Why portrait photography is all about trust

CR speaks to three portrait photographers about why they were drawn to the art form, and the importance of trust and collaboration when working with a subject

The job of a portrait photographer is to capture their subject. That can be achieved in an array of styles, approaches and methods, but whatever the execution, a good portrait tells us something about the person in the image; it captures their personality, their mood and perhaps how they see themselves. 

Taking pictures of other people for a living sounds fun, easy even, but the skills needed to build trust with a subject, understand what’s working and create something new, take a long time to nurture. “I know it sounds clichéd, but it’s really about practice,” says photographer Yolanda Y Liou. “The more pictures you take, the more comfortable you are doing it. Your job is to instinctively know when your control ends in order to capture those fleeting moments. But your instincts get better with practice.” 

Top and above: Yolanda Y Liou

Taiwan-born and now London and Brighton-based Liou creates work that explores the human body and the photographer’s own attitudes towards body image. Using both analogue and digital techniques, she creates intimate, yet powerful images. “Since my childhood and because of the culture in Taiwan, I’ve always had very low self-esteem about my appearance. When starting photography, it was almost like a self-healing process; I didn’t feel confident about myself, so I looked for the beauty within other people,” explains Liou. “I’ve become quite obsessed with taking pictures of people because I find something very beautiful about each individual.”