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Mark the flower man. Could this photo make an ok portrait?

This is a Thai friend who uses part of our land to grow flowers which he sells at the markets in town. I thought I might surround him with his wares but he just got back from a month in Thailand so had nothing fresh when I took the photo today. But I could just add the flowers around him later when he goes to cut some and in the meantime start on the portrait.

Does the photo need to be cropped or is it ok as is? Do you think the colour scheme works? (Imagine lots of green foliage around him with a few discrete flowers mixed in.) 

I've never done a portrait and I have heaps of questions re technique but they will probably be answered in Mark's portrait video which I've bought and will now watch. For the  moment I just want to know if folks think the basic idea and photo are ok and, if not, how I could make improvements to it. Because it's my first portrait I want to keep things as simple as possible. 

Thanks for any advice you can give.

Rob :)


  • Rob

    For your first portrait I suggest you put as much effort into the composition as you would a still life or a landscape. This is an ok photo but....

    What about a shot in his working clothes in his flower garden. Or framed in the doorway of the shop or stall - some narrative context would be good.

    The hat is good (right BOB73?) but try to bounce some light in there to reduce the dark shadow.


  • Oooooooh what a great HAT. But perhaps I've given the wrong impression. I love MY hats and some are more than forty years old when I first started to collect them. By collect I mean not throw them away after wearing them too long. Had I kept them from my youth (little league, scouting, Army etc.) they tell my life's story. But we're getting off topic.
     @tassieguy Not to completely disagree with @dencal (his suggestions are always very good) I think it is an OK photo too the red against the nice skin tones and dramatic shadows across the face should make an interesting painting. The tattoo is great too. You can add the flowers later as you mentioned. It will be  a good painting with or without them. Or, it wouldn't hurt to do as Denis suggests either.
  • I am psyched this will be your first portrait!!  I look forward to reading all about your journey.  I've identified a friend willing to let me paint him for the portrait challenge and I'm working through my set up and approaches (live color checking and mixing vs. later from the photo).  I agree with @dencal.  If this gentleman is a willing subject, then he will most likely be agreeable to letting you really set up the shot. 
  • This photo is a little odd and would not be my first choice.  
  • edited July 2017
    I would agree with Denis. Mark is an interesting subject but the setting lacks vigour. Check out some of Peter Smeeth's work, excellent portrait painter who brings interesting narratives to his paintings. Also I would crop if you did use this particular photo.

    [Deleted User]
  • I would keep a little more than just the face. Probably upto the chest of tummy range. Study van Gogh paintings. The stuff that you are looking for are in his later paintings such as Dr. Gachet's portrait.
  • edited July 2017
    The general drift here seems to be that this is not the best photo I could have chosen. I will try to get him to sit for me again. This time I'll use a dark background and do only head and shoulders in order to make it as simple as possible to paint. Thanks everyone.
  • @tassieguy Mark is the flower man. Flowers is the narrative. The portrait must have flowers and maybe Mark could have a pair of cutters in his hand or some relevant tool/object. I think a bright sky background would be good for his coloring and brighten the shadows under the hat. All that assumes you will keep the current (uncropped) photo. If you photograph again I hope you'll keep the hat and shirt. It seems to be part of his personality. Don't forget the earing too.
  • If you re-shoot try and see if you can keep the nice variation in values across the face that you have in this one. Though I actually do like the crop above, but I see that its not ideal if you are wanting to add some personal elements to the composition. 
  • How about Frida Kalho style with flowers in his hair/around the hat,not joking- with that intense gaze could look pretty speccy.

  • Rob

    Don't forget the caterpillar eyebrows.


  • dencal said:

    Don't forget the caterpillar eyebrows.


    ....and the moustache.
  • I'm worried that people will think I am mucking around and being disrespectful to @tassieguy's sitter, Mark. Rob if you think this is inappropriate I will take it down, but I think it makes quite a compelling image.
  • SummerSummer -
    edited July 2017
    Boudicca said:
    I'm worried that people will think I am mucking around and being disrespectful to @tassieguy's sitter, Mark. Rob if you think this is inappropriate I will take it down, but I think it makes quite a compelling image.
    Glad you left out the pruning shears for this pose.  I don't think that you are mucking about.  I think that you are pointing out Mark's societal characteristics.  :)  Summer
  • edited July 2017
    No probs, @Boudicca - I'm fine with it.

    If I go with this photo it will be just head and shoulders as per your crop. I don't have to include anything re his occupation. And anyway, he has no flowers at the moment - it's winter here and not much is in bloom.  I think the face and hat are interesting enough in their own right so I'll go with that. I want to keep it simple. However, I'm gong to try to get another shot with a dark greyish/green background which will complement the red and also make it easier to paint than with a light background. I guess I could try using the current photo and just making the background that neutral grey-green colour but I would have to adjust the reflected light from the wall on his face. If I can't lay my hands on some fabric of the right colour that is what I shall do.

    Thanks to all for your suggestions.

    Rob :)

  • @tassieguy Thank you Rob for keeping your cool while we explored our imaginations and had a little fun on the side.  You are such a nice guy.  Summer
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