Portraiture or Portrait Photography as a unique science

“The goal of portrait photography is to capture the likeness of a person or a small group of people, typically in a flattering manner.” Wikipedia the free encyclopedia Just about anyone who can aim a camera can take a portrait photo but it goes without saying that some are better at it than others. Top professional portrait photographers do it all the time, reliably producing outstanding portraits with just about every subject they photograph

What makes a good portrait photograph?

The subject

A photographic portrait is understood to be a good quality image that not only captures a person's physical likeness on film, but also something of the person's character, generally in a manner that is attractive and pleasing to the subject. A good portrait will contain at least one element that reveals the subject's personality, attitude, unique mannerisms or any of the other features or traits that form the individual nature of the person.

A portrait photograph tells us something about the person in the picture. You may have heard someone remark that a particular photographer “really captured” their father or child. Portraiture photography is in part referring to the image being a true physical likeness, but what they are really saying is that the image also reveals a significant, identifiable part of the subject's character. The portrait photographer who has never previously met the subject therefore has quite a challenge it takes skill and an understanding of human nature on the photographers side to really engage the subject in revealing his true nature Keep in mind that it is the person who is emphasized in a portrait - not his or her surroundings. Viewers of the portrait should see more than just a recognizable photograph of someone. The picture must contain mood, show personality and character, allowing the viewer to draw conclusions about the person in the portrait.

The Lighting

Because the character and quality of a photograph can be altered by the character and quality of light, even the most experienced photographers puzzle over how a scene should be lit, what lighting angles to use for good results, and what exposure settings will bring out the best detail and tonal shading. When you are armed with the basic facts about light, you will find that such elementary questions become more easily-answered.

Backlighting is just as it sounds: light that comes from behind your subject. This can make a beautiful photo, or turn a beautiful photo into a disaster. Backlighting is what turns a palm tree into a silhouette against the sunset. In this case, that is a good thing that adds to the photograph. But, the same thing can happen if you want to take a photograph of a person who has a strong back light behind them, such as the sun, sky, or bright lights. The camera reads the brightness behind the main subject and sets its internal meter to expose properly for the extra light. This underexposes your subject and will usually turn them into a silhouette. You can avoid this by using a fill-flash. A fill-flash will “fill” in the needed light, chasing away the shadows from your subject caused from the bright light behind.

Side Lighting

Side lighting can have a very drastic effect on your photos, also. But, unlike backlighting, its brightness comes from the right or left of your subject. This tends to cast one side in total darkness, while putting the other in the spot light. This is a wonderful way to get a mysterious, dramatic portrait photo. Side lighting is wonderful for showing texture and adding depth to a photo.

Diffused Lighting

Side lighting can have a very drastic effect on your photos, also. But, unlike backlighting, its brightness comes from the right or left of your subject. This tends to cast one side in total darkness, while putting the other in the spot light. This is a wonderful way to get a mysterious, dramatic portrait photo. Side lighting is wonderful for showing texture and adding depth to a photo.

Artificial Lighting

Artificial lighting comes in all shapes and sizes. From a built in flash on your camera to expensive lights in the studio, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. On camera flashes are simple and easy to use, but sometimes cause the awful red eye so common in snapshots . The farther the flash is away from the lens, the less likely this is to happen. Another problem with on camera flash is the harsh light they cast onto the subject. If you have an off camera flash, you can bounce the light for a softer effect. One last thing to remember about artificial light, unless you are using black and white film, regular indoor lights will give your photos a yellow cast. These lights are not the equivalent of flash bulb lights, and therefore will not give you the same results. It is obvious that although anybody can take a photograph not everybody can capture a moment on film that can reveal more that just shapes, colours, contours and textures. A truly great portraiture photograph is one that gives a window to the soul.

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