hen it comes to portrait-style photography, one might think that all you have to do is get your subject to look at the camera and press “click” on your camera. However, there are actually many types of portrait photography that one can utilize to create a certain atmosphere. Traditional portrait pictures are easy enough to pose for, but what about the more unique portraits in photography? Today, we will be exploring the various types of portrait photography that are available to photographers.
Table of Contents
- 1 Exploring the Most Interesting Types of Portrait Photography
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions
Exploring the Most Interesting Types of Portrait Photography
Portrait-style photography is about more than just capturing someone’s appearance, it should also convey something about their personality. For many people, their personality is best displayed in environments where they commonly spend time, for others, it conveys something about their lifestyle. You also get portraits of people that are taken in candid situations where the photographer has less control over the circumstances, but tries to frame the spontaneity of the moment with their candid portrait pictures. To better understand the various styles of portraits in photography, we will list some of the most interesting types of portrait photography, as well as explore the pros and cons of each portrait style, and the best situations to use each style in.
Studio Portrait Style Photography
Studio portrait photography takes place in a precisely managed space where no aspect is left to chance. It is the most traditional of the various types of portrait photography on this list. The subject is usually seated in front of a predetermined backdrop and facing the camera. Overall, studio portraits are generally more formal than other types.
The advantage of studio photography is that it offers the most control to the photographer. They can choose the lighting, the background, and where the subject is positioned, and there are no environmental factors such as rain or wind to deal with.
Due to the professional setting, lighting, and control, studio portraiture can often help people look the best they can in a photograph. While one may assume that being in a small space would limit the possibilities of the photo’s overall appearance, studios can choose whichever background they would like by adding them digitally or providing various backdrop screens to choose from. A disadvantage of producing studio portraits in photography is the cost of owning a studio space and the limitations of working within a confined space.
The most ideal situation for choosing studio portraits as a client would be if you want to have a professional-looking photo taken that offers the most ideal environment and lighting. It is also ideal for family photographs or other commemorative occasions. Studio photos are an excellent way to capture a newborn’s innocence. Controlled lighting and backgrounds will assist emphasize the subject while also providing a timeless, classic aesthetic. Studio portraits are also great for capturing your pet’s individuality and charm.
Lifestyle Portrait Photography
Lifestyle portrait photography is far less formal than the more traditional types of portraits in photography. While it is still an image of a person, it usually captures them engaged in an everyday activity or in a familiar environment. Lifestyle portraits tend to be less rigidly posed than studio portraits. However, the photographer may still ask the subjects to position themselves in a certain way to add to the overall aesthetic of the image, yet they might not necessarily all stare at the camera.
The advantage of lifestyle portrait photography is that a photographer can capture a more natural side of the subjects as they would feel more comfortable in their own homes than in a studio.
The setting of the home also adds a layer of familiarity and connection between the subject and background that cannot be replicated in a studio. A disadvantage for the photographer would be the lack of overall control of the scene. While you may still be able to position the people where you think they will look best, it would be considerably harder to let them know that you think a particular couch or wallpaper would make the picture look gaudy.
The most ideal situation for using this portrait style is if you want to capture the subjects in a relaxed and familiar setting that brings out their personalities and lifestyles. The beauty and joy of pregnancy can also be captured with lifestyle portrait photography. Photographers can convey the feelings and excitement of this wonderful moment by photographing the expecting mother at her home or favored locations. This portrait style is ideal for anyone who wishes to build a personal brand, such as influencers, business people, or public personalities.
Environmental Portrait Photography
Environmental portrait photography differs from other types of portrait photography in that the people and environments are treated as equally important to the composition. It is a very location-specific portrait style as it ultimately conveys something about the subject’s character that is most comparable to lifestyle portraiture. Common locations for environmental portraits could be one’s office, home, ballet studio, or football field.
The advantage of environmental portraits is that while they are not as rigidly posed as studio photographs, there is still plenty of opportunity to find the best place to position the subject and from which angle to take the picture.
This means you can have certain aspects under control as you would in a studio environment, such as the pose, yet with the environment portrayed as it is, which gives it a more natural-looking aesthetic. However, the downside is that you can’t always control what happens in these environments, such as weather or lighting, which could affect the final result.
Yet, if you are not trying to chase the “perfect” image, but rather one that portrays the environment that best conveys who you are, then this is the ideal portrait style for you. While traveling, environmental portraits can also be used to capture the atmosphere of a location and its inhabitants. This form of photography has the ability to portray local customs and traditions in ways that other genres of photography cannot.
Candid Portrait Photography
Candid portrait photography is basically the opposite of studio photography. While they both involve taking portrait pictures of a specific subject, candid photography involves pre-planned poses or situations – such as street photography. It is a portrait style that captures people in their most genuine states of being. Candid portraits can either be of people who want their photo taken in a natural way, or they can be of strangers that a photographer finds unique and interesting while walking down the street.
The biggest advantage of this way of taking portrait pictures is the feeling of authenticity they produce. While a studio portrait might capture what you want to show to the world, in many ways, candid photography reveals more about how the world sees you.
Instead of trying to fabricate a scenario, a candid photograph captures a moment as it happens – one which cannot be artificially repeated. The photographer may be inspired by the manner in which a person is standing or the way the sunlight is falling on their features. Perhaps it is the way they are smiling at something that has just caught their eye. The way a person responds to their environment reveals much of their inner character – something that most good portrait photographers aspire to capture. The obvious disadvantage would be that there is little control over either the subject or the environment.
The ideal situations for these types of portrait pictures would be at birthday celebrations, festivals, sporting events, and walking around in urban or natural environments. Photographers are able to capture the ambiance and experiences of an event by taking unplanned, candid images of visitors and participants. Candid portrait photography can also be used to document individuals and their experiences in a certain location or era. This style of photography typically produces intimate, dramatic photographs that convey a narrative and emphasize the subject’s individuality.
So, as we have seen, if you want to become a portrait photographer, or even just want to get your portrait pictures taken, there are many options available to you. All of these types of portrait photography offer you a range of ways in which to portray yourself – either in a more professional manner, such as in studio portraiture, or a more natural manner, such as environmental or candid portraiture. No matter the event or occasion, there is a portrait style that will best suit the moment and bring out the most in the subject.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Advantages of Studio Portrait Photography?
The greatest advantage to studio portraits is that the end result is likely to be high quality and look professional. Studios use expensive cameras and lighting to bring out the best in the subject. It is great for family photos, pet photos, and even baby photos, as there are no environmental factors to worry about, such as wind or rain that could usually potentially cut a shoot short in other settings.
What Are the Advantages of Candid Portrait Photography?
If you want to really capture the character and personality of someone, then this is the ideal type of portraiture for you. While you might get a clear portrait in a studio, it is often not the best environment to express one’s personality. Candid photography reveals people in their most genuine state without any pretense. This is especially true if it is an environment that they feel comfortable and at home in. This type of photography encompasses street photography of strangers, festival portraits, and sporting events. The obvious disadvantage would be the lack of control over the composition when compared to the other types of portrait-style photography.
Jordan Anthony is a film photographer, curator, and arts writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. Anthony schooled in Durban and graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, with a Bachelor of Art in Fine Arts. During her studies, she explored additional electives in archaeology and psychology, while focusing on themes such as healing, identity, dreams, and intuitive creation in her Contemporary art practice. She has since worked and collaborated with various professionals in the local art industry, including the KZNSA Gallery in Durban (with Strauss & Co.), Turbine Art Fair (via overheard in the gallery), and the Wits Art Museum.
Anthony’s interests include subjects and themes related to philosophy, memory, and esotericism. Her personal photography archive traces her exploration of film through abstract manipulations of color, portraiture, candid photography, and urban landscapes. Her favorite art movements include Surrealism and Fluxus, as well as art produced by ancient civilizations. Anthony’s earliest encounters with art began in childhood with a book on Salvador Dalí and imagery from old recipe books, medical books, and religious literature. She also enjoys the allure of found objects, brown noise, and constellations.
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