the cyanotype or blue-print was invented by Sir John Herschel in 1840, using a mixture of ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide to produce a light sensitive paper. As a relatively simple process to prepare and manipulate – it required no development or fixing other than washing – it was popular among amateurs throughout the nineteenth century and has also been widely used by engineers and architects for reproducing technical drawings (‘blueprints’). This image is one of a large collection produced by Anna Atkins between 1843 and 1853 entitled Photographs of British algae: Cyanotype Impressions. These photographic impressions were made without the use of the camera, by placing specimens directly onto the sensitised paper and exposing them to sunlight.


William Henry Fox Talbot’s calotype process, the first practical negative-positive photographic process, was patented by him in 1841. A sheet of good quality paper was first treated with light-sensitive silver compounds before exposure in the camera. The ‘latent’ image thus produced was then developed in gallo-nitrate of silver and fixed. This concept of negative-positive photography, allowing the production of an unlimited number of prints from a single negative, has formed the basis of photographic practice up to the present day, and is only now being challenged by digital imagery. The calotype negative was the subject of many refinements in the 1840s and 50s and it was common practice for photographers to apply heated wax to the developed negative in order to increase printing transparency and lessen the visibility of the paper fibres (the French photographer Gustave Le Gray also introduced a waxed-paper process in which the wax was applied before the sensitising and exposing of the photograph). In India, Dr John Murray of the Bengal Medical Service was one of the most skilful practitioners of the calotype process in the 1850s and early 1860s. Concentrating on the Mughal architecture of northern India, he produced an extensive series of large format views, using paper negatives of up to 20 x 16 inches in size.


Once a paper negative had been secured, any number of positive prints could be created by contact printing. Preparation involved soaking good quality paper in a sodium chloride solution (table salt) and then brushing it with a solution of silver nitrate to produce light-sensitive silver chloride. Exposure of the sensitised paper to sunlight, in contact with a negative held in a frame, resulted in the emergence of a visible image without subsequent development. This ‘printed-out’ image was then fixed and toned. Salt prints, unless subsequently coated, have a characteristically matt appearance, with the image embedded in the paper. Although lacking the sharpness of detail associated with the daguerreotype, salt prints from calotype negatives exhibit an expressive softness of tone much prized by early photographers. This portrait of the Rev. Julius Wood is one of a large series taken by Hill and Adamson to serve as references for a group portrait of the founders of the Free Church of Scotland that Hill had been commissioned to paint. These portraits, with other scenes and views, were later issued in a small ‘edition’ of 12 known copies, entitled One Hundred Calotype Sketches.


Frederick Scott Archer’s wet collodion process, announced in 1851, became the standard photographic negative process for both amateurs and professionals from the mid-1850s until the early 1880s. The glass negative, with its structureless film, fine grain and clear whites proved immediately popular and within a decade had superseded both the daguerreotype and the calotype processes. To prepare the negative for exposure, a sheet of glass was coated with a solution of iodised collodion (a syrupy liquid composed of soluble gun-cotton, ether and alcohol) and then made light-sensitive by immersion in a bath of silver nitrate. Known as a wet process because the glass negative required sensitising, exposing and processing while the chemicals were still damp, it required considerable manipulative skill, but produced a negative of unsurpassed sharpness and a broad tonal range. This view, on a 10 x 12 inch glass plate, is one of a large collection of photographs of architectural subjects commissioned from Lyon by the Madras and Bombay Governments in the late 1860s.


The albumen print, announced by the French photographer and publisher Louis-Désiré Blanquard-Évrard in 1850, was the most widespread print medium in use between the mid-1850s and the 1890s. While the printing process was chemically similar to the salt print, the albumen print is generally distinguishable by the glossy sheen imparted by a preliminary sizing of the paper with albumen (egg white) and salt. This sealing of the paper created a surface layer on which the silver image was formed, and made possible much greater density, contrast and sharpness in the final image than had been possible with the plain salted paper print. After the albumen coating had been applied, the paper was made light sensitive by the addition of silver nitrate, and printed in contact with the negative. The fixed print could then be toned to create a wide variety of colours, ranging from purple-black to a rich chocolate brown. Although it continued to be used well into the twentieth century, its popularity declined after the mid-1890s, in favour of a variety of manufactured papers. This print is one of a series of studies of objects in the Royal Armoury at Madrid made around 1866 and is notable for its finely-controlled lighting and rich toning. The blacking-out of the background in this image isolates and increases the dramatic impact of the objects.


The Jerwood Photography Project at the British Library Photographic Processes Etienne Carjat, Portrait of Charles Baudelaire, 1860s P.P.1931.peg.vol.3 Carbon print The inherent propensity to fading of the silver-based photographic of the image was a source of concern from the earliest days of photography and considerable research was carried out in the attempt to produce permanent images. Perhaps the most successful of these was the carbon process. First patented by A. L. Poitevin in 1855, the process utilised the fact that gelatine mixed with an alkaline bichromate becomes insoluble when exposed to light. When printing from a negative, those parts of the image representing shadow tones were hardened by the exposure to light, while light areas, protected from exposure, remain unhardened and can be subsequently washed away. Carbon and other pigments could be used as colouring agents to obtain an almost unlimited range of tones in the final image. Because the process does not employ silver salts, the resulting image is resistant to fading and was widely used in book illustration in the 1870s and 1880s. This photograph of the poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) was published in the Galerie Contemporaine (Paris, 1878), one of many compilations of photographic portraits of contemporary celebrities produced on both sides of the Channel in this period.


Photogravure is a photo-mechanical rather than a true photographic printing process. Still in use for high quality monochrome reproduction, the process involved transferring a photographic image onto a grained copper plate, which was then etched to depths corresponding to the shadows and highlights of the original. The resulting image could then be used as a printing plate in the normal way. Photogravure dates back to the early days of photography, when William Henry Fox Talbot devised a printing system which would produce photographic reproductions in ink. Talbot’s process, which he termed ‘photoglyphic engraving,’ saw little commercial application until Karl Klic perfected the process in the 1870s, using carbon tissue as the etching resist. This image is one of fifteen x-ray photographs published in Eder and Valenta’s Versuche über Photographie mittlest der Röntgenschen Strahlen (1896). While the work itself is primarily a documentation of the technical aspects of x-ray photography, these finely printed photographs are elegantly beautiful images of both man-made and natural objects.