National Portrait Gallary

Barack Obama. Photo by Martin Schoeller

Barack Obama. Photo by Martin Schoeller

The application of several essential  photography skills including: composition, lighting, affective background, camera angle choice, and depth of field make this a phenomenal photograph.  The camera angle, along with the small depth of field barely extending beyond Obama’s immediate face, helps bring viewers closer to the subject in a way that feels personal and safe.  Schoeller applies composition by angling light so that it creates no shadows.  The effect ties together several colors–white (his eyes and the background), tan (his skin color), and dark brown (his hair, eyebrows, and suit)–to give the picture some uniformity.  The white of Obama’s eyes then become the focus because they contrast with the dark brown around them.  The seriousness and wisdom in the eyes portray Obama as someone with an abundance of confidence, maturity, and wit–three qualities he wielded so well during his campaign.


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