Howzat Photography

Portrait Photography: Definition, Essence, and Techniques

Portrait photography is not just about clicking a picture of a person or a group of people. It is a canvas that represents the personality, characteristics, attitude, and essence of the subject. Portrait photography, or portraiture, is the technique of capturing an artistic representation of the subject by using effective lighting techniques, backgrounds, poses, and so on.


What is it all about?

Imagine you’re asked to capture the entire personality of your subject through a photograph. Would you merely ask them to stand against a plain background and click a generic picture of them?

No; portraiture is all about using photography to define a person – it combines the usage of all elements including the background, lighting, position, and so on to emphasize the key characteristics of the subject. Portrait photography requires more than just an in-depth knowledge of how a camera works – you need to be creative and emphatic in how you can capture a person’s identity using a still picture.


Portrait photographers, thus, have a tremendous task ahead of themselves. In this article, we’ll further discuss some tips and tricks that portrait photographers can implement to embark on their quest to master the art of portraiture.

5 Pointers to Become a Better Portrait Photographer

There are some key techniques, tips, and tricks that photographers can implement to improve their portraiture game.

  1. Connect with your Subjects:

As we’ve iterated several times, the success of portrait photography isn’t determined just by proper lighting and expensive cameras. The best portrait photography requires you to share a deep connection with your subjects.

This includes deep research on the subject of your portrait – learn about the significant part of their life stories, their interests, and passion, and try to familiarize yourself with their dominating emotions. Even something as simple as their favorite kind of music can help you gather more ideas for your portrait shot.

  1. Choose the right Background:

A portrait photograph isn’t just limited to the subject of the photograph. Using the right background is key to making the picture look complete. Usually, photographers tend to go for plain backgrounds when it comes to portraiture so that their subjects can remain the sole focus.


But there’s no need to limit yourself. Photographers sometimes can find backgrounds that better describe a person. For instance, an outgoing, nature-loving subject would look to be in their element if they’re surrounded by greenery.


  1. Prepare your Subject

Ultimately, it is your portrait subject that you want to capture – how they look and react to the camera is vital.

Usually, your subjects would be nervous due to the daunting prospect of facing the camera. Try to break the ice by engaging them in small-talk. Explain to them the concept and ideas that you want to implement in the portrait, and be open to their suggestions. Experiment with different camera angles and ask your subjects for their input.

Recommend your subjects to don a darker outfit as it helps their features stand out better. Eliminate anything that might be taking the focus out of your subject like an undone button, uneven collar, and so on.


  1. Focus on the Lighting & Environment

On the day of the shoot, you need to come with a solid plan. Ask yourself whether you’re going to be clicking the picture in an interior setting or take your subject out to a natural environment.

Consider what would suit your concept better – natural or artificial lighting. If you are going for natural lighting, consider the time of the day – you don’t want the sunlight being too harsh. Early morning and late afternoon are the golden periods for portrait photography. Avoid midday shoots and capitalize on overcast weathers as they provide soft shadows and mellow, consistent lighting.


  1. Tell the Story through their Eyes

Eyes are windows to the soul – as many people love to say. Your subject’s eyes can convey a lot of emotions that other props within the photograph cannot. Make sure that you click the photo with the eyes in sharp focus to create an illusion of strong eye contact between the subject and the viewer.

The simple trick can prove to be pretty effective.


Winding Up

Portrait photography requires a sense of empathy and deep emotional connection. In this article, we discussed some of the technical and emotional techniques that artists can use to get better at portraiture.

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