Smart Photography
Portraiture Image Credit: Smart Photography
Portraiture Image Credit: Smart Photography


According to Paul L. Anderson, The Fine Art of Photography (1919), “The fundamental purpose of portraiture is to furnish a complete and satisfactory likeness of the sitter – the true portrait, then, should present a complete and satisfactory representation of the contours and gradations of the face; it should be as fully descriptive as possible of the sitter’s character; and it should be a picture of such nature as to be artistically pleasing to one who is unacquainted with the original – the best portraitist is the one who combines in fullest measure the power of reading character, knowledge of the effects of light and shadow, and mastery of the techniques of his medium, and it necessarily follows that no one ever passes the need for study.”

Rohinton Mehta

Portraits need not be taken in photo studios only; they can be taken anywhere – outdoors or indoors. The idea is to have a pleasing representation of the subject (usually, but not necessarily) and bring out his/her characteristics. Lighting and pose take on great importance but so does the choice of the lens, shooting angle and background. Another aspect that is often forgotten or not taken seriously (especially by beginners) is the importance of make-up and/ or hair styling. A good make-up artist can completely transform an ordinary looking subject into a beauty to behold.

Note: In this write-up, I will not discuss the art of make-up or hair-styling; I will leave that to the professionals; they know their job better than I do.

Portraiture works on the concept that light areas stand out and dark areas pull back. Hence by placing highlights on the five frontal planes of the face – forehead, nose, chin, and the two cheeks – and placing the neck and the sides of the face in shadow, we can create modelling and realism. By careful use of lighting, we can hide facial defects and idealise the subject.

Basically, there are three types of lighting used in portraiture – Short lighting, Broad lighting and Butterfly lighting. Short lighting is also known as Narrow lighting and Butterfly lighting is also known as Glamour lighting. Before we begin, let us clear some misgivings. How many lights does one need for a successful port

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