We’ve decided to highlight some of the best portrait photographers out there. One of the most traditional genres when it comes to photography, portraiture is also one of the most difficult styles to master. Because photographers are faced with the task of capturing a photo that appears natural, while also lending beautifully to the subject and their own unique personality, the capacity for a photographer to illustrate the humanness in another artist is something that is extremely difficult to master.
While portrait photography is one of the oldest styles of photography, through the years we have seen it take on many different forms. Today, more than ever, portrait photographers are shifting away from the norm and they are exploring new ways to express personality, unique storylines, and the fingerprint that every human being possesses.
Now, with the vastness of Instagram and the platform it gives young creators, photography isn’t only a career option for prestigious, agency signed names like Richard Avedon or Mario Testino. Opportunities are being given to those who pick up a camera and do something different with their art. Names are being made for themselves through the app, and artists like Sarah BahBah and Petra F Collins have socially thrived to the point of being able to work with celebrities like Selena Gomez and brands like Gucci.
And while there are thousands of incredible artists in the industry and on Instagram, we’ve put together a list of the best portrait photographers that are bending the norms when it comes to their photography. Many of these photographers have abandoned the stiff, “sit in a chair and smile” approach to portraiture a lot of older artists swore by. By using gritty film, harsh lighting, bold colours, contorted, photo journalistic approaches to props and location, these photographers are changing the way we see the human form, and they are telling a story while doing so.
Chris Shoonover is a portrait photographer that perfectly melds together photojournalism and beautiful neon tones. His work and his Instagram feed are a retro film dream, and his unique style of photography has his subjects interacting with bold colours, hard light, and props that add a simple depth to his photos. His work has been featured in NYLON, and W Magazine, and he has shot campaigns for Adidas, New Balance, J.Crew, Refinery29, etc.
Jamie Nelson is a portrait photographer from New York City best known for her fashion and beauty photography. She is represented by Judy Casey, and has shot for Vogue, Elle and Vanity Fair. Jamie is beloved in the fashion world because her photography doesn’t fit into any specific style — she is always coming up with new and creative ways to explore the human face.
Andi Elloway is one of those portrait photographers that doesn’t rely on editing to make her photos beautiful. Elloway uses film cameras and hard flash to create diary-style photos that document what it is like to live her fun-filled, crazy lifestyle. However, Elloway’s portraits aren’t lost in that craziness and come off as glamorous and effortless looks into what it means to be young and restless.
Toronto born Jesse Herzog is a renaissance man when it comes to photography. From clean, crisp film portraits, to the kind of portrait photos that make you double take due to color, tonality, props, and creative vision, Jesse manages to do incredible things with a camera without losing his subject in his art. His styling, casting, and location choices all come together to make his photos the kind that truly tells a story and lend to your eyes something delicious to explore for a few moments.
Petra F Collins
Since leaving her hometown of Toronto with two bags of film and a few hundred dollars in her pocket, Petra Collins has made a name for herself for her raw, and real, depictions of what it means to be female in the Western world. Her partnership with Alice Lancaster for American Apparel, made to confront menstruation and masturbation taboos, put her on the map in 2013, and since then she has shot for Gucci, Selena Gomez and Kim Kardashian. Petra has established herself as a respected portrait photographer that isn’t afraid to do things differently, and she is an artist to watch because of that richness and authenticity in her work.
Tyler Mitchell has been thrust into the public eye as a portrait photographer to watch due to being the first ever black photographer to shoot the cover of Vogue in it’s 126 year history. If that already wasn’t an incredible accomplishment for the 23 year old, the person he shot for the cover was Beyonce. The two photos he took of Queen B have graced the cover of two different editions of Vogue, and his grainy, evocative portraits have exploded in popularity due to his newfound exposure.
Ashley Armitage is using her incredible portrait photography to make a statement. Through her inclusive, and diverse, un-Photoshopped images of women and their friends, the 22 year old is trying to redefine what it means to be female. Her work entitled “The ONLY ‘Beach Body’ Inspiration You’ll Need This Summer,” is her most notable, showcasing women of all races, and body types in bikinis, aiming to disrupt the industry standards surrounding beach bodies and summer figures.
Due to her incredible photographic transparency, LA based Sarah BahBah has made a name for herself as a portrait photographer exploring the internal voices of women today. Through subtitled images, crisp shots, and a vibrancy that screams to the youth of her snaps, Sarah has managed to create an image surrounding her raw storytelling, and because of that she has shot for the likes of Gucci, Vogue, and Topshop.
A former Domino’s Pizza employee, Jared Thomas has come a long way in his professional career, and has been making waves as a portrait photographer ever since he started creating what he calls “Pop Photography.” Thomas manages to capture the feeling of youth perfectly, choosing to work with family and friends to really lock down his style and capture real moments in honest, familiar settings. Because of this, he had managed to work with the likes of Warner Brothers, NYLON, and Seventeen.
Henrik Purienne is a portrait photographer that is highly respected in the industry. Having an eye for the female form, Purienne captures women in retro settings, melding their feminine features with gritty, buttery film that reminds us of a 70s issue of French Vogue. There is a sense of intimacy in his photos, so much so that he is known for pioneering a new style of film, one that marries ambiance and the ability to capture a story, rather than just a face.