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What is Portrait Photography – What is it’s True Purpose?

Only Masterminds know, " Knowledge shared = Knowledge squared "

People love to take portraits. That’s why we even have Portrait Modes in Phones these days.

taking self-portraits also called Selfies are so common these days. in fact, people on average take as much as 450 selfies per year.

So, How can we stand out as a portrait photographer in this noisy mess?
What is the True Meaning of a portrait in photography?
What Is Portrait Photography – What Does It Really Mean?

Read on.


Often people think that portrait photography is about a beautiful photo of one person. 

No, Portrait photography is not just merely taking photos of random people.
The True Purpose of Portrait Photography is to tell a story with the picture.

Yes, Portrait is a story.

Story of Who the Person really was.
Story of his life.
Story of Struggle.
Story of Emotions.
Story of What it Means to You as a Photographer.

What is Portrait Photography
Just by looking at this portrait we know that he is a homeless man and we can see his struggle in life.

Capturing a perfect portrait is all about The Story Behind The Portrait.

As said by the famous portrait photographer of our time.

“When You Photograph people 
it’s about History
it’s about Looking at Our Times
it’s about our Culture and Society.” – Annie Leibovitz.

Let’s say you were asked to take the portrait of a couple.
as in pre-wedding shoots.

You can’t just randomly pose people and start shooting.

It’s a big emotional moment in their lives. 
It’s a picture they are going to save for the end of their lives.
A picture they are going to show their kids and grandchildren.

It has to be memorable.

It has to portray their emotions or whats going on in their life, their Family.

Wedding portrait- what is portrait photography?
A happily married couple.

Unless you know the true meaning of portrait photography, you can’t be a great portrait photographer.

How to Master Portrait Photography:

How do we Tell a Story through the portrait?

Ask him/her,
Ask the person about his Story, his struggle, his goals,
his ambitions, what’s going on in his life.

It can be a difficult task if you’re a completely new person, as not everyone is the same. When it comes to expressing.

Try to engage them in a conversation by finding common ground for a topic to begin with.
Create a rapport.

Make him more comfortable at your presence, 
this makes them more natural-looking when you start taking photos of them.
The more You know who’s the person behind that face, the more you can show it in your picture.

What is portrait Photography
portrait of a street saxophone player

How to practice Portrait Photography?

If you’re not comfortable with all those things then

Photograph the people that are Close to You

Your Family,
Your Friends,
Your Neighbours,
Your Colleagues,

Start with them.

Start focussing on at least one quality of the person like
his unique mannerisms,
his attitude,
his expressions, reactions.

portray them, the way you understand them.
show want they mean to You in your life.

Understanding Your Camera for Portrait photography:

Lens Choice for portraits:

remember one thing there no one best lens for portrait photos

the choice of the lens and equipment Depends on the Story You want to tell

Carry at least two lenses such as a 24-70mm f2.8 lens and 70-200 f2.8 lens. This covers the entire range of requirements.
If you can’t afford such expensive lenses use 50mm f1.8 lens which is very affordable

Camera Settings for Portraits:

if you want to capture the emotions 

use fast shutter speeds of at least 1/focal length of the lens
(Eg: for a 50mm lens it shutter speed must be at least 1/50)
and for shallow depth of field use f2.8 or f3.5 
use autofocus and focus on the Eye that is nearest to you.

what is portrait photography?
Portrait of a Poor Road side vendor’s kid.

if your Story needs to show the background they live in
use f4 to f8 aperture lens and zoom out with a lens such as 28mm or 35mm focal length.


always remember, Portrait photography goes way beyond capturing the photos of oneself.

You Can Learn all the Techincal stuff related to photography
but remember Capturing a perfect portrait is all about The Story of a person in the portrait.

Mastering Portrait photography doesn’t need expensive equipment to tell beautiful stories. 

as once said by the famous Film Maker

We are not Garbage Collectors,
we don’t randomly shoot People,
We are Artists,
We tell Stories through our Pictures that stand the test of the time.

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