Portrait photography has been around since the invention and popularization of the camera. Earlier kings and queens used to have artists to paint their portraits but with the invention of the camera the long work was reduced to a few minutes and one had the portrait of their full family. It is also a cheaper method that portrait painting. Earlier the subjects were generally seated against plain backgrounds and lit with the soft light of an overhead window and whatever else could be reflected with mirrors. As the equipment became more advanced, the ability to capture images with short exposure times gave photographer more creative freedom and thus created new styles of portrait photography. Contemporary portrait photographers strive not only to capture a person s likeness, but also the person s mood and thoughts in an instant in time. With the development of photographic techniques, photographers took their cameras to war fields, across oceans and also in wilderness to capture the various essence of portrature. Lighting plays a vital role in portrait photography as the subject has to be lit properly to bring out that particular kind of emotion. The photographer has complete control over the lighting of their subject and can adjust direction, temperature, quality, and contrast to meet any requirements. The basic lights used are key light, fill lights, kicker lights, and background lights. The photographer has to be careful about shadows and has to work accordingly.
Framing is a technique where by you draw attention to one element of an image by framing it with another element of the image. Framing gives an image depth and draws the eye to a point of interest in the image. You could do it by placing your subject in a window or doorway, have them look through a small gap or even use their hands around their face. Shooting with a wide angle lens attached to your camera can help create some memorable shots when you re doing portrait photography. At very wide focal lengths you can create some wonderful distortion. It might not be the type of shot you take of your wife or girlfriend unless she s in a playful mood but using these focal lengths will enlarge parts of the face or body that are on the edge of the frame more than what is in the centre. It can also give a wide open and dramatic impact when your subject is in an impressive setting. The person in your portrait is the main point of interest - however sometimes when you place them into different contexts with different backgrounds you can dramatically alter the mood in a shot. Sometimes you want your background to be as minimalistic as possible. Many photographers get stuck in a rut of only ever shooting either in landscape when the camera is held horizontally or portrait when the camera is held vertically modes. Look back through your images and see which one you use predominantly. Just because a vertical framing is called portrait mode doesn t mean you always need to use it when shooting portraits. Mix your framing up in each shoot that you do and you ll add variety to the type of shots you take. As photographers we have sharp focus drummed into us as an ultimate objective to achieve in our work - but sometimes lack of focus can create shots with real emotion, mood and interest. There are two main strategies for taking unfocused images that work: 1. Focus upon one element of the image and leave your main subject blurred. To do this use a large aperture which will create a narrow depth of field and focus upon something in front of or behind your subject. 2. Leave the full image out of focus. To do this again choose a wide aperture but focus well in front or behind anything that is in your image you ll need to switch to manual focussing to achieve this . These kinds of shots can be incredibly dreamy and mysterious. While many of us spend most of our time photographing our loved ones - perhaps it d be an interesting exercise to shoot interesting strangers once in a while
Portrait Photography ought to be seen as a species of magic. Each human face will always be unique in skin, flesh and features. Any attempt at exact reproduction loses the contours, the three-dimensionality and the living quality of the individual face. What Portrait Photography achieves in portraiture is not a reproduction, but a refiguration, a translation from one dimension to another. Something strange happens in this process: the face is alienated. It is a metamorphosis in reverse. The face is thus simplified. The curved quality of space is flattened. Light is reduced in source and effect. Portraiture is the dialogue of light and the face, in the dimension of memory. That is why the portrait is not the person. It is an abstracted memory, enriched by time. Three principles make portraiture unique: light, the subject, and time. Of these three, the most alchemical is time the magic mercury, the fifth element, and the quintessence. It is the constantly transforming and preserving substance of portraiture. Time acts with the shutter speed. It acts with the speed of light that travels to the subject, from the subject to the camera, and from the photo to our eyes. There is an internal time also at work, from the first mental encounter with the image to its interactions in the vast realm of memory. A realm perpetually impinged upon by desire, loss and life s infinitely shaded experiences. Time weaves a spell around the image preserves it, changes it. Portraiture keeps the subject in its time and yet projects it into ours. Portraiture is always time travel. It is a time travel that keeps all the secrets of its time concealed behind the subject. It freights over to us only the image, mute with all the passions of life. Silent stories stare out from those eyes. They will no longer look upon the light or dark of our day. And yet they look at us as through a transparent medium, beyond even death. What is the true nature of that almost mystic medium? There is a hint of immortality in all portraiture. The subjects live, in another dimension, alien to us. They live, but they are motionless. Time has gone from them, yet still they persist in time. They live in an enigma. Does their image differ from the memory we have of them? Is memory truer? Portraiture suggests a parallel memory in the universe, in which all things persist. Portrait Photography touches us so mysteriously because we have an intuition that all things are remembered in some invisible place beyond dreams, where everything that was exists in a universal, divine amber. Many wonderful notions ought to flash past one s mind in the presence of these people upon whom time has wrought an enchantment. Portraiture ought to remind us that we live between two enigmas, birth and death. Portrait Photography is the dream, the interval, which we take to be the real.