Classic portraits in modern photography follow the principles that you see in the portraits of old–by Rembrandt,  Rubens, Hals, Vermeer, and so on. The painters knew how to best light and position the subjects in respect to the light so that their pictures were flattering representations.  My portraits too use the classical lighting for one reason:  That is the best way for me to reveal my subject’s character in a powerful illuminating manner.  A photographer to make his subjects look like they want really needs to properly light them. 

My studio has seven strobes and for each client and for each shoot, I think afresh about where to place the strobes and what modifiers to place on them.  I look for a classic yet fresh look.  And note that classic portraiture is not old fashioned.   The traditional “science” can render lots of styles of lighting and goes along with innovation, personality, fun, and a contemporary look.  


When a potential client contacts me and says “I want a standard business head-shot”, or, perhaps “My goal is a modern-looking portrait”, my response is to come over to the studio and we will look at examples of my own work, tear-sheets from fashion magazines, and images from newly published books until we are set on the types of looks we want to create. We then discuss clothing and, for females, makeup, and the background that I should use to complement the story. I need my client’s feedback in order have the lighting setups for the shoot prepared to make the story compelling. Each shoot is tailored to the particular client.


One issue that photographers like painters have faced is how to put the subject at ease.   Beverages and dark chocolate work wonders.   One client I had was particularly nervous. An attractive woman, she insisted that she was not photogenic, but she needed the image for her company’s website.  After a few shots, I took a long look at her in the lovely light with the colors of her outfit balanced by the color I chose for the background and gasped “[Y]ou look gorgeous!”.  She softly smiled with pleasure, and bingo, I took the shot and we had a lovely representation of her good looks and sweet character.  My clients like during the shoot to see our progress.  All the shots as the session continues appear on my ipad ready for discussion and selection.


A client might ask only for a digital head-shot for their business or an audition, but for me, all classic portraits I mean to be works of art. All my portraits, whatever the size requested by the client, receive lots of my time to retouch for a pleasing yet natural-looking representation.  My classic portraits work well as fine-art-prints–in canvas, metal, acrylic, glass or several kinds of paper–luster, silk, fine-art.  I will show you samples. 

Girl smiling with bright eyes and maroon knit hat

Megan Santa Croce passed away winter 2018 after a long term of suffering from a rare form of cancer.

We must not forget that classic portraits form part of a person’s historical record.  Megan Santa Croce asked me in spring 2016 to do her portrait in my studio and provide prints that Megan would give her mother.  Megan who was a student at Binghamton University passed away 2 1/2 years after she visited my studio.  I am proud that Megan’s parents take pleasure in seeing classic portraits of her beautiful daughter.   

Binghamton Classic Portraits

Megan Santa Croce Tree Dedication, Binghamton University Preserve, 5/23/19


High School Seniors often want their rite of passage recorded.  Here are drafts of parts of a senior shoot of mine.  Senior Danika Blasko and I decided where we should take the pictures.  We choose my studio, Broome County Courthouse (because Danika plans to go into law), and the Binghamton University Nature Preserve (because Danika herself lives in the countryside on a 30 acre property).  The second part of the pictures below in the gallery shows part of our shoot. 


Nancy Basmann Photography

4816 Country Club Rd
with handicap ramp,
Vestal, NY 13850
Phone: (607) 731-1626


Danika’s Senior Sessions

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