VSN Series Part 5: On Portraits.

Portraits or simply portraiture, is the art of capturing a subject where facial features are dominant. As one of the most basic disciplines of photography, portraits are a oft studied and practiced. Portraits can convey an array of emotions and provide a canvas for a photographer to interpret their subject. Portraits also must be rehearsed or specifically composed for the moment. After that there aren’t many rules.





There are 4 basic approaches to portrait photography.  Each of which requires different methods but they all can be performed by either beginners or seasoned professionals.  They are as follows:

  1. Constructionist
  2. Environmental
  3. Candid
  4. Creative


Constructionist portraits are centered around an idea. The photographer build a scene or ambiance around the subject to convey a certain emotion or to relay a message. The two photos above are centered around the modern millennial’s relationship with brunch. Weekends for of age millennials are now dominated by brunch adventures and the theme is defined and reinforce in the above two photos.



Environmental portraits place the subject in their natural environment. The background and surrounding features of a photo need to be considered when in creation. When shooting environmental portraits the subject should be a part of an whole that is the resulting photograph. Place the subject in a place where their truth must meet the light. Such as students making their daily walk through campus.



With the candid approach the subject is unaware of the photographer’s presence, which by definition is candid. Candids are less invasive and allow the photographer to capture the raw emotion of a subject without barriers the of immediacy. Candids are always best when they are ‘truly” candid. Rehearsed candids often feel unauthentic limiting the power of a photo. Candids provides the perfect way to break the rules while still adhering to them.


Creative portraits are defined as any portrait that is digitally manipulated. Post production software is a tool that all photographers should take advantage of. Creative portraits can truly transform a photo to create something new. There are no limits to creativity.

Each of these approaches aim to simply guide and inform. Photography will always be based on interpretation. When taking a portrait the most important rule is to never forget your subject. Aim to add context by trying to get the subject to let their guard down, if only for a second. Good portraits make you feel like there is nothing more encompassing that moment could exude. The perfect moment.

“Worldview through a viewfinder.”

Read Part 4 of the VSN Series here.

Part 3.

Part 2.

Part 1.

Read more on portraits.


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