What is a portrait?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by DynaSport, Jan 9, 2018.

  1. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 5, 2013
    Dan
    What makes a photo a portrait? I see people post photos in portrait threads that look like snapshots to me or even candids, which has gotten me thinking about what constitutes a portrait. What do you say a portrait is?
     
  2. ivoire

    ivoire Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2011
    Naperville, IL
    mike
    I think of it as face mostly but also headshot with a bit of shoulders
     
  3. Gerard

    Gerard Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    May 12, 2015
    Vleuten, Utrecht
    When you turn a camera 90 degrees.
     
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  4. Gerard

    Gerard Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    May 12, 2015
    Vleuten, Utrecht
    <——— This pic of me isn't a portrait, because the camera wasn't turned 90 degrees
     
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  5. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 5, 2013
    Dan
    So any picture of a person that is mostly their face?
     
  6. ivoire

    ivoire Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2011
    Naperville, IL
    mike
    "Mostly" like this

    8734212520_3e742cf708_c. mike by Michael Wolf, on Flickr

    or this

    24276763358_30ef7d8207_c. 8 by Michael Wolf, on Flickr
     
  7. wlewisiii

    wlewisiii Mu-43 Veteran

    405
    Dec 16, 2011
    Hayward, WI
    William B. Lewis
    There is a difference between a candid and a portrait though that i think is important.

    This is a portrait:
    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/K...mhglhLUekPKC8WJL8m3IjzepJLYP4H3=w1273-h859-no

    while this is not:

    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/L...EUxBXxCw1GK3S3End4VYl-Qs7xvgnND=w1273-h859-no

    A portrait is a collaborative effort between the subject and the photographer. Without that awareness of what is happening, it is a candid. This is not a good or bad thing inherently; merely a difference.
     
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  8. pondball

    pondball Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Does it have to be of a person?

    I took a photo of my kids' dog recently (posted elsewhere here in mu-43) and I think it's probably the best portrait (head and shoulders) that I've ever taken. She knew I was there, so fulfils the awareness factor, and for whatever reason she sat very still too, fulfilling the posing factor. Last fall we had a guest speaker (pro photographer) who specializes in animal photography and showed us a mixture of both candid and studio shots of many types of animals. The studio shots certainly were well planned out and looked an awful lot like portraits to me... eerie sense of humanism to them!
     
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  9. Repp

    Repp Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 27, 2011
    Oak Harbor, WA
    I think candid can also include portraiture, as there are some very impressive examples from street photography and photojournalism. I think a larger part of the definition is the intent of the photographer when capturing the image. A portrait's purpose and subject should primarily be on the individual, group of individuals, or dogs (cats not welcome). One of the things I kind of separate in my head is the difference between a picture and a photograph. A Picture is of something that you recognized as fun/interesting/beautiful, raised the camera up and took the photo with minimal thought or adjustments. Where as a Photo is planned and deliberate. Almost all types of photography can fall into both and both can turn out beautiful results... and I think the gaol for almost all of us is to be proficient enough so that every picture situation becomes a photograph by the time we click the shutter.
     
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  10. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 5, 2013
    Dan
    I think I am sensitive to this because several years ago I took a photo of my mother and grandmother sitting on a porch swing after a funeral. They were dressed nice and had spent time on their hair and makeup and the photo was flattering of them. My mom is a terrible subject of photos, she just can’t get comfortable in front of the camera and it is the best photo I have ever seen of her. I was very proud of it and posted it on Fred Miranda. It didn’t get much of a response, but the one comment I recall was someone saying it was not a portrait, but simply a decent snapshot. I thought it was better than that. Anyway, ever since I have wondered what made some photos snapshots and some portraits.
     
  11. wlewisiii

    wlewisiii Mu-43 Veteran

    405
    Dec 16, 2011
    Hayward, WI
    William B. Lewis
    Snapshot, I believe, only refers to the amount of time used. A quickly taken portrait may be a literal snapshot - yet you had the trained eye to see the composition and lighting and get what you wanted. I'd argue it's more of a candid since they weren't expecting it but given what you said, you'd probably never get better so enjoy what you have.
     
  12. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 5, 2013
    Dan
    It wasn’t a candid. They knew I was taking the photo and smiled for me. I’ll search for the photo tonight maybe and post it.
     
  13. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2013
    Philly
    Steve
    A portrait is deliberated & carefully posed, composed and lighted.
    A snapshot is spontaneous
    No portraits are snapshots, some snapshots are portraits.

    That's the oversimplified definition IMO
     
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  14. magIBIS

    magIBIS Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    105
    Jun 8, 2016
    Central Europe
    A portrait tries to capture more of a person / subject than just the outer attributes. It can be even full body with a meaningful context with the surrounding. You try not to show a moment (candid) but represent something about that subject you think makes its special value.
     
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  15. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 5, 2013
    Dan
    How can a snapshot be a portrait if, by definition, a portrait is deliberately and carefully posed, lighted, and composed?
     
  16. pondball

    pondball Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    And that's why you're better off spending your time here than at some of the other hack sites! We understand... and care! :)
     
  17. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2013
    Philly
    Steve
    I said it was oversimplified. You can still make a snapshot deliberately and using good lighting and technically a portrait.

    It's like that definition of porn. You can't define it, but you know it when you see it.
     
  18. pondball

    pondball Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Apparently there are different views on what is a portrait and what is not.

    All depends on your perspective I would think.

    JamesJoyce.
     
  19. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2014
    Maryland
    Loren
    I’ve tended to use the term “portraiture” as a genre of photography, though I’ve never given it this much thought before. I think it’s simply when the subject(s) are posing for the camera, not necessarily just capturing the upper body. How many “family portraits” include capturing a whole group of people, full body?

    But, is an action shot of a dancer in mid-leap a portrait, if the dancer is doing the move knowing it is being photographed? I dunno...
     
  20. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I've never thought about this before, and I'm sure it's covered in some photog textbook, but this above seems right to me. There can be full body portraits, environmental portraits, and I don't think aspect ratio, body framing or anything else really matters. Aren't there old oil paintings of famous people in museums, etc. that would be considered portraits?

    It seems to me that a portrait is, as noted, a collaboration, and the difference between a good protrait and a not-as-good-one would be whether the photo conveys something about the subject or not.

    edit: read the rest of the posts later, and I like the add about time and though, as well as intentional lighting, etc. Not sure I like the semi-loaded "snapshot" term though. There's got to be something between a "portrait" and a "snapshot" -- no?