"When you photograph a face you photograph the soul behind it." Jean-Luc Godard
Ever heard the saying, 'a picture's worth a thousand words?' I'm sure you have but have you ever thought of it this way, 'what would the 1000 words say about me?'
Am I expressive, enthusiastic, energetic, content, mysterious, shy, vulnerable, sassy, angry, generous, candid, or helpful?
Observing candid photos of ourselves can teach us a lot about our personality, the way we view the world, and what is going on inside of us.
A love for people and photography causes many talented ones to seek out a career as a portrait photographer.
How does one make a career out of portrait photography?
Without further delay, we will consider the distinct types of portrait photography along with how to make a career out of shooting portraits.
What are the Different Types of Portrait Photography?
When someone hears the word "portrait", they may think of a painting, drawing, or sculpture in which the face and shoulders are predominantly shown.
It is essential to mention that many people forget that photographs can be portraits and we don't mean selfies taken with your cellphone!
The goal of portrait photographers is to successfully display the mood, personality, and feelings of their subject. Portraits aim to capture people and their unique character.
How do they do so?
They make the model or subject feel comfortable and relaxed in front of the camera; this is accomplished by their experience and years of honing their skills in a distinct type of portrait photography.
Hold the phone! There is more than one type of portrait photography?
Yessir! Just like every academic discipline differs from the next, portrait photography has many distinct styles. The following are the different types of portrait photography along with a brief description of each one:
- Family or Group Portraits: it is essential to clear up the common misconception that portraits can only feature one individual; this is a complete fallecy. Photos of couples, families, and other groups fall under the portrait category. Professional portrait photographers claim that it is always more challenging to take beautiful pictures of multiple people since genuine interaction is needed.
- Self Portraits: when we use the term self-portraits, we are not thinking of selfies; they give real self-portraits a lousy reputation. When a professional takes a self-portrait, it can be pure magic! Photographers use tripods and some sort of remote release to take post-worthy self-portraits.
- Surreal Portraits: probably the most artistic portraits are surreal. Surreal photographs do not come about by chance, they are the result of talent and a lot of photoshop. Surreal portraits look dreamy and are a feast for the eyes.
- Environmental Portraits: to be classified as an environmental portrait, the environment needs to be as important as the subject at hand. An environmental picture is usually taken in a place that means something to the model to transmit feeling and emotions. A photographer needs to have the pose, lighting, person, and background work together at the same time to shoot an outstanding environmental portrait.
- Lifestyle Portraits: the polar opposite of traditional portraits, lifestyle portraits catch a person or multiple people in an everyday environment such as their bedroom, a living room, or a kitchen doing everyday things like ironing, brushing their teeth, or showing love to a cherished family member. Lifestyle photographers often have a limited amount of film and time to capture a series of photographs; therefore, they direct their subjects in an efficient manner.
- Traditional Portraits: the most common and well-known of all portrait styles is the traditional portrait; the subject poses and looks at the camera. Traditional portraits are often taken in a photography studio where there are formal backdrops.
Now you're familiar with all the different types of portrait photography; I bet you were surprised there were more than one, two, or three distinct styles!
Iconic Portrait Photographers
Striving to become successful in your career and good at your job is an entirely reasonable desire. Reaching the top of any sector, whether private or public, means more money, fame, and respect to those who worked hard to get there.
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What about photography?
There are many iconic and well-known portrait photographers who possess a prosperous career as a result of talent, determination, and hard work inspiring amateurs to dream a little bit more.
The following list consists of hyper-talented individuals who have made a living as portraits photographers:
- Steve McCurry: made famous for his iconic photo known as the 'Afghan girl' taken in a refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan in 1984, Steve McCurry has travelled the world taking portraits of people from all races, tribes, and tongues. Fun fact: the 'Afghan girl' picture was named the most recognised photo in National Geographic's history. Check out more of Stephen McCurry works.
- Lee Jeffries: recognised by many as a true artist who is compassionate and understanding of his subject's beliefs. His series of black and white photos of homeless people is a masterpiece; he shows the real struggle and the underlying hope of each person he photographs.
- Dorothea Lange: known for bravely developing documentary photography, Dorothea Lange was a fundamental photographer during the Great Depression. She is widely regarded as being one of the best photographers of all time since her portfolio indeed shows the affliction of subjects during one of America's most difficult times: the Great Depression.
- Diane Arbus: if we were to mention a portrait photographer who was intrigued with rather strange subjects and people, it would be Diane Arbus. Arbus' iconic black and white images of rather ugly and surreal items made her a legend; her pictures are definitely worth looking at!
- Yousuf Karsh: one of the best-known portrait photographers of all time, Yousuf Karsh was Armenian-Canadian and was widely recognised by others for his famous clientele. Karsh photographed the best of the best: celebrities, politicians, and world leaders. Some of his best shots feature celebrated people like Albert Einstein, Grace Kelly, Helen Keller, and Winston Churchill.
The outstanding portraits pictures taken by the previously mentioned photographers make us feel something special from the raw emotion of the subject in the image. Portrait photographers push the boundaries and create art in it's purest and unadulterated form.
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How to Become a Working Portrait Photographer
Do you want to be responsible for capturing positive memories? Do you want the pleasure of taking photographs that proudly hang on people's walls for decades? Do you want to be a portrait photographer?
While many passionate photographers might prefer to specialise in other sectors of photography that pay more such as fashion, advertising, and sports, some want to share in people's happiness and create hallmark moments.
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But how does one become a portrait photographer in the UK or internationally?
The following steps demonstrate how to develop a career as a reputable portrait photographer:
- Learn Everything There is to Know About Portrait Photography: for many, photography starts as a hobby and eventually becomes a lucrative career. How so? Practice, practice, and practice. Becoming skilled in a specific style of photography happens over time. Reading books, watching Youtube tutorials, playing with the settings of your camera and gaining experience taking pictures of models all contribute to becoming a better portrait photographer. Remember, practice makes perfect!
- Explore Career Options: those who decide to specialise in portrait photography should explore the career options available to them. For example, according to many sources, there are only really two career paths for portrait photographers: 1) Work for an official and established portrait photography studio, or 2) Open your own studio after a few years of freelancing and building a solid clientele. The choice is entirely yours!
- Build Your Portfolio: your portrait photography portfolio should boast the absolute best photos you've ever taken. A collection is necessary to show potentials clients and bring to job interviews. Consider marketing yourself online by creating a website or featuring your work on social media outlets such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
- Develop People Skills: while you may attract many clients with your beautiful photographs, patrons want to have a positive experience and feel comfortable with their photographer. Therefore, if you're an introvert who doesn't really like people, you've got a lot of improvement to make in your people skills! Being friendly, kind, courteous, and encouraging during a photoshoot puts the subject at ease and creates a beautiful experience for both parties involved. Also, it is vital to be straightforward and direct when consulting with clients for the first time about pricing. Remember, to always smile and stay positive; no one wants to work with an old grump!
By putting into practise the previously mentioned information, aspiring portrait photographers are setting themselves up for a prosperous career taking some of the industry's most mesmerising pictures.