What Is A Portrait?

by William Lulow

What is a portrait? A portrait is a photographic representation of someone’s likeness printed on paper, published on the web, saved to a disc or sent through electronic mail. The science of capturing an image on film or digitally will not be explained here in full detail, but suffice it to say that with the use of lighting, darkroom or computer  “magic,”  technique, cunning and psychological devices, the photographer hopes to be able to capture the essence of his or her subject at any given point in time.

He or she also tries to elicit a response on the part of the viewer about the person in front of the lens. It is important to decide what one wants to say about someone before he or she sits for the portrait. Once a decision has been made about the basic content of the photograph, it then should become easier to apply the types of lightings which will best convey this message. What one decides to say about  a subject is largely determined by recognizing several factors about oneself, including: one’s own interests, personality, shooting style and background.

If the image desired is to be used in advertising, public relations or on the web, a good likeness (one that is well lit with little shadow) is probably best. If the portrait is to be used for the photographer’s own portfolio, then the decisions as to pose, lighting and expression are really unlimited.

When doing a portrait it is important to determine who will be its judge. Most often, that is the single, guiding element. If the photographer is the judge, then anything is possible. If there is a client involved, and she is the judge, then she is the one who needs to be pleased.

Timone_0047When the photographer is the judge, different lightings can be used to say what the photographer wants: