What would you consider a timeless portrait? Is it one that evokes strong memories of your past? Is it a photo that evokes emotions from almost anyone who looks at the image? Is something very personal? Well.. it can be any of these and much more.
A timeless portrait can feature one person, or it may feature a whole family with their friends. The shot can be of famous landmark location, or it can just as easily be someones backyard. The subjects may be cat napping or engaged in playful activities. So, the real question may be, how can one set out to make a timeless images. Sometimes these are candid moments, other times a little planning may go into the image.
In the image above, the child is jumping off a rock into a pond below. This is a popular spot with hundreds of visitors in the summer months for many years. When one looks at the image, most people may think "WOW..I would love to do that" or "I remember that spot, it has not changed much" or "Lets go next weekend". The image draws people into the moment looking at the airborne swimmer. People who may have visiting the pond may have fond memories of the forest, birds, camping, or just being with someone that they care about. People who have never visited the pond may be curious to know where the pond is located. They may start to think about areas close to themselves that may be similar to the pond. They may want to just want a get-away to clear their heads from daily stress.
Of course, the image would be much simpler, such as the couple shown here. Romance never goes out of style and many people can relate, one way or another to a photo such as these. The couple with colorful autumn leaves catches the eye almost immediately.
So, how to create such as image? The image needs to be relatable on an emotional level and often tells a story. It really does not matter if the image of the young couple was taken 20 years ago or yesterday, love is eternal. Keep in mind that a timeless image does always have to be pleasant or appealing. There are many world war II images that generate a great deal of emotion just to look at them, regardless of whomever you may be.
Some common elements may be strong composition, vibrant colors (or B&W), emotional appeal (in some cases even anger), as well as the basics such as exposure and focus. Being in the right place and the right time certainly helps, but certainly not the who story. Interestingly enough, who took the image is not important to most people who look at the image. The viewer may momentarily acknowledge the photographer but it is really the content of the image that makes the image timeless. Is your next image going to be Timeless?
Bob Barford is an award winning photographer based in Pennsylvania.