There are lots of reasons that faceless photography works so well in certain scenarios.
Now, I warn you, they are not everyone’s cup of tea. I must admit that as a parent I initially found it extremely difficult not to focus in on my children’s (often not) beaming faces in every single photo. In fact, in my early photographic journey, I even found wider angle shots difficult because the focus of the photo was then not their little features. It became a battle for me between wanting to explore different techniques (composition, story-telling, wider angle shots) and “the good old (mum-goggles firmly in place) portrait”.
I personally forced myself to explore this topic as part of my 365 journey because I hate to be beaten on things I find tricky. I vowed that, because I found it so hard, I wouldn’t allow it to crush me. And besides, I really do love the mystery and visual tension that it often creates.
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – that the eyes are the windows to the soul. So there is no wonder that when we see images, we are immediately drawn to the face and the subject’s expression. So why would we ever choose to hide these very things in a photograph?
Here are a few ways that you can create interesting and beautiful faceless creations.
1) BACK TO CAMERA
This is probably the most simple and obvious form of faceless photography and probably the easiest to compose. Somehow, seeing the subject looking away into the distance invites the viewer to share the experience with them. It invokes a feeling of ‘wanderlust’ and can help add direction to the image because the subject’s line of sight creates an implied leading line to direct the viewer around the frame.
It creates a sense of wonder – Where are they going? What are they going there for? Are they searching for something?
The photographer really has to think hard about visual clues in this case because leaving the viewer wondering without conclusion could make the image feel somehow uncomfortable and dissatisfying. Or does that form of visual tension appeal to you? That’s the great thing about this art – there is no right or wrong answer!
2) COVER THE FACE DELIBERATELY
This can be done in so many ways and can convey so many emotions. We cover our face in many different scenarios; when we are happy, laughing, sad, shy, melancholy, angry, exhausted and for lots of other reasons. Think about the secondary body language that goes with each of these emotions – is the subject throwing their head back in laughter and reckless abandonment or are they turning their body away? Are their hands/arms ‘open’ or ‘closed’ in protection around themselves?
You could cover your face with your hands or other body parts. You could obscure it with another item like a bubble, bunch of flowers, scarf or even wear a mask.
3) SILHOUETTES AND SHADOWS
I would use this as an opportunity to get REALLY creative! Start a diary and document every room in your house to record the time of day that those lovely patches of harsh light appear. Think about options for directing them where you need them to be, for example a blind or curtain. What items can you use to create interesting shadows? – even the trusty kitchen saviour, the humble colander can create a stunning visual impact if used in the right way! Remember harsh light and shadows can be found outside too! A garden gate or picnic bench can make a really striking composition. Your subject could even create their own shadow on a wall.
4) TO CROP OR NOT TO CROP? (THAT REALLY IS THE QUESTION)
Will the image still look balanced? Will is still tell the story? Is there enough detail? Does it look like I’ve chopped the head off by mistake? A rule I try to follow is to not chop off any limbs especially at the joints (knees, wrists, elbows…..neck). Overall this gives a more pleasing effect. So get in there and make memories of that little dress with the gorgeous embroidery that you painstakingly picked out for Xmas day. Photograph the muddy knees that you curse when trying to get tights clean, remember the chubby fingers holding the flower or ladybird…those eyelashes…. that hair ribbon blowing in the breeze… the possibilities are endless really.
These can be used really well to hide definition. I always try to think up some ideas in advance about what the kids could be doing in the reflection to add a bit of story-telling and interest (e.g. puddle jumping, sailing paper boats, pulling faces). Also, I like them to have on fairly bright coloured clothes for these shots. I sometimes like to flip the image and then crop out parts of their actual body – this can be really creative and spooky at times. My top tip here is during post-processing – de-haze is your friend to add clarity back to the reflection!!
6) FLAT-LAY/STILL LIFE
When all else fails and you still need your faceless photography ‘fix’, why not try grouping a few of your favourite objects and trying your hand at still life or flat lay images? You could even try a tabletop presentation of some yummy cookies. Or maybe even with a little hand sneaking in to pinch a treat!
Beautiful lighting works really well here to add dimension and intensity. It is also important to think very carefully about your composition and use colour theory and texture to add even more impact!
I really hope that you have found this article on how to master faceless photography interesting and that you are now brimming with ideas to try. I can’t wait to see what you produce! Head over to our Facebook group and show us what you have been up to!