What is it that’s so intriguing about a photo of a door? For many, it’s the mystery. Where does it lead to, and what — or who — is on the other side? For others, it’s just the down-right beauty of it. Put the two together and a viral Instagram trend is born. Enter: #doortraits.
Put simply, a doortrait (door-portrait) is a photo of a beautifully framed door. Though the popular hashtag is relatively new, the fascination with capturing doors actually dates back to the 1600s, when it was customary for Dutch artists to paint windows and doors. More recently, 1970’s photographer Roy Colmer created a vast photo series of 3,000 doors in Manhattan, which was displayed by The New York Public Library.
Feeling inspired? Here are some tips to help you capture your own doortrait.
IDENTIFY INTERESTING DOORS
Look for interesting colors, patterns, and decorations that frame the doorway or path in an interesting way. Don’t forget to look for visually striking house numbers, doorknobs, keyholes, and doorknockers.
GET THE RIGHT ANGLE
Often overlooked, but equally important, is using good posture when photographing doors. The goal is to hold your camera parallel to the door. If your camera is tilted, it will distort the height of the building, which is known as the keystone effect or converging verticals.
Pro Tip: Use a camera with keystone compensation to beat unwanted distortion when you can’t perfectly square up your shot. Here’s how.
PRACTICE THE RULE OF THIRDS
Doors are the perfect subject for practicing the Rule of Thirds. Leave headspace to capture a beautiful frame around the door, or use space below to capture the cobblestone driveway leading up to the main house.
UTILIZE OR IMAGINE LEADING LINES
If the door is surrounded by foliage like climbing vines or vibrant flowers, use the natural lines created by the plants to frame your door. If the colors pop against the house color, zoom out or step back to reveal the texture of the house exterior; wood, stone, and brick can create beautiful leading lines.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF GOLDEN HOUR
The most popular times to shoot #doortraits are the hours just after sunrise and just before sunset. This is when the sun is lowest in the sky and the light is even and soft. Try to visit the door you intend to shoot multiple times and pay attention to the way shadows are cast and the way the light moves. If you’re shooting from street level, surrounding buildings and plants will serve as natural light diffusers.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Door designs and decorations have significant meanings in many countries. In Chinese culture, doors are decorated with intricate, bold designs to indicate social status, power, and authority. In America, a red door was once a sign of hospitality for exhausted travelers. It’s worth researching the place you’re travelling to so you know what features and details to look for.
Photographing your own city can be just as rewarding. Try taking a different route home; you might stumble across a funky coffee shop entrance or an entire block of doortrait-worthy homes.
Just remember to add #doortraits or #doorsofinstagram in your caption and your shot might just go viral. Fingers crossed.
Shot by Thomas Machuelle with an Olympus OM-D Camera | M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO Lens | 1/640 sec | F8 | ISO200