When the subject or subjects of a photo are a person or group of people, this is known as portrait photography, which is a type of photography that centers its focus on capturing mood, personality, and people’s expressions. Some of the most famous photos of all time are of everyday people and well-known figures alike. Oftentimes, the main focus of a portrait is the subject’s face, and especially their eyes, sometimes everything else is slightly out of focus, other times more can be included such as the entire body and background.
Probably the most vital piece of portrait photos is the lighting that is used. In the beginnings of photography, subjects had to be place near a window or under another light source. These days, however, photographers have a huge range of lighting products and set ups available to them to help light up their subject.
Lights in the studios can be aimed in certain ways and with certain intensity to help the subject’s features stand out, cast attractive shadows, and much more. There are different lighting methods used to achieve different moods or to accentuate or minimize certain features. Some photographers prefer natural lighting over studio lighting and will shoot near windows or outside.
Both amateur and professional photographers can get great photos with only natural light and a reflector or two. White reflectors help to bounce the harsh light and soften it and also help to even out the contrast. These white reflectors are sold in professional photography shops, but even a simple white sheet, fabric remnant, or large piece of white paper will work.
Photo studios are not needed to take beautiful and sharp portraits. Sometimes the most captivating portraits are those taken in someone’s own home or outdoors. These types of photos are known as environmental portraits as they capture people in their natural surroundings and environment.
Achieving the right lighting can be a bit harder outdoors as there isn’t as much control, even with the use of an on-camera flash unit. But by using the natural light that is available, great photos can be taken of people. The optimal times to take natural light portraits are early in the morning and just before the sun sets, as this is the time when the light is most flattering.
There are an abundance of portrait photography focuses, but the most often seen is a focus on the eyes and facial features of a subject with everything else soft and out of focus. Other times, portraits can be taken of one’s hands, feet, or other body parts. Silhouette portraits are also popular and just require a bright light source and for the photo to be taken from behind the person.
There are also many approaches to taking portraits, in addition to the environmental type already mentioned. These include candid, creative, and constructionist. Candid photos are the most spontaneous, creative portraits use digital enhancement methods, and constructionist portraits are those that are set up to tell some type of story, such as a happy family or romantic couple- these types of photos are often seen in print ads.