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Portraits are about people whether singly or in groups, formal or casual, inside or outside. Generally, portrait photographers divide portraiture into the following categories:
Environmental portraits are about people, what they do, and who they are. They are about the kind of house a person lives in, their job, and what they choose to include in their lives physically and emotionally. One of the benefits of environmental portraits is that people tend to relax and look comfortable when photographed in familiar surroundings doing what they enjoy.
Many casual portraits are shot candidly – the subject has little or no idea that a picture has been taken. The photographer is looking for those moments when a person's character shines though. With casual photos, the photographer must always be on the lookout for the telling moment. Every person has a story, and every casual picture taken should tell part of that story. Casual portraits show the subject in informal poses, possibly looking away or engaged in some activity.
STUDIO (FORMAL) PORTRAITS
A studio portrait, also called a formal portrait, is a posed picture of a person or a group of people that focuses on clearly showing facial features. It may be designed to highlight a certain characteristic of the subject(s), such as personality or occupation. Studio portraits are taken in photography studios, hence the name. They are posed pictures, set in front of a backdrop, with two or more lights aimed at the individual’s face. The photographer has the subject(s) assume several different poses and takes multiple pictures of each.
Group portraits of teams, families, and business associates are hard to do and the larger the group, the harder they are. It takes an experienced photographer to get a family or ball team to pose for a picture, arranged so you can see their faces, with everyone looking good—no one's eyes closed and no grimacing or squinting. Group portraits take a photographer with imagination, patience, and diplomacy. In addition, the group must be related to the location chosen for the picture in a way that expresses something about what kind of group they are.
Tips for Portrait Photography
1. DECIDE WHAT TO WEAR
Talk to your photographer about what you plan to wear. As a professional, they can make suggestions about colors, styles, and fabrics that provide the best pictures. Generally, you want clothing that is relatively plain to allow the focus to remain upon you. If other people will be in the portrait, choose coordinating or contrasting colors.
2. TELL THE PHOTOGRAPHER THE PLANNED USES FOR YOUR PORTRAITS
A portrait for a business card is different from one for LinkedIn or Facebook, and a family portrait is vastly different from one for a boys’ baseball team.
3. TALK TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER ABOUT USING PROPS
Find out if you should provide your own or if the photographer will do so. Let the photographer know if there are props you want in your pictures.
4. ASK THE PHOTOGRAPHER IF THEY HAVE A STYLIST FOR HAIR, WARDROBE, AND MAKEUP
Details in portraiture make all the difference, and if your photographer has a stylist, it will help. You can also ask your photographer to recommend a stylist who helped with portfolio photographs you like.
5. DECIDE ON A LOCATION FOR YOUR PORTRAIT SESSION
Ask if the photographer will scout locations or suggest places to shoot. A professional photographer with experience will be able to recommend good locations or be willing to offer their time and expertise to select locations specific to your needs.