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Forget the selfie: How portrait studios are upping everyone’s social media game

If you follow the goings-on of your local gala circuit, chances are you've have noticed a new portrait-style of party photography taking the place of candid snapshots and red-carpet images. The most famous example is the Vanity Fair Oscar Party Portrait Studio lensed by photographer Mark Seliger. In 2014, the Studio launched a partnership with digital image-sharing platform Instagram to combine the magazine's tradition of celebrity portraiture with its annual Academy Awards bash. The posed shots of Oscar winners and guests like Taylor Swift, Bill Murray and Lupita Nyong'o offered its audience a more personal memento of Hollywood's most glamorous evening.

Now, the elevated style of documentating the philanthropists, celebrities and socialites that populate the party world is being adopted at galas around the world, including in Canada at the Juno Awards, the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards and, most recently, the Toronto International Film Festival. This September, film fest organizers tapped photographer Kourosh Keshiri to run the TIFF x Huawei Portrait Studio, a cozy space curtained off in the press conference green room.

Keshiri shot all of the portraits, which were shared on TIFF's Instagram account @tiff_net, on the Huawei P10, the "official smartphone" of the festival, which boasts front and back lenses co-engineered with German camera brand Leica. "When you're publishing on a digital platform, you don't need a $35,000 camera to get that resolution. The Leica in this phone was perfectly fine," says Keshiri. "We were a little close to each other but you know what? That also adds a little bit of tension."

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Over seven days, the TIFF x Huawei Portrait Studio was visited by the likes of Jessica Chastain, Benedict Cumberbatch, Matt Damon and George Clooney, as well as the Festival's many up-and-coming stars and filmmakers. And it's not just the A-listers who are getting in on the action. As the event portrait-studio model trickles down to more accessible events, Keshiri says that guests who enjoy having their photo taken will be happy to participate. "If you're dressed up and you're out and it's a special event, and if there's a professional photographer set up, who wouldn't want a photo?" In today's social-media landscape, having your portrait taken by a famous photographer while you're out is just as important as being invited to the event.


  • Edmonton’s Poppy Barley is popping up in Toronto. From Sept. 28 to 30, the fashionable footwear brand will be hosting a temporary retail space at Offsite (867 Dundas St. W.), where it’ll be showcasing its latest collection, including an expanded selection of leather accessories like laptop cases and introducing product monogramming. For more information, visit
  • Bi-annual Canadian fashion market Inland is back in Toronto. On Sept. 29 and 30, more than 70 brands will be showcasing their latest wares at the Queen Richmond Centre West (134 Peter St.). Find jewellery by Corey Moranis, bags by Eleven Thirty, ready-to-wear by Jennifer Torosian and smart footwear by Tanya Heath. For more information, visit
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