Camera Never Lies? Really?
It's a Lie That The Camera Never Lies...
An article by Lawrence
Dyer, Portrait Artist and Author
You've heard that the camera never lies,
haven't you? You've been told that if you want an accurate record
of something then take a photograph... Well, here's something that
might surprise you. You've been lied to. In reality the camera always
lies. What's more, it's often possible to get a closer likeness
of someone in a creative portrait if it is painted by an artist
than is the case with a photographic portrait 'snapped' by a camera.
In What Ways Does The Camera 'Lie'?
To begin with the lens of a camera distorts the
image before it, 'elongating' near objects towards it and far objects
away from it. You can easily see this if you try to take a distant
view of hills or cliffs, especially with someone in the foreground.
The hills appear tiny and remote behind the human
subject, not the effect you can see with your eyes at all.
In close objects, such as photographic portraits,
parts closest to the camera, such as the nose, will appear bigger
than in life.
Picture to Portrait:
Oil Portrait - click to zoom
Photograph, same subject and location
Of course professional photographers have quality
equipment that minimizes this effect, but the effect is still there,
The lighting, film speed, quality of camera, whether
digital or film -- even how steady the person taking the photo is
-- all have an effect on the resulting photo.
If this was not true then all photos taken of someone
by different cameras would all come out the same, and they don't.
In What Other Ways is it Untrue that 'The Camera
A photograph is a 'snapshot' in time, the capturing
of a single moment that is quickly gone to be replaced by others.
This is why when we take photographs of people we have to select
those that look 'natural' (i.e. that look more like the person appears
to our unaided eye).
Therefore we have to reject those photos
in which the subject is squinting, has her eyes shut, is pulling
an 'odd expression' or simply doesn't look like the person for some
Add to this the complications that
someone looks 'different' when her picture is taken in different
lighting, on different days, whether tired or relaxed, at different
ages, out in the wind, with or without make-up... and the results
are going to be very different photographs! (By the way, you can
often see this reality emphasised if you glance through someone's
Facebook photos -- or indeed their photo album).
The Advantages of the Portrait Painting
course some of what has been written above also applies to
portrait paintings, but the portrait artist has the advantage
of time to get the likeness right (an hour compared with 125th
of a second, perhaps).
The artist can also choose a pose in
which the subject or subjects appear natural, "as they really
are" and undistorted by a camera lens. There is no need to
try to capture the moment when the subject isn't blinking; no need
to 'eliminate red eye', no need to worry about 'odd' expressions...
A Better Background?
The portrait artist can also provide
an 'ideal' background for the subject. None of those drainpipes
or lamp posts growing out of the top of the subjects head, to take
an extreme example (see images of boy further up this page). Almost
any background is possible.
This manipulation of background can
be a particular advantage if the subject is no longer with us and
there is no photograph left that places the person in the context
in which they would want to be remembered.
Double portraits of more than one person
are also possible, or creative portraits of the subject in action,
at their job or hobby, for example.
An oil painting of somone is also more
likely to endure through time than a photograph printed on a piece
of paper that will soon fade or simply stored on a disc or hard
drive that will one day be lost or become corrupted beyond use.
A Family Heirloom?
A portrait painting makes a statement
about someone and who they are. It can be a talking point for visitors
to your home, a statement about who or what you are in life, even
something that will become a famiy heirloom to be passed on through
I can paint your creative portrait
from life, or if that is not possible from a series of photographs
so that distortions can be 'ironed out'. Just let me know what you
want and I will tell you what it will cost, wherever you are in
the world. Contact me here.
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