When we think of photographing people, we automatically think of taking a portrait; but not all people photography is portraiture.

A portrait is (according to one dictionary definition), a painting, drawing or photograph of a person, often only the face or a description.

A photographic portrait focuses on the person and attempts to convey an image of what or who the person is, whether physically, or perhaps spiritually or emotionally.

Whereas a portrait is usually of one or perhaps occasionally a small number of people (eg. a family portrait), people can be photographed in other ways, where the focus of attention might not be so strongly on who the person is (or persons are), for example:

  • A nude photograph which shows just part of the body (Here your attention is on shape and form, line and perhaps texture. The body is of interest because of its photogenic shape, rather than because it is a person with a unique character)
  • A crowd scene may have more in common with a landscape than a portrait.
  • The inclusion of people in a street scene (or any other type of scene), may utilise people as simply components which together with other components such as buildings, plants or animals, etc; contributes to create the overall image (eg. consider a farm scene with a farmer driving a tractor beside an interesting barn, while a group of animals look on. The farmer need not be the main focus of the photograph, but he will contribute along with the other components, to the overall image which is created.




-People Move

The subject can move. If they move fast, a fast shutter speed may be needed to keep the subject in focus (so the photo is not blurred). Because people move, sometimes the photographer needs to work fast before they move away from the camera.

-People Dress Differently

The same person can look different according to the clothing or make up they wear. Similarly, dress and make up can be used to make different people appear alike.

-The subject can be changed.

When you photograph a statue, you can change the time you take the photo, the equipment you use, or the placement of the camera; in fact anything external to the subject can be changed, but the subject (ie. the statue) is always the same. Unlike inert objects (or most landscapes in the short time frame), living subjects (animals and people) can change considerably from moment to moment.

-Peoples Moods can be Uncontrollable

To capture the best portrait of a person you need to have them in an appropriate mood. A person can, for instance, appear happy one day and sad the next. An individual may co-operate with one photographer and not with another. Such considerations can, and probably will, impact upon the final image which the photographer captures.


Learn more about Photographing People

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