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What is Portrait Photography?

Portrait Photography by Headshot LondonPortrait Photography is one of most common forms of photography.

Portrait photography, which is also called, more often than not, portraiture, is the art of capturing a subject (in this case, a person or a group of people) in which the face, facial features as well as facial expressions are made predominant.


What portrait photographers or portraiture photographers aim is to focus on the person’s face. They aim to give emphasis on the face of the person because this will also be the focus or the emphasis of the photograph. This does not mean, however, that the person’s body or even the background will no longer be included. Under portrait photography, these can still be included in the photo by the portrait photographer but again, the focus or the emphasis should be on the person’s face, facial expression and even distinct facial features.


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One of the common misconceptions about portrait photography is that it is but a snapshot or a photograph of a person. This is not true. In portrait photography or portraiture, a composed or “rehearsed” image of a person in a still position is captured. This basically means that the portrait photographer would prep the subject and the subject would have a specific position and angle. Of course, the “rehearsal” and all the details surrounding it should be discussed between the subject and portrait photographer beforehand.


Usually, portraiture involves the subject (again, in this case, the person to be take a photo of) looking directly into the portrait photographer’s camera. In the early days, all of the subjects in portraitures looked into the lens of the portrait photographer’s camera. These days, however, many portrait photographers as well as subjects of these portraitures “experiment.” Many now have portraits wherein they do not directly look at the camera. Some also have distinct angles that they want captures that’s why they sit in a specific position in front of the camera as well. Again, these “new” and recent styles in portrait photography are based on the portrait photographer’s tips and recommendations and more importantly, based on the preference of the subject.


Black and White Portrait

Unlike other photography styles, the subjects of portrait photography or portraiture are often non-professional models. This means that ordinary people such as fathers, mothers, their kids, businessmen and even the local man on the street can be subjects in portraitures.


There are no boundaries or rules when it comes to portrait photography. Truth be told, that’s what makes portrait photography easy and difficult at the same time! Easy because just about anybody with a point and shoot camera can do a portraiture but difficult because when you need a professional portrait taken, you must rely on professional portrait photographers. More on this later in this article.


There are essentially four (4) approaches when it comes to portrait photography or portraiture:

1) the constructionist

2) candid approach

3) environmental approach and

4) the creative approach.


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1. For the constructionist approach, this is where the portrait photographer builds a certain “ambience” for the total look of the portrait. For instance, the photographer, with the consent of the subject/s of course, would develop an idea around the portrait – smiling, happy couple, for one. A confident new graduate. An honest looking business executive. A blushing bride who’s so eager to start her new life. These are just a few of the ideas that a portrait photographer can work on when developing a photo taken with the constructionist approach in mind.



2. The environmental approach, on the other hand, depicts the subject in their surrounding or environment. For instance, in their work place. A portrait can be taken of the subject being in his office, with a photo of his country’s president or of his favorite global leader as background.


3. Thirdly, the candid approach. This is where the subject is photographed without his or her knowledge, hence, candid. One could most probably say that this is the “informal” type of portrait photography since the subject does not look at the camera directly. However, a lot of portrait photographers like to use this approach as it’s less invasive and can really capture a certain emotion.


4. Lastly, the creative approach is where digital manipulation is included in the process. The end result usually is a magical, very attractive and visually appealing portrait.


(c) Headshot London Photography – Portrait Photographers

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