The appearance of a person will change over some time, so taking a photograph is the best way to keep a record of how the person looks. The skills and techniques required to take a good photograph of a person differ from the techniques required to take landscape, product and other photos. Thus portrait photography is a branch of photography which specializes in taking high-quality photos of one person or a group of persons to highlight their facial features and appearance. In these photos, the background is usually plain, with the focus being the person or persons.
One of the reasons why portrait photography is important is because it is a record of the appearance of the person at a particular time and stage of his life. While paintings can also be used to find out how a person looked, they may not be very accurate. These portrait photographs are fairly accurate images of the person since cameras are used for taking the photographs. Most people get their family photographed in the studio, especially children so that they can relive memories of the child at different ages. Usually, photographs are taken on important occasions like birthdays.
Additionally, portrait photography is used for a large number of businesses and corporate events. Many larger companies require portrait photographs of their important employees, especially their founders and top management so that no one can falsely claim to own or represent the business. Similarly, photographs are often taken of employees, especially after undergoing training for record purposes, and also ensuring that no one falsely claims to be the employee later. Many schools and colleges will take photos of the students every year, for their records and prevent academic fraud at a later date since documents can be robbed.
A good portrait photograph highlights all the facial and other features of the person or persons who are being photographed. The details should be shown clearly so that it is possible to identify the person from the photograph many years later even if the person has aged. Good photographers are also able to capture the mental state of the person who is being photographed at the time of taking the photograph. Some photographers are also able to capture the personality of the individuals photographed, and in the case of group photos, the relationship between the persons being photographed.
Though some portrait photographs are taken outdoors, a majority of the photographs are taken in the studio of the photographer since he has more control over the lighting. There are multiple options while taking photographs depending on the requirement of the customer. For a single person, the person may be seated or standing. Only the face of the person may be photographed, or the entire body may be covered in the photo. One of the most important portraits of photography settings is the lighting which is being used, with three-point lighting and butterfly lighting being the most common settings, though other methods may also be used.
Three-point lighting uses three or more lights to illuminate the person being photographed to highlight the features of the person to create a three-dimensional image of the person. The main light which is used to illuminate the face is the key light which is placed at an angle. Depending on the background a high key or low key light may be used. The fill-in light is used to control the contrast for a scene, especially the shadows. The back-light can be adjusted to highlight a particular aspect of the person who is being photographed like their hair. Accent lights may also be used.
Butterfly lighting is another lighting technique which is used by film studios and others for taking photographs of actresses and other celebrities. This lighting technique uses fewer lights. The key light is placed directly in front of the subject and a rim light is also used for added illumination. A reflector may be placed below the face of the subject to provide fill light. This lighting technique usually only highlights the facial features of the person and has a dark background. Background lights may also be utilized while taking photographs for creating special effects like a halo around the face of the person.