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Portrait Photography Guide

A successful portrait has always the quality of making an impression on the viewer. The impression left may be because of some physical aspect of the photograph’s subject, or it may be of some subtle characteristic getting underscored. The portrait makes a dramatic statement about the subject. It is very individual. A simple photograph of a person that does not leave any imprint on our mind cannot be called a portrait. The portrait always reveals something about the person. It may be some mood, some attitude or some mannerism which constitutes the personality of the person.

A photographer who is able to bring out these features in his portraits is a successful photographer. Now, how does one do that? It depends mostly on the personality of the photographer, but it can also be learned.

The photographer should always be in command of the situation. He is the ‘boss’ of the moment. He should be able to strike a rapport with his subjects. This can be achieved by starting a small conversation with the person. It can be small talk about the currently popular topics, or the photographer can try and find a subject which strikes a chord in the person being photographed. This will put the subject at ease; make him animated and more alive, bringing out some interesting aspects of the personality of the person.

But this is not a rule. Many great photographers used to remain very serious and focused on their work, but still took great portraits. It is all in the personality of the photographer. Something in the photographer must evoke respect in the subject, so that he or she cooperates and does what the photographer wants. A good portrait photographer should have a real interest in people. He should be a keen observer of the human nature. He should be quickly able to make out the outstanding traits or habits of the person and make them appear in the portraits.

The photographer can take his photograph in the natural surroundings of the subject. This definitely is advantageous, since it puts the other person at ease. However, this is not always possible, in which case the photographer can make use of his studio. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. In natural surroundings of the subject the lighting may not be proper and even, or surroundings not so appealing for a good photograph. In studio, everything can be controlled, while the natural ease of the other setting will be missing.

The natural light is always better but in many cases this light is uneven and is not good for photography. In that case, one has to think of taking pictures indoors. The surroundings can be used to emphasize certain aspects of the personality of the subject. The background can be made to reflect or enhance certain attitude or mannerism of the person. For this, certain props can be used. It can be a hat, a cigar, a fan or a toy in the case of toddlers. Sometimes, photographer also uses a completely black or white background. In these cases, the focus is entirely on the subject of the photograph. Some very beautiful portraits can be seen with such stark backgrounds.

In the end, it is mainly the personality and maturity of the photographer that plays a major role in bringing out a good portrait. No rules can be defined for taking a great shot. One has to experiment and use one’s own imagination and sensitivity to find one’s unique individual style.