The Art of Portrait Photography

Portraiture is considered one of the most challenging types of photography. A portrait may capture several images, but the weight of the whole photograph is concentrated on the subject’s face, mood and personality.

Portrait photography traces its roots to the invention of the photographic process in the 1800s. Whereas portrait painting was deemed a luxury and enjoyed almost exclusively by rich patrons, portrait photography was more affordable and therefore accessible to the general public. People would have their portraits taken to celebrate milestones such as graduations, weddings, or even just for posterity.

It is important for most photographers to have their subjects look directly to the camera to capture not only their mood but also their soul. Most acclaimed portraits exude the souls of their subjects, thus producing an almost real imagery of the person.

Portrait photography involves different kinds of lighting to add emotions and bring out the best in the subject.

Studio photographers have control over which light heightens the subject best as compared to outside lighting. One of the most common lighting techniques used is the 3-point lighting system. To fully highlight and capture the subject’s features, a photographer uses three main lights: the Key light (on the subject’s side, 30-60 degrees off center); Fill (placed opposite the key light); and Back lights (behind the subject). The outputs of these studio lighting techniques look best in black picture frames.

Butterfly lighting is another technique that has been popular among photographers since the past decade.

This technique only makes use of Key and Back lights. A rim light is sometimes applied in this technique with the use of a reflector placed below the subject’s face to provide light and soften the shadows. To fully appreciate the technique, some printed photos of butterfly lighting are often placed in 5x7 picture frames.

Finally, some photos in 4x6 picture frames exhibit other lightings used to augment the 3-point system or the butterfly. They are the optional kind of lighting used to enhance a subject’s features. One such example is the kicker, which highlights the planes of the face to accentuate the jaw line.

Related Art Wedding Photography Articles