Modern technology and photographic tools allow for the average person to take a portrait photograph, regardless of experience, training, or even background. Want a picture? Point and shoot! In the past, a person wanting a photographic portrait underwent a much more exhaustive experience. Thankfully, modern technology has made the picture-taking process almost brainless.
Portrait photography is capturing the image of an individual (or group) and deliberately placing emphasis on the face and expressions. You will notice that some portraits capture the entire body and the background, but the face is still the objective to be captured. Don’t confuse a body shot as a candid shot. A candid shot is when the individual is secretly photographed. A portrait shot is a deliberate shot. The pose is deliberate and intended to capture the image of the individual in a certain light. There are an infinite amount of potential poses for a portrait. Depending on the intentions of the photographer, it may or may not be important for the subject to look into the camera.
Portrait photography has been in existence for quite awhile. In the past, it was only affordable by the rich and famous. They didn’t use photography but rather captured the moment using painters. You’re probably wondering how long it would take to ‘paint’ a portrait. The answer: quite a while! But then again, the artists (back then and today) are experts and they can produce quality portrait paintings in minimal time.
Other portrait methods were introduced as history progressed. The Camera Lucida, the silhouette and miniatures, is another method used to create portraits. But of course photography was the fastest way to produce a quality portrait. Photographers used different styles in portrait photography. Daguerrotype, which was introduced by Louis Daguerre, and the Calotype portraits are just two examples.
Sir Joseph Nipce and Louis Daguerre partnered together to improve the technology of photography, eventually leading to the Daguerrotype being the most popular style used for portrait requests. Of course, competition eventually stepped in and caused portrait photography to evolve to a new level. Portrait photography is less expensive (by far) than portrait painting. However, portrait paintings are sill alive and well today.
Portraits have also changed over the years. From individual to family shots and now to special occasions – weddings and other special events are captured in portrait format. Portrait photography isnt magic but rather science at play. In the past, you needed a background and the power of light to do the trick. As technology advanced, it allowed the photographer to take all his necessary equipment and gadgets (his camera!) directly to the action no matter where it was.
Lighting has also played an important role in portrait photography. There are a few well known methods for lighting a portrait, such as the three-point lightning setup: key light, fill light, and hair light. All of these are needed in a studio. You’re probably wondering why it takes three lights. It’s not the light that is necessary to make a pleasant image; it’s the lack of light! By using three different light sources, it’s easy for a photographer to create deliberate, subtle shadows where none would exist if you simply used a single, direct light source.
Indeed, photography has continued to change and it gets more complex (and yet more simple) as time goes by. You can enhance color, image and light by just attaching a gadget onto your camera. Or, you can take a basic image, and then tweak the heck out of it using digital editing software – the end result of which is usually nowhere near the original image taken!