Portrait Photography

What is portrait photography?

Portrait photography, or photographic portraiture, is a form of photography that aims to convey the personality, character or emotion of the subject, usually a person or sometimes a group of people, where the face or expression is the dominant feature.

Traditional Portraiture

Traditional portrait photographs are of one person and normally cropped to the face, or head and shoulders, and posed in a studio (or improvised equivalent) using a backdrop. Traditional portraits can be formal, for example for use as business profiles in company brochures or websites.

Lifestyle Portraiture

Lifestyle portraits are those taken in a place familiar to the subject, such as their home, and could feature a group of people doing normal everyday things, which although might be directed are not posed as in traditional portraiture. Examples could be images taken of a family in their home, interacting in the way they normally do, but for the camera.

Environmental Portraiture

Another form of portraits is the environmental portrait. This can be thought of as a mix of the traditional and lifestyle portrait. This style of portrait might be set in a place with relevance or meaning to the subject, such as their workplace, and could include other elements such as their work tools. Unlike a lifestyle portrait, environmental portraits are posed, but unlike traditional portraits would usually be cropped wider than just the head to include elements of the location.

Other Forms of Portraiture

As well as the main types of portraiture outlined, there are other forms, such as candid street shots, taken without the subject’s knowledge while going about their business. Creative portraits, for example using props or lighting techniques to create a surreal or imagined character. Glamour shots and boudoir could also be considered styles of portraiture, and abstract portraiture where the usual main feature, the face, is manipulated beyond recognition.


Whatever the style of portrait, the key to good portrait photography is to capture the personality and emotion of the subject, which often means building a rapport between the photographer and the subject to help bring out their persona.