Portrait Photography

What Is Portrait Photography?

Portrait photography is a type of photography that focuses on capturing a person’s likeness, particularly their face. Typically, people’s faces are the most prominent element in these types of photographs. Other elements, such as bodies, clothing, props, and backgrounds may be visible, but the photographer usually doesn’t try to draw attention to them.

Posing is an important aspect of portrait photography. In order to capture these photographs, the subjects will usually need to pose, or sit in a specific way. In most cases, they will usually be looking directly at the camera, either straight on or with their head turned.

The subjects of portrait photography are typically not professional models. Instead, they are usually regular people. Many times, portrait photography is used to commemorate an event, such as a wedding or even just another school year. Talented portrait photographers are often able to capture a certain mood or emotion with their portraits as well, and these photographs are works of art that can be treasured for years to come.

Work Environment

One of the first things that a portrait photographer will do is meet with the client. This meeting might take anywhere from a few short minutes to an hour or more. During this meeting, the photographer and the client will usually discuss how the portrait or portraits should look. If the client wants a certain look or feel to the photograph, he should discuss this with the photographer. Other options, like backgrounds and lighting will also usually be discussed at this point.

As mentioned above, posing is an important aspect of portrait photography. A portrait photographer will often spend several minutes posing his subjects for each picture. While posing the subjects, he will usually need to pay attention to several small details, such as the way a head is tilted or which way hands are facing. The wrong pose can often ruin an otherwise attractive portrait.

After the subjects have been posed, a portrait photographer will then take several pictures. Each of these pictures will sometimes have different backgrounds or lighting effects. They will also usually require different poses.

Clients can then look at proofs of all the different pictures that the photographer took and pick out their favorites. These pictures can then either be developed or printed by the photographer, or sent away to be processed. In some cases, a photographer may also retouch or otherwise manipulate digital pictures as well.

Photography skills are essential in order to pursue any type of photography career, including portrait photography. Aspiring portrait photographers should be comfortable with and have experience with shooting high quality photographs with a variety of different photography equipment. This can include such things as traditional and digital cameras, as well as lighting equipment.

A portrait photography career also requires great attention to detail. This is especially important when posing subjects, since the wrong angle of a body part or facial expression can sometimes cause the subject to look unattractive.

Last, but certainly not least, individuals interested in a portrait photography career should be good with people and have excellent communication skills. They should be friendly, and they should also be able to create the types of shots that their clients are looking for.

Education Requirements

A formal education is not always necessary when pursuing a portrait photography career. Some individuals may have the chance to work alongside and learn from more experienced and talented portrait photographers. This type of situation may occur when a portrait photographer offers on the job training to promising individuals. Degrees in photography, however, may be necessary for individuals who are not able to have a mentor. The degrees can often be obtained from art schools as well as traditional universities. Some schools might also allow students to concentrate on subjects pertaining to portrait photography.

Salary and Job Outlook


Salaries of portrait photographers will vary, depending on a number of things. For example, experienced and talented photographers will usually be able to command a higher wage. The location of a portrait photographer will also play a part in how much a portrait photographer can earn. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, individuals interested in a photography career could expect to earn between $17,350 and $63,400 in 2010.

Job Outlook

Aspiring portrait photographers who are lucky enough to have a mentor are often able to gain steady employment at an established portrait studio. Other individuals, however, will usually need to search for employment after earning their photography degree. Portrait photographers who are just entering the work force may want to consider working for an established portrait studio or portrait photography companies. Some of this work may simply require snapping photographs just at a studio. A few companies, however, may specialize in travelling to different locations to shoot portrait photographs. School portrait photography companies are an excellent example of this. After they have gained more experience and honed their skills, many portrait photographers will often branch out and start their own business. This often is often a very involved process, and it typically requires a large investment. Some of these expenses may include studio space, cameras, lighting equipment, backdrops, and props. Because running a business can be a confusing venture for many novices, a business degree might also be very useful.

Helpful Resources

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