The way you set up your lighting and pose a subject can have a dramatic effect on the types of images that you get and the impression you present of a person. This is a skill of a great photographer, to not just take the same bland image of everyone but to add real character and personality to the portraits they take via the posing and lighting they choose to use.
With that in mind, you should check out this photo challenge called “Decoy” where six photographers were presented with the same subject, but they were given very different backstories. Have a look at the video.
[Video via YouTube]
You might think that some of these photos reflect out personal biases behind the people we see in everyday life. I think there is some truth in that. The friendly fisherman, powerful millionaire and dangerous convict. But I view it as part of the skill of portraiture as well.
All the photographer tried to find out about the man they were photographing so that would be reflected in their images. They weren’t swayed (only) by their first impressions but also the other information that he told them.
If you are interested in photography, you can try and replicate some of the images that these photographers achieved by getting a friend or loved one to stand in (even with just an smartphone camera). Look at some of the lighting and posses they used and try to replicate them. Personally, I love trying to get moody shots like the “convict” by using a big window, placing someone next to it and getting them to look over their shoulder. Then switch to the “life saver” and move them back a bit and take a picture from their side.
Give it a go, try and photograph the same person but in very different ways.