A portrait is a likeness of a person, especially the
face. This definition isolates one essential point in
portraiture. A portrait should emphasize the person,
rather than the person's environment or something
associated with the person. However, a pictorial
representation that portrays only a recognizable likeness
of a person is not enough. A portrait must be more than
just a photograph, It must have mood, personality, and
possess characteristics from which a viewer can draw
conclusions about the subject. By manipulating
expressions, posing, lighting, and environments, a
portrait photographer can portray any mood from
happiness to gloom, as well as the personality of a
subject. Posing the subject with familiar objects and
environments can produce a more natural expression
and pose because the subject will be more at ease.
Articles or props included in the scene can help tell more
about the subject.
Success in portraiture requires a thorough
understanding of the techniques involved, an artistic
ability, and a talent for directing the subject through a
desired expression or pose. The portrait photographer
should have a sensitivity for, and an understanding of,
people. Portrait photographers vary considerably in
their styles and techniques. The subjects of portraits vary
in their likes and dislikes. There is no one blueprint or
formula that will assure success.
The portrait is an interesting and challenging
assignment to many Navy photographers. In portraiture
the subject is always changing and challenging the
Photographers Mates. To meet the challenge of portrait
photography, you must have vision, good judgment, and
the ability and willingness to show them to greatest
Most people have their portrait made because they
want someone else to see how they look A beautiful
woman knows she is beautiful, and in a picture, she
wants to appear beautiful-so make her beautiful. Some
flattery may be necessary, but you should not overdo it.
Men know their features; they know whether they
appear dignified; they know whether they appear to have
great strength of character; and they are correct in
expecting the photographer to emphasize these good
points. The subject expects a true portrait-a good
expression and a natural pose, a portrait that shows
whatever beauty or strength the person has, and one that
reflects his or her character and features.
Character is formed by life. A frown or a smile today
leaves no trace, but continued use of facial muscles to
form a smile, a laugh, or a frown leaves lines on the
forehead, around the eyes, nose, and mouth. These lines
and expressions form facial character. They are subdued
or exaggerated by the way you light the subject. You
should not eliminate character lines altogether, but, you
should only soften them with lighting. A face has
features: two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and two ears, but
photographically these features are not equally
important. To the portrait photographer, the most
important and most expressive are the eyes; the mouth
is second only to the eyes.
Facial expressions constantly change and last only
momentarily. No happy expression or frown lasts long
enough to take full notice of it-until it is photographed.
When you photograph an expression at the wrong
instant, all the bad points appear exaggerated.
To be a good portrait photographer, you must learn
to study each face as it appears before the camera, and
light it to represent the natural features and character
accurately. Do not try to capture that fleeting expression.
It is not the expression that shows that person's true
character. What you want is a person's natural
expression. A softness of expression is best-neither too
sharp nor too faint; not too lively or too gloomy.
The portrait studio should be a place isolated from
distraction where the photographer and subject can
work without interruption. It should be a comfortable
place where the subject feels at ease, where the tested
equipment works, where the color quality of the light
can be controlled, and where the photographer and
subject can move from pose to pose without
interruption. Avoid using the portrait studio as a crew's
lounge or lunchroom. The portrait studio should always
be clean and neat. The portrait studio is one of the few
areas that customers ever see, and it represents the
overall condition of your photo lab.