Worst Presidential Portrait Ever? Critiquing President Donald Trump’s Official Portrait


Jared Polin, froknowsphoto.com. And I want to take a look at President Donald
Trump’s official portrait that the White House recently put out. I want to go ahead and analyze it, look at
how it was shot, what it was shot with, and give you some input on what I think about
the portrait as well as take a look at George W. Bush’s two portraits and Barrack Obama’s
two portraits and put it up against this one. So, here we have it. This is the official portrait that will live
on throughout history as long as history is there. Now, this isn’t meant to be a politicized
post at all, we’re looking at this from a photographer’s standpoint and analyzing the
image. In terms of the portrait itself, I think it’s
conveying the message that they want to convey: I’m tough, I’m stern, but you don’t know what
I’m going to do, that’s just the nature of the portrait. You’ve got the flag in the background and
you have what looks to be the White House, but from what it looks like it looks like
it’s composited and we’ll get to the settings in just a second to justify why I think it’s
composited, but it just looks composited. So let’s go back to the first one here on
the left with George W. Bush. This is shot with film, it’s nice and sharp,
it’s lit the way that it’s lit from the ’90s – actually 2000s, sorry it came in in 2000. And it looks perfectly fine – nice and sharp. It conveys the message, he’s always smiling
because that’s what George W. Bush did. And I want to point out the pin right here,
the pin is sharp as well as he is sharp. Now, we move over to Barrack Obama’s image. This is the first official White House portrait
or the first official presidential portrait taken with a DSLR. It was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II, shot
at 1 – 1/25th of a second ISO 100 and f/10 with the 105mm. So look how sharp this photo is and look how
sharp the pin is. Now, I don’t think this is the greatest portrait
in the history of the world at all, but of course it’s iconic because it’s a presidential
portrait. So that becomes an iconic image whether it’s
good, bad, or indifferent, it is what it is and that’s not the problem. Now, if you notice this you might say is there
too much headroom. Now I would assume that Pete Souza shot this
knowing that it would be printed as an 8 x 10 in most places, because if we look at the
other four on here they are already cropped to 8 x 10. So if we went up here to crop and we went
to 8 x 10 you would see what would happen right there, it would give you the 8 x 10
aspect ratio and you can crop it any which way that you wanted to go ahead and do that. Moving on to the second presidential portrait,
this is a much happier look, I still don’t think it’s lit the best way, but it’s great. It’s in the Oval Office, he’s smiling, it
conveys that message of welcoming, done with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with the 85mm 1.2
which is a fantastic lens for portraits ISO 200 this time. You can see that everything is straight up
sharp from top to bottom except for obviously the background right there. Now, moving on back to President Donald Trump’s
portrait, you can see this was taken at – get out of here – 1/320th of a second at f/2.8
ISO 640 but with the Canon EOS 1DS Mark III. That is a 10-year-old camera. Keep in mind this is a 10-year-old camera. Now, I will always say that it doesn’t matter
what you shoot pictures with you should be able to get fantastic results with anything,
but when you’re photographing the President of the United States you would think that
they would be using at least a 5D Mark IV if not a 1DX Mark II as well as with the latest
70 to 200 2.8 version 2 or the 85 1.2 which would give a great portrait shot. Now, we don’t know the situation. We don’t even know at the time of recording
this who the photographer was officially that shot this. I think the portrait is fine from the standpoint
of the portrait aspect of it and what they were trying to convey, but the use of the
old camera that is 10 years old and shooting it at 640 ISO, that camera maxed out at 1600
ISO. You are at places where it’s not going to
look too good because that camera 10 years ago was great, but now it doesn’t compare
with even some of the lower end entry-level cameras that are out on the market. So let’s break this down. One of the things that I noticed first was
that the pin wasn’t sharp. Now of course, in terms of a portrait the
point is to draw you into the subject because it’s a portrait of this person; so maybe that’s
meant to just draw you right into him. The other thing is I don’t think it’s sharp,
the eye – yes, you could make an argument that this eye is sharp but why it shot at
2. 8? You have to ask that question. Is it shot at 2.8 for the effect that they
just one isolate his face, or is it because he’s 70-years-old? He’s 20-some – Barrack is what? Yeah, he’s 20 years older or so compared to
when George W. and Barrack also came into office, so he’s a little older, he has a little
more wear and tear on the face, so maybe shooting a 2.8 would soften that up, but also so with
3.2 and all of that. But just the fact it was shot with a 10-year-old
camera at 640 ISO when it maxed out at 1600; to me is a problem, not everybody else out
there in the world that’s not a photographer, they don’t care, the picture does what it’s
supposed to do. But it does look like they went to Sears,
Roebuck & Company and got a portrait there and said, “Hey, what backdrop would you like
to get? Wide like the American flag in the background
and then I would like you to put the White House back there.” The reason I think that it’s a composite is
because if it was taken outside at this time – if it was taken outside it would have
been taken during the day and you wouldn’t have needed to be at 640 at 1/320th of a second
at 2. 8. It would have been shot at f/8.0 or something
along those lines because it would’ve been awfully bright at 640 ISO. So you want to keep that in mind with why
I’m saying that it looks like a composite. What do you guys think? Do you think it’s a composite, did they just
drop a photo where it is and make this – drop the background in there? So that’s really what I think about it. I think the photo is fine the way that it
is. It’s not the greatest portrait, it’s not the
worst portrait, it does what it’s trying to do, but I just don’t understand using a 10-year-old
camera, a 7200 version 1 and shooting at 640 ISO when the max on that bad boy is 1600. It just looks like it was taken with – I
mean, I don’t think there’s a flash, it’s like what, did they light this, with a phone
or something along those lines? I also think it’s too blue, right, too blue. Warm it up a little bit, even though that’s
a little not too far but whatever, that’s beside the point. So that’s what I think about the photos. I don’t think any of them are tremendously
the greatest portraits; I love candids. I think this portrait is fine, but I don’t
understand most of it for all the reasons that I explained. So, I’d love to hear what you guys think about
this portrait, is it a composite? Do you think it matters what it was shot with? I personally think it should have been shot
with something better in this day and age; but this is the photo, you can’t complain
about that. It is the photo that’s out there in the world,
and congratulations to whoever took it, because they have an official portrait of a President
for his presidency. So, we’ll leave it at that. Let me know what you think. Jared Polin, froknowsphoto.com. See you.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Maybe, they photographed Trump with a different camera but dropped him into an old photo taken w/ the 1Ds back in the day. Therefore, I could imagine the EXIF of the old backdrop-photo to show up instead of the actual portrait

  2. I'd like to congratulate you…! I don't know whether you are a Trump supporter or not, but you kept this ABSOLUTELY PROFESSIONAL. You discussed the technical aspects of the photo and did not engage in a political discussion of any sort. VERY GOOD!!! You are indeed a professional and an honorable man. – It doesn't matter what you think of Trump one way or another…you kept it above board and about business. GOOD FOR YOU SIR!!!

  3. I think that it's a weak portrait. While I'm not a die hard Trump fan, our POTUS deserves better. Oh yeah, I DO believe that is a fake background.

  4. I'd bet multiple photographer's lined up and took multiple images, then Trump picked his favorite. If this was even a situation where it was an actual photo shoot. He looks like he may have been in a make up chair or something along those lines. Perhaps near a green screen.

  5. I love this video. There is no political overtone. Its simply a careful analysis of a poorly executed photo.

    Pretty hilarious learning that they used a ten year old camera.

    The body language in the Trump picture is really weird. He's all hunched over and has this look on his face like he is trying to figure out what you want, or why are you bothering me. He really looks like he is sizing someone up to see what their deal is, which is pretty much how Trump operates.

    In a sense, this is the greatest photo ever because Trump's whole approach to life comes through. I am not saying that critically. Its just an observation. Whether its a lawyer representing someone who is suing his company, a reporter asking a question he doesn't like, or whatever it may be, Trump is always looking at YOU, to see what really motivates you and that's why he starts lashing out at people at a personal level.

    Often I think he is right in his assessment of what makes people tick. It may not be the most presentable way to conduct yourself, but its hilarious to me that this photo really captures in Trump's expression what Trump is really all about.

  6. When I first saw Trump's portrait, I laughed my ass off. But then I thought a little and it started to make sense. I believe the White House in the background is from a TV and you can see the lighting it casts on the furniture. Since Trump is all about TV and his portrayal on it, it makes sense that he would stand in front of one. Also, his stance and facial expression resembles that of a news anchor, and the whole setup screams "Welcome to the Situation Room!"

  7. Jared, in the meantime we know that there are hardly professionals in the WH. So why do we expect that at least the photographer should be a skilled person?

  8. you listen to this guy? You can't even wear a decent shirt. You want to compare democrats and republicans. Just watch how they look like. The conservatives looks put together, the latter looks like they just smoke weed and wore the same shirt for a week. You don't need to be a professor to figure out who has a great job. Poor people have no class, low education and only educated by emotions, tacky and bad experiences. Conservatives fear in God, have class, respects democrats because they are taught how to be disciplined. Democrats WHINE AND COMPLAINTS. Republicans PASS LAWS, they even end SLAVERY! Educate yourself you gullible RETARDS!

  9. The flag isn’t composited. The Whitehouse is. Dod photos always have a flag and any background will be (most likely be) composite.

  10. Notice how Jared looks like a terrorist in HIS photo. I just heard him critique a portrait of Trump where the President is smiling. Trump has a beautiful smile. But Jared says "He has a nice smile, his HAIR may be messed up, his mind too…" REALLY?? Trump is busy MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, while FRO-BOY is criticizing the PRESIDENTS HAIR?? You CAN'T make this stuff up!!

  11. Not a composite because I saw when u zoomed in(4:45) on that photo the background looked natural(look at the edges of his coat and ear) and composites don't look that way. It is a screen of some sort, might be a TV with that photo on the screen and the flag is a real one.

  12. Nothing is as bad as the 42nd Street corner $10 Obama portrait! That thing was atrocious Mr White Colin Kaepernick!

  13. I think it's a pic from his 'Apprentice' day's a source file. He just added the background and his mug in the foreground. Vanity bc it was is better pic from 'Apprentice!'

  14. A President not focused in bullshit.
    A serious man fighting for his people against the evil powers of corrupt Barack Obama and his gang.
    The photo is a goal. Says it all.
    #MAGA

  15. The official photographer is Shealah Craighead. Don't know if she did his portrait . It must be a composite. They were probably trying to make him pop from the back round …it makes his skin a very sallow orange color.

  16. Obviously a backdrop, Hell it might even be a freaking TV! look how blue that looks! a suitable hideous portrait for the worst president in the history of the U.S.A.

  17. There is so much wrong with this photo, I have a hard time calling it a portrait. Jarod, curious how much portrait photography have you done? You are really big on calling out tech and color quality, sharpness, settings, lens, etc..
    But you do very little to discuss the composition. The eyes are in the wrong area, due to there being far to much body, the position of the body is squared into the frame which gives it a very 2-dimensional flat look. The right arm being cropped at such an odd point is distracting. Keep it in or crop tighter. The square shoulders with the bright red tie running straight up the middle cause the image to be viewed as a quadrant. Again, with the level of the eyes, they are in a quartered area of the image. 60% of this image is his jacket. Makes the head look small, a slight leaning into the frame would help alleviate this.
    This looks like a snapshot someone took and Trump saw it and told his people to make it happen. Certainly not a posed shot by a professional.
    I have no problem with the look on the face. It reminds me of the Yousuf Karsh portrait of Churchill.
    Agreed the background is penny ante rate photography.

  18. Id say the atrocity of the portrait is right on par with the administration as a whole; messy, unorganized, not sure what they're doing… They should've taken the portrait of him rage tweeting at the media lol. And does anyone realize the irony of using a fake backdrop? "You are fake photography!"

  19. The president, as an institution, deserve PhaseOne. Medium format. At least I would shoot the president with that camera for sure.

  20. I think that this is a portrait that was shot 10 years or so ago – which would explain the version of the camera used. And then I think that the flag and White House was a composite added to that image. I am in my 70's and I don't really like to see myself in a photo now and I am nowhere near as vain as Donald Trump…

  21. Everybody involved in photography at the cursory level, should be able see the intentional photo processing hack jobs done by the numbnut liberals with the President. They did the same during the election with the old hag as well, but in the opposite manner.

  22. Ok this is what I think happened: The Whitehouse building on the back is a backdrop. So the photographer used f2.8 in order to blur it out, 1/320th of a second to contain any unwanted "motion" blur coming from the president's posture, and ISO 360 in order to take care of the backdrop's exposure. He probably only used one light with a CTO filter on. The whole picture looks like a movie poster, so the photographer must have been some old school associate of Trump from the good old days, hence the old camera. What do you think?

  23. I like this picture. Trump looks serious and ready for battle. Love it. As a photographer I couldn't care a less what camera is being used.

  24. I don't understand why they left the spray tan rings around the eyes. Seems like it's shot from a strange low angle. His eyes are red. It's definitely a composite.

  25. I think a good photographer could take a much better portrait even with a 10 year old Canon 1D DSLR, for a simple portrait like this the camera or the sensor size realy doesn`t matter that much, use a 75mm to 105mm focal length (according to FF), f/8, 1/165, ISO 100 or 200, a tripod and 2 off-camera speedlites in TTL mode with a modifier (front light) and without a modifier (rim and hair light) and everything will be fine, but I would have prompted my subject to be more laid-back and to smile instead of looking so grumpy and to look straight into the lens – for me it looks like a real flag and LCD TV monitor in the background, so there wasn`t enough space to place a hair/rim light behind the subject and the lighting source placed on the left from the photographers point of view couldn`t be lifted much higher to avoid any reflections from this monitor – of course I`m not sure, but this is my first impression

  26. how can this not be a composit? who would go out of their way to have a way different white balance on the subject and on the backround? it's most likely some crappy backdrop or even a monitor displaying the image, judging from how cold it is.

  27. i think it was a tv and i think the star near the white house look's more lit so i think the tv light reflected the flag that's what i think tell me what you think ???

  28. Without question a composite. I also don't like that the background is brighter and fighting for more attention than the subject. Not to mention, but I will, he has two different light color temps that make the photo look amateur which are only more pronounced by the daylight background being is way too cold. Its obvious Trump and the flag are indoors.

  29. Souvent la photo est mauvaise … mais même le meilleur photographe du monde n arrivera jamais à faire la photo d un âne en le faisant passer pour une licorne ….🤔

  30. Dude. Props to you for not politicizing it! 👍 love this video. Tbh i could get a better portrait with my canon powershot.* please hire me Mr Trump *

  31. Canon 1Ds MkIII is a fantastic camera. I'm still using the MkII. It's a gorgeous camera! Saying that, pusing ISOs is a no no.

  32. This is not……..I repeat not a good photo. Very very very bad in fact. My skin isint Cheeto orange enough, and it makes me look fat as Rosie O’Donnell. Very not good. I mean look at the White House. It’s a dump. There was no collusion and this photo does not convey that at all. Sad. This photo would have been better with a composite of my future beautiful wall behind me. The one the Mexican government will be paying for I promise you. This photo does not make America great again.

  33. C'mon, 'Fro, call it what it is. One could wipe their pasty ass, then shoot the unfolded TP with any gear. Afterward, ponder if it looks good to you, or anyone else … The answer's n-o spells NO. It's a shitty pic' of a veritable piece of stank shit. Case 'always' closed as it pertains to that fucking criminal reprobate moron. Thanks gobs, brother. Love your instruction—and I'll never-ever wondered about that.♥

  34. If anyone thinks Jared is too harsh on this or any other critique, let me explain. Arrogance comes from gained experience and the anger that someone less experienced, isn't caught up yet but is supposed to be taken seriously. That's all it is. A photographer given the job to shoot the POTUS, should know the obvious by now when it comes to the technical skills of a photographer. But usually it comes down to not what you know, but who you know. I feel Jared in this example.

  35. 03:30 Could not disagree more… You are too gear-headed… It is like you say (but don't mean): the age of the camera does not matter… just also FOLLOW it, not just saying it. These are TOOLS, not some tech toys. The reason why this photo sucks (but is great on the same scale, because … well… it represents his soul) is not due to the camera or lens used… Stop thinking so gear-headed…

  36. It is definitely a composite, and a bad one. The backdrop White House looks like it had a fast treatment with blue tint. Perhaps someone told the photographer to play the "contrast between warm and cool tones" and he took it literally. There is also trapped negative space between the left ear and the flag. The dents from the suit shoulder pads are also prominent in a not-very-pleasing way. What I would expect to see (but strangely it is not there) is the president looking slightly from above, like the second Obama portrait, to look more menacing. He seems to be exactly at eye level.

Related Post