6 Essential Types of Portrait Photography

We’ve all seen portraits before, whether it’s a classic painting, a famous photograph, or even a stock image. But, did you know that there are a variety of different portrait types, each with a unique set of tricks and techniques to get them right. I’m going to show you 6 of the best portrait types a photographer should have in their tool kit, along with some tips on how to shoot them.

  1. What is portrait photography
  2. Delivering powerful messages through your portraits
  3. Where and who uses portrait photography?
  4. Traditional individual portraits
  5. Lifestyle portraits
  6. Candid or street portraits
  7. Group portraits
  8. Close-up portraits
  9. Conceptual portraits
  10. Conclusion

What is portrait photography

Portrait photography captures human subjects, and animals too, alone or in a group, and aims to highlight the subject’s personality. There are many types of portrait photography ranging from the traditional solo, to group, to candid, to close-ups, to the surreal and conceptual. As different as they are, they all bring out the character of the subject, evoking a captivating message through personality. We can say that portrait photography speaks louder than words through images.


Delivering powerful messages through your portraits
Since capturing the personality of the subject is the aim of portrait photography, we must bring to light the techniques behind each portrait type. These essential techniques are what will make your model’s personality radiate, and each type of portrait has a unique way of doing this. How does this work? By using precise lighting effects, even post production effects that set tones and evoke desired moods in the expression of your subject.

1. Traditional individual portraits

The bread and butter of portrait photography is the solo portrait. This is the one that started it all and is till the most common and essential type of photograph. You will see these used frequently in stock photography, for businesses, or even videography, to name a few. As cameras continue to improve in quality, the traditional portrait continues to occupy our interests and business needs along with them.

Pro Tip
This kind of portrait should be all about expressing the character of your model by illuminating their facial features. You can achieve this by using three point lighting with a key light, fill light, and a back light. With this technique, you can bring out your subject’s face, highlighting all their features.

2. Lifestyle portraits

Lifestyle photographs have now become the most popular forms of advertising. Gone are the days with glamourous model ads. We are now searching for people that we can identify with more and more, and as a result, the lifestyle portrait has exploded in popularity. The lifestyle portrait tells a story in a photo. In lifestyle portraits with multiple people, the interaction between them is the story. In solo photo, the model and the background tell the story.

Pro Tip
Keep in mind that real does not have to be real like a photograph with incidental people, but it has to look as real as possible. Although your subject is still the human model, the background plays a very important role. To boost the authenticity look of your lifestyle portrait, make sure that the background adds to the story of your shot. Some example of this are: a child in playground, an old person at home, or a person working, whether at home or the office, with a computer behind them. Applying the right background adds to the character depth of your portrait and the mood that you want to set.

3. Candid or street portraits

Unlike the lifestyle portraits that imitate reality and make it look as genuine as possible, the candid portrait is reality. Here your subject looks as if, or is unaware, of the photographer. Another common way of calling these kinds of portraits is street portraits. And just like the lifestyle portrait, the candid or street portrait tells a story, only in an Uber-realistic way.

Pro Tip
Make sure that your subject does not pose for this shot. To make this work and look as authentic as possible, the object of your focus should look away, unaware of the camera. This way you attain an effect of ultra authenticity. To add an increasing depth of reality, use natural lighting and minimize color correction, so that it looks like neither the subject is aware, and nor the camera.

4. Group portraits

Just like the individual portrait, but with a group of people. As similar as they sound, there is a big difference. These kinds of portraits aim at detailing the relationship between the people and their character interaction. While the individual portrait aims at showing the characteristics of one person, the group portrait details the relationship between the people in the photograph. Taking a traditional family photograph as an example, in the photo we can tell who is the mother, father, children, grandparents. The photograph details the family structure.

Pro Tip
Keep the group close together. Focusing on the group, do away with any distracting elements creeping around in the background. We want the viewer to see only the group and the social structure within it. To achieve this, make sure that the focus is as sharp as it can get. Use a wide-angle lens. You need every face to stand out clearly.

5. Close-up portraits

The most intimate of the portrait types, the close-up portrait focuses in on the face to bring out the model’s expression and facial features. Here, the subject takes up the entire image, with little or no background. In most cases, the eyes are what will create the most impact, so the two most important parts of close-up photography are the subject and the lighting.

Pro Tip
Lighting is the most crucial element in close-up, since the focal point is the eyes of the model. The right light source will bring out the color of their eyes and make for a stunning close-up portrait. Natural side light works best!

6. Conceptual portraits

Conceptual photography is the most illusive type of photography, since it is very difficult to define. It spans a range of topics that can be anything. With conceptual portraits, you begin with your idea of the concept that you want to portray, and this can be anything. Some examples include love, pride, happiness, anger, frustration, or sadness. Keep in mind that the concept does not have to be human. It can be anything!

Pro Tip
Start with a concept. Use expressions, backgrounds, props, or even special effects that bring out the concept that you are trying to illustrate. The only rule that applies for conceptual photographs is that anything goes. You have the full advantage of letting your creative juices flow.

Conclusion

We use and need portraits now as much as ever. And with everyone now having cameras on their phones, and with the quality of the technology improving daily, why not master portrait photography? We are all taking pictures for our social media profiles, for friends, and even work. These suggestions will only enhance your standing, whether for personal reasons or for business. I hope that you have enjoyed this read and are already planning your next portrait shoot.