7 types of portrait photography you should know

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by David Em
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Different portrait styles can diversify your portfolio and increase your creativity. Here are 7 different types of portrait photography.

Portrait of a person standing near a tree.

What is a portrait?

A portrait is a representation of a person that focuses on the face and expressions. However, portraits aren’t limited to a headshot but they can also be full-body images.

Related: Understanding focus in photography

Portraits aren’t only seen in photography, they’re also in paintings, drawings, sculptures, and other forms of art.

The general purpose of a portrait is to show the personality or mood of your subject through a photo.

Photographer with text overlay.

Types of portrait photography

Portrait photographers often specialize in one or two styles. However, to sharpen your skills and grow as a photographer, exploring other styles is key. The following are 7 different types of portrait photography that you should know.

1. Traditional portrait photography

Portrait of a person smiling.

Traditional portraits show a subject smiling and looking at the camera. A traditional portrait is normally photographed in a studio with a simple background.

They’re focused on the subject’s face and show the top half of their body, usually the shoulders and above. You can get creative with traditional portraits by focusing on your subject’s expression.

2. Glamour portrait photography

Greyscale person leaning their head to the side.
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Glamour portrait photography focuses on the beauty of a person and is also known as a “beauty” portrait. It involves personal styling, make-up artists, and a very fashion-forward look.

The goal of a glamour portrait is to capture beauty. Therefore, you need to ensure that your subject’s eyes are in sharp focus and make them look their best.

Although the focus is on appearance, capturing the beauty in your subject’s personality is also important.

3. Candid portrait photography

Candid portrait photography is focused on capturing the subject not acknowledging the photographer. Although you don’t have to photograph strangers on the street, you want to achieve the same feel.

These types of portraits are popular among street photographers because that’s where it’s easiest to capture candid images of people without them noticing. The goal of a candid portrait is to capture people in genuine moments.

Moments pass quickly, but candid portrait photography captures genuine moments that will be remembered.

4. Environmental portrait photography

Mechanic working on an engine.
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

An environmental portrait captures people in an environment that has meaning to them.

It’s a staged and intentional style. For example, if you’re shooting portraits of a mechanic for his website then you’ll:

  • Set up the shop strategically
  • Frame him between cars
  • Move items around

The goal is to capture an image of someone with things they are passionate about in their surroundings. This means that the location is one of the most important factors.

Related: Documentary photography: Tips for taking compelling photos

5. Couples and family portrait photography

Two people smiling and hugging.
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Portraits aren’t always about one person. There are couples and family portraits as well. When you’re shooting these types of portraits, shoot multiple images of the same pose.

It’s difficult to shoot the perfect shot of multiple people in one shot. Someone will blink or they weren’t ready but by having multiple images, you’ll have options.

The goal of this style is to capture genuine emotions between your subjects, which results in images that will be cherished and admired.

6. Self-portrait

A self-portrait is more than a smartphone selfie. In fact, this type of portrait can be easier if you’re shy in front of the camera. Self-portraits are very popular among the art world, as artists would paint or draw how they perceived themselves.

In photography, a self-portrait can help you get out of your comfort zone, practice different compositions and photography styles.

7. Headshot photography

Person smiling.
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Headshot photography is a great way to have a steady flow of clients. In almost any profession, headshots are needed. Not only are headshots used for professional purposes but they can also be used for personal social media profile photos.

Although headshots are often used for professional purposes, you can get creative by emphasizing expressions. By doing so, you’ll be able to capture your subject’s unique personality while having professional photos.

Frequently asked questions

Can portraits be full-body?

Absolutely, portraits can be full-body photos. The main focus is the subject so it can be a headshot, half-body, or full-body image.

What are the best lenses for portraits?

Portrait photography can be done with many different lenses because it depends on what you’re trying to portray. In general, longer focal length lenses are great for portraits. The 50mm and 85mm are two great lenses to start with.

How do you photograph someone’s true self?

Engage with your client by asking them questions and giving them positive feedback. By doing these two things, you’ll build trust and they’ll feel comfortable expressing their true self.

Conclusion

Portrait photography is a versatile genre of photography and it comes down to capturing your subject’s personality. Understanding the different types of portrait photography will help you diversify your portfolio and expand your creativity as a photographer.

Featured photo by Unsplash.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and helpful advice to grow your photography business.

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