Portrait photography is one of the most popular genre in photography. A basic definition of portrait photography is: “photography of a person or group to capture the personality of the subjects using effective lighting, backgrounds and posing”. The word portrait itself means “a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant”.
If you have stumbled upon this article you might already know what is portrait photography but did you know, that there are various different types of portrait photography? In this article as the title says itself, I will share you information about “14 Different Types Of Portrait Photography Every Portrait Photographer Should Know”. So let’s get started:
Here is a quick list of the 14 Different Types Of Portrait Photography Every Portrait Photographer Should Know:
- Traditional Portraits
- Formal Portraits
- Lifestyle Portraits
- Candid And Street Portraits
- Environmental Portraits
- Fine Art Portraits (Abstract Portraits)
- Glamour And Boudoir Portraits
- Surreal Portraits
- Conceptual Portraits
- Couple, Family and Group Portraits
- Self Portraits
- Head Shot Portraits
- Close-up Portraits
- Full Body And Medium Portraits
Remember that, the last three “12. Head Shot Portraits”, “13. Close-up Portraits” and “14. Full Body And Medium Portraits” are more of a sub-category of the above mentioned first 11 different types of portrait photography. I will explain it further, so make sure you read this article till the end.
1. Traditional Portraits
The Traditional Portrait photography is a type of portrait photography where the subject is looking at the camera. Traditional Portrait photography is posed. It is used to help the subject look their best.
Traditional Portraits are mostly shot in a studio with a simple background or you could call it a simple photography backdrop. Traditional Portraits favour the most traditional portrait composition which is: head and shoulders cropped rather than a full-body portrait but it is not always the case.
When you think about portrait photography, traditional portraits are often what comes to mind. It has been around for a long time than any other types portrait. It is one of the most popular type of portrait photography probably because the mix of posing and studio lighting is flattering.
2. Formal Portraits
Formal Portraits is a lot similar to the above mentioned traditional portraits. In fact, it is also considered as a sub-category of the Traditional Portrait.
There are many similarities between those two such as: Formal Portraits are also usually shot in a photo studio with the subject looking at the camera and it is also posed.
Formal Portraits are mostly shot with a formal background. The only difference between a traditional portrait and a formal portrait is that, in formal portraits the subject is usually in a formal or business attire whereas there is no fixed attire in traditional portraits.
3. Lifestyle Portraits
Lifestyle Portrtaits is a type of portraiture that mainly aims to capture portraits of people in situations, real-life events or milestones in an artistic manner and the art of the everyday. The time interval to capture a lifestyle portrait is minimum that is why you have to be more careful when to click the photos in order to capture the peronality and the story of the subject.
The primary goal of a lifestyle portrait is to tell stories about people’s lives or to inspire people in different times. Even though lifestyle portrait is about telling a story and documenting the subject’s natural environment, lighting and posing still plays a huge part.
There are two main differences between a traditional portrait and a lifestyle portrait is that:
- In traditional portraits the subject is formally posed to bring out the best of it whereas in lifestyle portrait the subject is posed informally in a cadid way to enhance the story.
- A traditional portrait is usually shot in a studio whereas a lifestyle portrait is shot in a familiar environment of the subject.
In simple words, you can call it directing rather than possing because the photographer can tell which way to look or where to stand but the movements and the mood of the photograph solely depends on the subject. The story of the photograph depends on the real life of the subject which is the main goal of the lifestyle portrait.
4. Candid And Street Portraits
Candid portraits are unplanned portraits. You cannot pose your subject in order to take their portrait. Usually the subject is unaware that a photo has been taken. The best and the most popular example of candid portraits are the street photography portraits where you do not ask someone to pose for you and your main goal is to capture the moment.
This doesn’t mean that everybody is unaware of that their photo is being taken, for example: a wedding photography portrait, everybody is aware that the photo is being taken but most of the time they are unaware of when will it be taken unless and until the photographers asked them to pose. Does, this make more sense to you, let me know in the comments.
The main goal of a candid portrait is to capture people acting naturally. There is a huge misconception amongst the photographers I have seen that you can pose a candid, while that is true but a posed candid cannot be considered as a true candid portrait but it can be considered as a lifestyle portrait as I explained your earlier that the main goal of lifestyle portrait is also to capture the real life moment and you can pose the subject in an informal candid way.
You don’t have to take my word for it because this is just my personal opinion. Comment down below what do you think about a posed candid. I am open to new suggesstions as this world of photography has it’s own different definitions for different people.
5. Environmental Portraits
Environmental portraits is a mixture of traditional portraits and the lifestyle portraits. In this type of portraits, both the subject as well as the environment has importance.
In environmental portraits the photoshoot takes place at a specific location which has a special meaning to the person. It is the location that means something to the subject of the photograph and it becomes a part of it’s personality.
While the environment is important, the photographer works in a similar manner as a traditional portrait in setting up a pose and lighting. The pose, lighting, person, and background all work together in an environmental portrait.
The only thing to remember while taking an environmental portrait is that the lacation where you are shooting should mean something to the subject and it is a part of their personality for example: A dancer in a dance studio or a CEO in his office.
6. Fine Art Portraits (Abstract Portraits)
Fine Art Portraits also known as abstract portraits and as the name suggest itself it involves more of a fine art style rather than a representational style. It’s purpose is not to realistically represent the subject, but rather to create a work of art. It often involves digital manipulation but not always necessary.
It is more of a creative side of the photography. This type of photography allows you to express your ideas or emotions without having to be realistic, and it’s a great opportunity to unleash your creativity. In fine art portraits there are usually props involved. You can take a portrait through a rainy window or in motion so that the image is blurred.
You can also get creative with the makeup, just imagine you are taking a portrait of “Harley Quinn”. This is a type of portrait photography where you can just break rules of the photography. You can just throw away the rule book and get creative, I guess this is what we call the artistic side of photography.
7. Glamour And Boudoir Portraits
Glamour Portraits is also popularly know as a beauty portraits. In this type of portraits is designed to be sensual and to highlight the person rather than their clothes or environment, though those elements are an important part of the photograph.
Glamour photography often involves the use of make-up artists and a well-planned wardrobe but it is not always the case as it is designed to be sensual a glamour portrait can also contain nudity it is up to the subject to decide what the want.
Boudoir is a similar but not identical type of portrait photography. Glamour photography often takes place in different locations, including outdoors. Boudoir, as the name suggests, takes place in a bedroom or home.
Always remember this types of portraits isn’t just about sexual poses and lingerie. This type of portraits isn’t always taken to impress someone else unless and until it is what you want. It’s more about embracing your own self and some might even say that it can help you boost confidence.
8. Surreal Portraits
Surreal portraits are also more of the artistic side of photography. Surrealism is an artistic style that feels feels dream-like. You can’t photograph something that doesn’t exist. That’s why surreal portrait work often involves post-processing (Editing). You can also create some with props, wardrobe, and other photo tricks.
A surreal portrait turns dreams into real photos. That’s tough to do, but when done well, the results are often stunning.
9. Conceptual Portraits
As Fine Arts Portraits and Surreal Portraits, Conceptual Portraits is also a more of an artistic side of photography. You can get creative with this type of portrait photography. Conceptual portraits capture an idea or concept within a portrait image. Photographers often use props, setting, or photo editing to achieve that concept.
In Conceptual Portraits the possibilities are endless because it encompasses an idea. Levitation, perspective manipulation, makeup or wardrobe tricks are common. Photoshop skills and post-processing are part of this concept.
10. Couple, Family and Group Portraits
Portraits are not just about single person, it can also be photos of a group for example: a family portrait.
Nowadays, you might prefer a portrait with your significant other or perhaps a close group of friends, and maybe you choose to keep it casual instead of formal. Pictures of more than one person are often harder than portraits of an individual. You have more people to pose together and interact within the photograph.
Whatever the case, these portraits are often shot on location in the subject’s home or some other location where the group gathers. The nice thing about these types of portraits is that you can often capture genuine interaction between the subjects, and that can make for compelling images.
Portraits of groups can still fall under other sub-genres too. Lifestyle photography, for example, is a popular genre for family photography.
11. Self Portraits
Quick, smartphone selfies give the self-portrait a bad reputation. When done well, self-portraits can be stunning images and also can highlight your photography skills if you chose to include in your photography portfolio.
Photographers use the more elaborate term self-portrait on a serious portrait. A selfie is a quick snapshot. Self-portraits need insight and planning. Taking a photo of yourself beyond holding a smartphone out at arm’s length is not easy. You can use a tripod to get rid of that selfie look and extended arms.
Focusing and composing when you’re in front of the camera instead of behind can be tricky. Try using a remote release or a smartphone with a WiFi-enabled camera. Then get creative and show your artistic approach of photography.
As I mentioned earlier, the last three types I am going to explain is more of a sub-categories of the above mentioned 11 different types of portrait photography. This last three types can be used creatively in each and every types of portrait photography. So, keep this in mind while reading the article further.
12. Head Shot Portraits
In Head Shot Portraits you only capture your subject from top of the head to the shoulders. This type of portraits is used with the mixture of the above mentioned every types of portrait photography. It will depend on the photographer on how to apply it.
The frame of your image is only filled with the head part of your subjects but don’t get it wrong it is not necessary to show the subjects full face. You can also use this creatively for example: taking a head shot of side.
The most popular example of head shot portraits is your photos taken for the passport.
13. Close-up Portraits
In Close-up Portraits, the photographer chooses to highlight a part of the face or body of the subject. It is majorly used to highlight or emphasize a part of the subjects body’ such as eyes or lips. You can also consider it as a mixture of macro photography and portrait photography where you get very close to the subject in order to capture only one part on your subject.
Now, Close-up Portraits has different variations for example: some photographer may choose to only close-up on the lips while some might choose to close-up on the lips and nose or even full face. The professional terms of close-ups are: extreme close-up (ECU), medium close-up and close-up.
14. Full Body And Medium Portraits
In Full Body Portraits, as the name suggests itself you capture the whole body of your subject or subjects. The most popular examples of full body portraits are: a full body street photography portrait or a family or group photos.
Medium Portraits is a lot similar like the full body portraits the only difference is you capture the subject or subjects from the top of their head to their knees. Now, there are also different variations of medium portrait, for example: some medium portrait might only cover from the top of their head to only the hips instead of the knees.
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