What is a portrait photograph? If it is, as the dictionary describes, basically the likeness of a person, then surely any photograph which includes a human is classed as a portrait? No, of course not, it’s not that simple
I had a bit of an epiphany a couple of weeks ago, an enlightenment that will change the way I work from that day on, I suddenly realised, for me personally, what turns a photograph of a person into a portrait – the subject has to want to be photographed, and not just be willing to have a camera pointed at them, they have to be totally involved, and most importantly, totally comfortable. The subject has to ‘give’ the photograph. Portrait photography takes two.
I’ve been back through every photograph that I’ve taken of a person over the last few years and I can now see, instantly, who wanted to be photographed and who didn’t, it’s so blatantly obvious, and I can now see why I was never really happy with the shots, but couldn’t quite put my finger on why. So, as of two weeks ago, I’m only photographing the people who really, genuinely want to be photographed.
por·trait [pawr-trit, -treyt, pohr-] Show IPA
a likeness of a person, especially of the face, as a painting, drawing, or photograph: a gallery of family portraits.
a verbal picture or description, usually of a person: a biography that provides a fascinating portrait of an 18th-century rogue.
1560–70; < Middle French: a drawing, image, etc., noun use of past participle of portraire to portray…