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Creative photo ideas for July: 09 Shoot asymmetrical portraits

Creative photo ideas for July: 09 Shoot asymmetrical portraits

Looking for a new way to shoot creative portraits? Bart Nagel has made an art form out of asymmetry.

First, he shoots portraits with symmetrical lighting, then cuts the portrait in half, mirrors each half, and puts the three photos side by side. The result is an intriguing triptych that looks slightly off.

“30 or so more years ago, I came across an article about the asymmetry of faces,” he explains.

“There was a photo accompanying the article: maybe it was done with mirrors or meticulous darkroom work, but the idea was clear.”

“I kept that story of asymmetry in my mind and this, along with my fascination with phrenology, strokes, Bell’s Palsy and the Talking Heads song ‘Seen and Not Seen’, prompted me to begin the A/Symmetry series.

“Asymmetry is fascinating — maybe a shoulder that sits higher or an eye that droops, for example. They tell the story of that person, or they tell the story that person wants told.”

SEE MORE: 14 portrait photography tips you’ll never want to forget

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* The lighting has to be symmetrical. To achieve this, Bart centres a large 4x6ft soft 
box over the lens, powered by a Profoto D4 generator. In some cases he uses a background light, also centred.
* In Photoshop, the image is bisected vertically and the sides swapped through copying, flipping and pasting.
* Try to get your subject to keep their head straight in all three planes. “A reasonably accurate depiction of their asymmetry is then conveyed in the final triptych,” explains Bart.

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